Friday, March 6, 2009

Take Government out of the Marriage Business: A better reconciliation on Gay Marriage

We owe thanks to gay marriage supporter Jonathan Rausch and gay marriage opponent David Blankenhorn, the joint authors of a widely circulated New York Times piece which steered the polarized dialogue toward more civil waters.


While the Rausch/Blankenhorn proposal had some merit, in the end it leaves homosexuals with a lesser version of "marriage." While they get most of the rights and privileges as heterosexual folks, their relationship gets a different name, lest anyone think they're in a "real" marriage.

Sam Singer offers another proposal, one that is being discussed by a few more people everyday... Rather than fighting over whether or not to allow homosexuals to use the term "Marriage," why doesn't the state stop using the term "marriage" in laws designed to grant rights and privileges to anyone, and instead base the granting of rights and privileges on the term "civil union," or "domestic partnership"?

If it’s a grand bargain we’re after, consider an alternative federal law prohibiting states from attaching legal significance to an individual’s marital status. The law would define “marital status” narrowly to include an individual’s relationship with a significant other as recognized by a religious organization. Likewise, the law would define “marriage” as the spiritual union of two individuals. Under this regime, legal benefits or obligations which traditionally flow from marital status would do so no longer. Instead, states could recognize and regulate healthy, stable interpersonal relationships by way of civil union, provided they do so equally and on a secular basis. Left for churches and other religious organizations are the religious and moral dimensions of “marriage.” Religious organizations will have autonomy over those aspects of matrimony in which they claim historical or divine province. That is, churches would be left to govern the sacred principles associated with the institution, and to ordain whichever marriages they see fit without fear of legal repercussion.


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14 comments:

rockync said...

As always, the separation of church and state would protect clergy from having to perform ceremonies for couples who don't fit their theological beliefs.
As for diminishing heterosexual marriage, that argument is so out there, I'm not sure what to make of it. I feel pretty confident that if I was surrounded by gay married couples that I would feel no urge to divorce my husband and find a good woman and I'm positive he would also not be so inclined.
There is a world of difference between homosexual and pedophile although opponents like to lump the two together - even though many men caught with children tend to be married with children of their own. So, I hardly think this leaves children in any more danger.
What allowing same gender marriages WILL do is allow them communal rights, protect their mutual interests and mainstream them into society thus eliminating the need for all the shouting and protests. Things might just quiet down and be normal - reckon that's the problem? There are those who enjoy the fight too much to let it go?

Jennifer said...

I really enjoyed one of your previous posts, so I ventured over and I am glad I did.

I am a Christian and I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman because of what is said in the Bible. Some might be thinking, oh great another right wing nut.....but just give me a chance.

My issue is the wording, not because I dislike gays or do not want them to have rights. I actually unlike a lot of "righties" feel they deserve all the same privileges that married people have including adopting children. I know gay couples that are more capable than other "married" couples in regards to loving, stable, homes. I have no interest in hurting gays or having them feel inferior in any way. I just happen to believe that marriage is defined in the Bible and it is between man and woman.

Now in regards to Sam's proposal, I find that to be a very good compromise. As far as the government goes make everyone equal my saying civil union. I don't see how that won't benefit both sides. You are never going to make everyone happy but if each side is willing to give in a little I don't see why something like this couldn't be accomplished and maybe end once and for all, this controversial subject.

Your views on this issue depend on varying factors. Christians see one side...Gays see another. Then you have the people in between that choose sides depending on how they were raised. I think it is important to keep an open mind when discussing issues like this. Only through debate and discussion (I feel like I keep repeating that over and over again) will we find solutions that satisfy both sides. Great post!!

repsac3 said...

I just like this proposal all around.

I agree that the problem is created by our using this one word--marriage--as both a religious sacrament and a legal definition, and thus understand those who want to defend it's traditional (religious) meaning. I wouldn't want a bunch of people who aren't from my church--or the local, state, federal government--coming into my church to tell me that the God I worship is wrong about marriage.

Flipping that token over, I don't want any church to which I do not belong telling me and my fellow local, state, or federal citizens that law must comport with their understanding of God and the Bible. I also understand why people who don't attend my church wouldn't want me and mine defining the laws, either.

