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.
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