It is very unlikely that you will ever see me do this again, but in this case it seemed warranted. I recently posted a link on Facebook entitled “How to explain gay rights to an idiot.” It was quite a humorous way of poking fun at those who try to say that gay marriage would somehow open the door to marrying animals or inanimate objects. Most comments were funny in nature, but inevitably a debate broke out between two of my friends, about the true nature of governments role in marriage. They both agreed (I think), that gay marriage should be legal, but they were not in agreement as to why it was not. I would never bore anyone with the back and forth details of this debate, I would merely like to share the last comment made, because I think it may be one of the most concise, albeit simple explanations, of the complete lunacy that is the United States stand on gay marriage.
~~~Aaaargh! Look, I don’t have the time to write a well researched thesis about this, but the debate between Frank and I, is not about beliefs and choice. He’s arguing that the legalization of gay marriage, at the governmental level, is or is perceived to be a mixture of church and state because the government is regulating an inherently religious institution. I, on the other hand, am arguing that a) the government has been in the business of regulating marriage for a long time and b) that the history of the government’s regulation of marriage in fact establishes (has already established) marriage as a CIVIL institution that brings a lot of civil benefits like tax breaks and shared health insurance. I KNOW what I am about to say is simplified but here’s a breakdown:
In the beginning 2 people were married in Church A and 2 people were married in Church B. The gov’t “steps in” and says, “these 2 couples have differing religious beliefs but we’re taking religion out of this. Both couples are legally married.”
Next scenario: 1 person from Religion A falls in love with 1 person from Religion B. Religion A and Religion B will not allow them to get married in their respective churches, so the people get married in a civil ceremony. Again, in essence, the government “steps in” and says, “these 2 churches won’t recognize this marriage, but we’re taking religion out of this. These 2 people are citizens and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be married.”
Next scenario: Person A gets divorced from person B and falls in love with person C. Person A, B, and C belong to Religion “Nuh-uh,” which stipulates that marriage is forever and you can’t get married in our church twice. So Person A and Person C get married in a civil ceremony. Once again, the government “steps in” and says, “maybe religion “Nuh-uh” has a problem with this union, but we’re taking religion out of this. Person A is legally divorced and is a citizen of this country. There’s no reason why Person A and Person C shouldn’t get married.”
Next scenario: Person A belongs to no church and Person B belongs to Religion “JoinOrLeave.” Person A cannot, in good conscience, convert to Religion “JoinOrLeave” but Person B loves Person A anyway, so they get married in a civil ceremony. Don’t mean to belabor the point, but AGAIN, the government, in essence, says, “Religion “JoinOrLeave” is recognized in this country and they can freely practice their religion, but Person A is a citizen of this country whom we recognize even though Person A does not belong to a religion. Religion is not a requirement of citizenship. We’re taking religion out of this. Person A and Person B are legally married.”
Next scenario: Person A has no religion and Person B has no religion. They fall in love and want to get married. Having no religion, they get married in a civil ceremony. Again, the government says, “They have no religion, but we have ALWAYS taken religion out of this issue. Person A and Person B are citizens, and if they want to get married, they can get married in a civil ceremony, and we will legalize this union.”
So, the way I understand it is: 2 people can get married in this country regardless of religion, and it’s been that way for a loooooooong time. What matters here is your definition of “person.” This particular issue has come up before. The government ruled that, for example, women are people and should enjoy all the benefits of citizenship. The government ruled that, for example, black people are people, and should enjoy all the benefits of citizenship. (FYI, there was a law against inter-racial marriage in this country, and the government “stepped in” and protected the ability of any 2 citizens to marry, regardless of race.)
Ok, so here we are in 2011. People, no matter what their religion is, can marry (within one religion or between religions). People, no matter what color their skin is, can marry each other (whether their partner has the same skin color or a different skin color). People who don’t believe in God can get married (to each other or to a person who believes in God). And people, no matter what their gender is, can get married (to each other, or to a person of a different gender). Oh, wait, the last statement is not true. Seems weird…..
I AGREE, SO WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT TO DO WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN DOING FOR SO LONG, FOR SO MANY OTHERS?
My thanks to Molly Peeney. Ph.D., Slavic Languages and Literatures
Special Professional Faculty at University of Notre Dame