Sabbatical Blog

...chronicling some of my projects and learnings during this time apart from parish ministry

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Federal Marriage Amendment

Last year, attempts in the congress to ban Gay Marriage failed miserably. Public Opinion Polls show increasing acceptance of same sex realtionship, which is what one might expect in our "live and let live" society. None-the-less, it seems that the Rebublicans think that it is to their benefit to fight this one out in congress again this year. Not only do I think that they are incorrect, I think that they are wrong.

I'm not worried. It's not easy to ammend the Constitution, even when the tide of public opinion is favorable (remember the Equal Rights Ammendment?) The Federal Marriage Ammendment is another diversionary tactic.

One of these days, this nation's conservatives are going to wake up to how they have been used, and that will be a bitter day for them and the rest of us will have very short toungues and blood-stained teeth.

It would be too much to hope that someone could make lemonade from all these lemons and go back to the Founders vision of separation of Church and State on this issue. Right now religion and state are uncomfortably twined in the marriage issue.

But what I really want is for a separation of Church and State on the Marriage issue. I want the religious aspects of who qualifies to be married to be left to the different faiths. (opposite sex? non divorced? virgin? of the same faith? Only after 6 months of counselling? My own qualification is that there has to be a congregation own little theological ideocyncracy). In these days of proliferating ministries and churches, the couple could shop 'till they dropped if they wanted a religious wedding.

As to the state's interest in family formation, for identity, tax, and child protection issues, for the state's interest, you get family change form and register as a couple. That way, it is always a state official and not a minister, who checks identities and signs the thing to make it legal. The 19th century notion that all ordained persons could be trusted to be agents of the state and know who they were marrying is, let's just say, out of date.

Registered Couples could unregister with the same legal protections for children and both partners which are now in place for divorce, but divorce, too, would be considered a religious word and divorce granted, or not, by those religious bodies which wanted to be involved.

Some protections, responsibilities, and benefits would be given to legally registered couples, for instance, the right to make medical decisions for the other person, tax liabilities, etc. Other protections and benefits would be offered, perhaps, only to "married" couples, for instance, some companies might decide to only offer family benefits to "married" persons and not to those who are simply "registered." It's already clear that many large companies are seeing the benefit to themselves of honorong their employee family obligations and are alreay offering benefits to non-married couples. They have the difficulty of dealing with the distinction between committed relationships and casual ones....a state registration procedure would be of assistance to these employers.

Now, we'd still have to fuss with the fundamentalists who don't want Gays to have any official sanction of their relationships but that would be easier without the word "marriage" in the way.

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