Thursday, October 23, 2008

A brief addendum. . . marriage and the state and church.

This is just a brief addendum to my previous post on California's noxious proposition 8.

I wanted to propound my personal preference for handling issues of state contracts, specifically marriage.

I personally believe that we should adopt a new process for establishing state marriage contracts. This new process should be solely a civil process and no rights to oversee such contracts should be granted to private groups or churches.

WOW! That was radical, wasn't it? Not really. In fact such a system exists in many other countries. One such country, Germany, has much greater church state interaction than would be accepted in ours and, yet, they accept this duality in the establishment of marriage contracts without difficulty.

What this would mean in practice is that a couple wishing to get married in the state and to enjoy the benefits conferred by the state law on such contracts would be required to speak an oath (vow) before a witness and sign the contract in front of a public official. Such a process would be similar to the current one for receiving a marriage license but would require the witness and spoken oath as well. Such civil services are currently available in most states for a nominal fee.

Would this mean that couples would no longer be permitted or able to marry in churches, temples, mosques or other religious institutions? Of course not. It would simply separate the act of entering into a state marriage contract from that of entering into a religious one. You could do both or one or the other. The church ceremony would be between you, your religious community and God. The state one between you, your spouse and the state.

What's the point? What does this change? Well, in my mind it does a number of things.

  1. It enforces the separation of church and state that is central to our religious freedoms. it takes church out of a state function of sanctioning contracts that are enforced by the state legally.
  2. It removes the arguments by those who oppose gay marriage on the basis that it would somehow corrupt their religious interpretation of marriage or would force their church to perform such marriages under the law. Yes, this argument is specious, I know that. Still, the clear separation makes such an argument more clearly irrelevant.
  3. I believe this enhances the spiritual aspect of religious ceremonies. If the state purpose in a church wedding is removed, one has to ask oneself "why am I marrying in church?"
Anyway, it will probably never happen in our country or state but I wish it were so. I do think it would render much of the discussion on the issue of gay marriage moot. At a minimum it would clarify lines and lay bare the true motivation behind those who would continue to propound a constitutional ammendment.

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