It looks as if a law will soon be passed to allow same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia. As usual, both the liberal and conservative sides of the gay marriage debate are putting in their two cents worth. This whole debate is become tiresome.
I have a solution to the whole same-sex marriage debate.
Get the state out of the marriage business.
I’m not suggesting that marriages be eliminated; I’m simply proposing that maybe we should get the government out of the process.
A traditional, church marriage really has two separate components. The first is the spiritual and religious aspect – two partners coming together as one and making a solemn vow before God to be pledged to each other for the duration of their lives under the rules and guidelines of whatever religion is involved. The second is aspect is the civil or legal side of a marriage. It includes such issues as assumption of paternity, next of kin status, inheritance rights, and so on.
I propose a divorce. Split the current two faces of marriage into two separate institutions. Let the state handle only the civil/legal aspects of the union, and let churches or religious groups have exclusive domain over the religious/spiritual marriage.
- On the state-side, create an institution to cover the purely secular aspects of a relationship.
- Make it a law that any two, non-related, consenting adults can enter into such an arrangement, but only one at a time. That rules out marrying pets, or polygamy.
- Don’t call it a marriage. Just call it something else, a civil union, a domestic partnership, or whatever.
- You can have a ceremony, performed by a judge, a justice of the peace, an Elvis impersonator or whomever, but it wouldn’t be necessary. Completing and signing the forms at the courthouse (like a current marriage license) would suffice.
- There would still have the traditional, religion-based marriages, just as you have today. When a couple would be married in a church, they would have both a religious marriage and the civil/legal contract.
This would solve several issues.
1. Churches and other religious groups would be the exclusive determiners of what constitutes a “marriage.”
2. Gays and others can get all the legal protection they want without threatening the institution of “marriage.” If a gay or lesbian couple can find a church that will provide them with a religious wedding to go along with the civil/legal union, who is to argue? That is the business of that particular church or religious group and really none of anyone else’s business.
3. There would be no need to legalize or prohibit same-sex marriages, because the “marriage” aspect of the relationships would not be subject to state jurisdiction. The state would only control the civil/legal contract/partnership/union. “Marriage” would be defined by religious groups and be their business.
There will be those who object, but I suspect they will mainly be those who can’t abide by the thought of gays or lesbians having relationships anyway. You are never going to make everyone happy.
This solution may not be perfect, but it solves a lot of issues.