I believe the separation of church & state is there to defend each side from the other, and to defend each person's right to worship as s/he chooses, too. Because every time we err on the side of a little extra God at a state function, the next question invariably is whose God, and why theirs, rather than mine...?

I also like this solution because it shows up those who claim to want to defend marriage, but really want to punish those unlike themselves, by not affording them the same rights as the rest of us. If you believe marriage is a sacred concept, defined by God & the church--and I do--this idea keeps that in place, while also giving homosexuals as much right to enjoy the rights and privileges associated with a legal union of two souls as the rest of us. As far as I can tell, it's a win for everyone, and so far, I've heard no reasonable argument against it from anyone, pro-gay marriage or against. (Mostly, it seems to be politely ignored by all sides... ...and I question why...)

Thanks for stopping by... (And Jennifer... If we don't start disagreeing about something soon, there'll be talk... One of us is going to have to try harder to politically offend the other, soon... 8>)

TRUTH 101 said...

We're (They?) are getting hung up on a word. I take no issue with a guy named "Jesus." I take no issue with anybody who wants to be "married." Perhaps I'm the one that is being too sensitive about others that judge people who are different. But I don't think a comprise that lessens the status of a fellow human being is the answer. Separate but equal was bullshit then. It's bullshit now.

Jennifer said...

repsac.......I will give it some thought, I don't really like pissing people off, but I can try. Only for the sake of our reps though! LOL

Truth....."Perhaps I'm the one that is being too sensitive about others that judge people who are different."

I find fault with people that judge people too, whether it be gay, black, white, purple, Christian, Atheist......you get the idea. I don't think that this compromise does that at all. In fact it may show (gay's in this case) that people actually support them more than they think. I think there are a lot of people out there that have no problem with gays being treated equal but feel marriage is a religious union of man and woman.

"I also like this solution because it shows up those who claim to want to defend marriage, but really want to punish those unlike themselves, by not affording them the same rights as the rest of us."

EXACTLY!!!!! Oh crap, I forgot, I was supposed to disagree with you, well maybe your next post! :-)

Oh, I'm adding you to my blogroll and will be back often! If you don't mind, I would like to link to this post......

TRUTH 101 said...

Being gay doesn't mean you don't believe in God. And please understand that I look at things with great empathy. It helped meunderstand issues I was addressing in past careers and better represent, or convince, those I was working with and for.

I hope your blog does well Jennifer.

The Griper said...

one problem: the federal government does not have the authority or the power to do what they say. marriage is not a federal right to control. the only way for that proposal to work is by Constitutional amendment.

repsac3 said...

I'm not sure what you're referring to, Griper...

The federal Congress does have the right to change or amend any/all federal laws that use the word "marriage," and substitute a different term -- "domestic partnership," or "civil union" appear to be the current frontrunners, the former being the term in use in CA -- any time they wish. There is currently nothing in the federal Constitution about marriage, so no, there need be no amendment to change what isn't there.

Assuming they like the idea, state and local legislatures would have to make the same changes on the state/local level (except where federal law trumps state/local law, of course), and I suppose those state constitutions that do explicitly discuss marriage may need to be amended, but for the most part, this is a legislative issue at all levels across the board.

Please explain further if you believe I'm misunderstanding or misstating something here.

The Griper said...

i'm referring to this statement, repsac,

"If it’s a grand bargain we’re after, consider an alternative federal law prohibiting states from attaching legal significance to an individual’s marital status."

marriage is recognized as being under the jurisdiction of the states not the federal government

The Griper said...

also, repsac,
"There is currently nothing in the federal Constitution about marriage, so no, there need be no amendment to change what isn't there."

there is the tenth amendment that prohibits the federal government to regulate the legality of marriage. that declares that marriage is within the right of trhe states to regulate thus a need for an amendment.

repsac3 said...

i'm referring to this statement, repsac,

"If it’s a grand bargain we’re after, consider an alternative federal law prohibiting states from attaching legal significance to an individual’s marital status."

marriage is recognized as being under the jurisdiction of the states not the federal government


But you do recognize that there are federal laws that relate to marriage, I hope... Laws prohibiting the states from imposing anti-misogynation laws on their citizens come from the federal government. It is possible that the same thing will one day apply to same gender couplings, though the states can and should act, too (& first, if possible.)

there is the tenth amendment that prohibits the federal government to regulate the legality of marriage. that declares that marriage is within the right of trhe states to regulate thus a need for an amendment.

