Gay Marriage: Time to Separate Church and State

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Like just about everyone else visiting this site (I do have this right, don’t I?), I believe gay and lesbian couples should enjoy the same rights, privileges, and protections straight couples get when they marry.

But there seems to be this rather large obstacle blocking the road to marriage equality. It’s a bunch of people claiming to defend the institution of marriage against those who would undermine it. Marriage is sacred, many of them say, and allowing same-sex couples to enjoy it would destroy it.

“Sacred.” Interesting term there. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word does have a secular definition: “Worthy of respect, venerable” ‘ and I think most of us would agree that marriage is that. But most of the people using this word are deeply religious, and they probably have a more common definition of “sacred” in mind: “Made or declared holy.” That last word comes out of the mouths of most priests when they perform marriages, after all.

So just what is the state doing with its fingerprints on a religious institution? Don’t we have separation of church and state in this country?

Even if we really never have had the “wall of separation” Thomas Jefferson envisioned between government and religion, we ‘ well, most of us ‘ do recognize the value in leaving God to His sphere and the government to its. And this in turn points to the better path to marriage equality:

Get the state out of the business of sanctioning marriages entirely. Leave that up to the churches, synagogues, mosques, meetinghouses and temples instead. Any two individuals who wish to be married can be if they can find a religious official willing to marry them. The state can then issue a declaration of civil union to confer the legal rights and privileges on the married couple.

Those who are married in a recognized religious ceremony would automatically qualify for a declaration of civil union. Those who want nothing to do with religion could go down to their county vital records office to apply for a civil union, which would be granted as long as the usual prohibitions against incest and bigamy are observed.

That way, those whose religious convictions prevent them from ever accepting gay marriage as legitimate don’t have to, while those of us who have gotten past all that can go ahead and marry in a more enlightened religious community. Meanwhile, the state treats everybody equally, as the Constitution says it should.

A live-and-let-live solution to the question of gay marriage: What could be more American than that?

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