New York legalized same-sex marriage last week and it’s a pretty big deal. It’s not just any other state; it’s New York… and New York City might as well be the capitol of the world. This one act makes great strides in equality and I’m glad there are untold hundreds of thousands in NYC and elsewhere around the state whose partnerships are now able to be legally validated, enjoying all the benefits of same.
Personally, I’ve always had an issue with same-sex marriage. Not to say that I don’t believe in their equal rights under the law, but because I believe calling it that is the root of the argument. To me, it seems that the government is treading on thin ice in the church vs. state area. In my opinion – and this is only that – “marriage” belongs to the church, whereas “civil union” belongs to the state. Yes, while judges or justices of the peace have been “marrying” people for all time, it was never actually a marriage; it was and is, by definition, a civil (read: government) union; you need a holy man for an actual marriage.
It seems to me that any rational adult would certainly not deny that homosexuals – or any two heterosexuals, even of the same sex – who mutually agree to enter into a lifetime contract of interdependence ought to have the same rights and benefits as any heterosexual married couple as afforded by the law of the state in which they reside. I don’t care if it’s two old straight men, widows, whatever. Two adults = two adults. Gay or straight. As long as they contract for the long haul, I think it would be fair and equitable under the law. A civil union law would apply equally to any two adults, in pretty much any situation. Whether or not they are in love and have sex with each other isn’t anybody’s business, nor should it be the determining factor in whether or not they “deserve” a civil union.
As for “marriage”, I believe that the church has a historical fair claim to the term and, legally, to a more limiting definition thereof. The government certainly can’t demand that churches marry same-sex couples, although I would hope that some churches open up to such over time, or that new churches develop who can cater to the faith of homosexuals. I don’t think, however, that anyone has a right to dictate to any church what to believe, or to vilify them for believing it and rejecting that which they don’t believe or allow within its confines: this is faith, not law. Nor does the church have the right to dictate what contract two people may enter into with the government: that is law, not faith.
If we were to separate civil union and marriage and the government solely used civil union rather than marriage, I think the churches in this country and their followers would be far more accepting of civil unions, eliminating this age-old conflict and allowing more and more states to deliver equal rights to any two adults who wish to make such a commitment to a life-partnership.