It doesn't really do either of those things, exactly... Not explicitly, anyway...

The Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

There is nothing specifically about marriage in there, Griper, which is all I said the first time. In fact, it is conservatives who're trying to put marriage INTO the constitution...

It does not declare marriage to be the province of any particular level of government; it simply says if it isn't listed here in the Constitution, it is a matter for the states or for the people. However, equal rights are a federal matter, and should the right set of judges deem laws prohibiting gay marriage to be a rights issue (as some state courts have already done) it can quickly become a federal matter, and without any new amendments.

I'm not even so sure that the very law suggested in the article wouldn't pass muster, if worded right...

But as I said, I'm fine with states doing the job, initially... The times are (slowly) changin', civil union-wise... It'll happen in my lifetime, for sure...

repsac3 said...

You know... As I re-read that proposed law you quoted, it isn't about regulating marriage, state or federal... it's about attaching legal significance to a religious matter. I think that may be in the federal Constitution, too... ...as something the State (at any level) isn't supposed to do...

Worth pondering, I say...

The Griper said...

read that amendment in context, repsac. if it isn't allowed by the Constitution nor denied to the states then the federal government has no powers over it. marriage, as you so appropriately pointed out isn't in the Constitution so, that means that marriage is in the jurisdiction of the states.

and you are the one declaring marriage is strictly a religious matter, not me nor the states or federal government.

show me a single federal law forbidding that, repsac. state laws may have been declared unconstitutional but declaring something unconstitutional is not the same as having federal laws forbidding it.

you're trying to mislead again, repsac and you should know better then to try that with me.

repsac3 said...

"read that amendment in context, repsac. if it isn't allowed by the Constitution nor denied to the states then the federal government has no powers over it. marriage, as you so appropriately pointed out isn't in the Constitution so, that means that marriage is in the jurisdiction of the states."

I'm pretty sure we're saying pretty much the same thing, but since you seem so insistent about it, I'll let you say it last.

The thing that you seem unwilling to acknowledge or come to terms wth, however, is that there are federal laws that include the word "marriage" in them. The gist of the proposal I've been in favor of would replace the word "marriage" with "civil union" in as many local, state, and yes, federal laws as possible, decoupling the religious rite of marriage from the civil and legal rights and benefits of legal unions. THAT isn't a matter requiring a constitutional amendment, at least at the federal level.

Whether or not Sam Singer's exact wording, or his focus at the federal level--which was meant to reply to the Rausch/Blankenhorn proposal, which also included a federal measure, I believe), is constitutional, I don't know, but to me, that's beside the point... The general idea is sound, though his specific suggestion to achieve it may or may not be...

While I'd love for it to be easy, I would be just as in favor of the idea if it meant slogging through each and every federal, state, and local law on the books and changing them one by one, legislature by legislature.

"and you are the one declaring marriage is strictly a religious matter, not me nor the states or federal government."

That, my friend, is the issue at hand... Much (in fact, I'd dare say "most") of the objection to "gay marriage" is based on it's religious definition and is put forward by churches and religious people. All I'm really doing in saying marriage is a religious rite is agreeing with them. Should anyone try to force any church to marry people against it's will through force of law, I would strenuously oppose them. Marriage is a religious matter, and it is up to God and the tenets of each church to determine who they will and will not marry.

Somewhere along the line though, someone wrote this religious rite into civil law. And, just as I would never want the state at any level dictating church doctrine, I also don't want any church to dictate law at any level of the state. Decoupling the religious rite of marriage from the legal right of civil union prevents that, too.

"show me a single federal law forbidding that, repsac. state laws may have been declared unconstitutional but declaring something unconstitutional is not the same as having federal laws forbidding it."

I'm sorry, but since when do constitutions not have the force of law? If a particular law is forbidden by a constitution, that constitution is the law forbidding it, whether it's a state or federal constitution... When a court declares a new law unconstitutional, they are most certainly saying that it would be against current law--law contained in the constitution--to enact it, and it is thus forbidden

"you're trying to mislead again, repsac and you should know better then to try that with me."

I'm pretty sure that is not the case, Griper...