Marriage

Apr. 25th, 2009 10:55 am
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
[personal profile] adalger posting in [community profile] debate
The term "marriage" has been strongly claimed by Christians to denote a particular relationship between a man and a woman, defined in the Bible, ordained by God, and inapplicable to other types of relationship. Because the United States was founded by Christians, whose cultural beliefs embraced centuries of this usage, the term was incorporated into government usage with the same meaning. Currently, however, other people who wish to engage in a substantially equivalent relationship are denied use of the term, to the detriment of their civil liberties and rights under the law to have legal sanction for this relationship in the way Christian marriages are sanctioned.


The U.S. Constitution states among its purposes "to ensure domestic tranquility" and "to promote the general welfare." The incidence of hate crimes is a disturbance of domestic tranquility, and the disenfrachisement and alienation of a subset of legal citizens is contrary to the general welfare. In order to fulfill the purposes of domestic tranquility and general welfare, the government of the United States should establish a uniform definition of the term "marriage" that allows all people access to its rights and benefits.

In particular, marriage should be denoted as a religious and cultural concept entirely unrelated to the domestic union that creates a single legal unit known as a family. The primary historical purposes of marriage as a cultural institution have been to formalize the rules governing access to sexual interactions, the passage of the possession of property at death, and provision for the financial and social maintenance of children. The forms of these rules have great variety in different cultures and religions. To define marriage as a legal institution in a way that fails to include any of these is to violate the prohibition against the U.S. government regarding establishment of laws promoting any one religion over others.

The proper legal form to establish these practices is to define "marriage" as a religiously or culturally contracted legal partnership. Any religion should be welcome to provide a default Partnership Agreement that sets forth its definition of marriage in legal terms, and have that definition be a protected meaning of the name. For example, if a man and woman wish to be wed in the Catholic church, they may perform their religious ceremony, sign the appropriate legal agreement, and style themselves "Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Children, a Catholic Family." Alternately, a polyamorous non-religious group might enter into its own agreement, and call themselves "Jones, Black, et al, a Heinleinian S-Group." Both families would be entitled legally to call themselves "marriages" and refer to themselves as "married," but only the former would be permitted to call themselves a Catholic marriage.

The current quibbles over "civil union" and "gay marriage" vs. "marriage" would be entirely circumvented. The only restriction on GLBTQI unions would be that they would not be permitted to call themselves a marriage of any type with a name protected under freedom of religion. This would allow Christians to deny the sanction of their term for "marriage" to anyone who does not adhere to their religious views, while making both the generic term "marriage" and all the pertinent rights and benefits equally available to all citizens.

Date: 2009-04-26 04:37 am (UTC)
elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
From: [personal profile] elf
Nice try; no.
Marriage referred to a civil institution long before Christianity got involved. (One could claim that the word "marriage" in English has always been Christian; however, the relationship identified as "marriage" in what became English-speaking nations predated Christianity.) There is no reason to give religions control over a term that predates their influence.

Also, the legal ramifications of redefining what's known as "marriage" today as "civil unions" or similar, are not small. We have literally thousands of laws that refer to marriages and spouses; a single handwavey document at the federal level ("all laws that refer to marriage shall now be considered to refer to civil unions" etc.) won't cover all the necessary details--like the mountain of case precedents involved.

For example, in California, there is a "putative spouse" doctrine, wherein a void or other invalid marriage still allows a claim over shared property, custody etc., on the grounds that the person believed the marriage was valid. This doctrine has ruled to not apply to civil unions--there is no "putative civil union" that protects one partner of a same-sex couple who was scammed by the other not filing the right paperwork.

Case law dealing with marriages & spouses predates the Declaration of Independence, and finds its roots in English common law. Case law and precedents dealing with "civil unions," the terms and requirements of which have yet to be defined, is nonexistent.

The only restriction on GLBTQI unions would be that they would not be permitted to call themselves a marriage of any type with a name protected under freedom of religion.

Why should members of one religion get to define the name of the relationship of people of another religion? Why should Christians' ideas of the "sanctity of marriage" override Pagans ideas of the same? Should every religion get to decide what isn't allowed to call itself a "marriage?"

The primary historical purposes of marriage as a cultural institution have been to formalize the rules governing access to sexual interactions, the passage of the possession of property at death, and provision for the financial and social maintenance of children.

Indeed. And no part of those cultural norms should be set by any religion's preferences. Refusing the word "marriage" for people who don't fit into some religious' groups ideas of a proper married couple, is showing favoritism to those religions. Giving the term over to religions and moving it out of civil existence, would be ceding state power to religious groups--and as the state is required not to make laws respecting religions, this is against the US Constitution. The US government is not allowed to cede its civil authority to religious organizations.

The only restriction on GLBTQI unions would be that they would not be permitted to call themselves a marriage of any type with a name protected under freedom of religion.

I think I lost you here.
Right now, many Christians object to any same-sex couple calling themselves "married." They will not accept "s-group marriage, but not Catholic marriage" as a reasonable label.

And I don't think the government can declare what label different groups call their marriages. If a unitarian church believes itself to be "catholic" in its views, it could perform "catholic marriages;" the Catholic church has no right to object. There's no gov't-enforced ownership of religious labels for sacraments.

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