Tag Archives: marriage

An answer to the same-sex marriage debate

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.

Married forever, or not

The issue of marriage and divorce seems to be a very delicate subject in Catholic circles. Fortunately for us, Mrs. Poolman and I have been married just once and to each other for 33 years, so we haven’t had to deal with the issue personally. Officially, the Church doesn’t recognize divorce. However, there are plenty of divorced Catholics out there. I see them receiving and distributing the Eucharist at Mass on Sundays. And again, fortunately, I’ve never needed to figure out exactly how that whole annulment thing is supposed to work.

Although, I don’t have personal experience with divorce, I do encounter the issue from time to time. As I mentioned before, I have been teaching 5th grade CCD (religion) classes at our church for the past four years. The 5th grade curriculum deals primarily with the seven sacraments and the Ten Commandments, with a few side excursions towards the Apostles’ Creed, the story of Creation and other material. You would think this would be fairly harmless, vanilla religious material. Mostly that’s true, but….

10-commandmentsOne of the seven sacraments is matrimony and we cover the Church’s teachings on the institution. Also, among the Commandments is that “Thou shalt now commit adultery.”  (“No, young 10-year old, adultery isn’t something that adults do. Or, well, maybe it sometimes is.”)

There is hardly a child there who doesn’t have a friend or a family member affected by a divorce. Some of the students’ parents are divorced themselves. So the challenge is to teach the Church’s views on marriage without seeming to condemn the students’ parents, relatives, family friends, or whomever.

Knowing this can be a touchy issue, I always let the parents know that we will be covering this subject, and ask them to advise me if there is a family situation of which I should be aware. I have already heard from one divorced and remarried mom who is concerned how we would treat marriage and divorce in class. We will talk before we get close to that chapter.

Interestingly, the Gospel this past Sunday was directly on-point to the Church’s position. In Mark 10:2-12 Jesus is asked directly about divorce.

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Not much ambiguity there.

Our pastor was presented with a very teachable moment, but, for whatever reason, decided not to pursue it in his homily (sermon.) Interesting. I wonder what his thinking was.

Sometimes I hate it when I’m right

Mrs. Poolman frequently claims that I am arrogant, opinionated and judgmental. My response, somewhat tongue in cheek, is that it’s not an opinion when I am right. (Ha!)

The subject came up this weekend in the context of a young man who is a contemporary of our children and very well known to us. He has part-time custody of his school-age child. He moved the two of them in with his girl friend and her child.

I expressed the opinion (just to my wife)  that a couple should not enter into a “living together” arrangement if there are children involved, unless it is intended to be permanent (ie: marriage.) What adults do to each other is their own business, and as far as I am concerned they can mess up their lives as much as they want. However, when children are involved it is another story. They do not control their lives. They must go with the whims of their parents. Casual live-in arrangements that are “here today, gone tomorrow” do nothing for the child except cause unneeded anxiety and insecurity in the most basic foundation of a child’s life, their family unit.  (If they are involved in this kind of situation to begin with, their family picture is already fragile.) The together-part may be fine, but the break-up has got to suck.

We got a call last night. Our young friend and his girlfriend had a big fight this weekend. He packed up his child and moved them both back in with his mom.

Sometimes I hate it when I’m right.