Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gay marriage vs. no marriage

The ruling recognizing gay marriage by the state of California went into effect this week. Most liberals are applauding the event while most conservatives are appalled.

The problem here is that constitutionally, government shouldn't be in the business of recognizing marriages at all. Marriage may be a social structure, but in most segments of American society it's also a religious one, especially when it comes to exclusion from the marital institution. Therefore, any governmental regulations and recognition of said institution cannot help but step over the church-state divide.

The solution?

Civil unions for all. A civil union can be defined as any legal agreement between two consenting adults that gives them the standard rights currently afforded to spouses, such as inheritance, the right to make medical decisions for each other in case of incapacitation, jointly filing taxes, etc.

A civil union can be between any two adults regardless of gender and regardless of romantic attachment. For example, two unmarried best friends who are not romantically attached but see each other as family, or even a mother and daughter who want their legal standing with regard to one another be stronger than with other family members who have wronged them.

The members of the civil union may then celebrate their romantic connection, if there is one, in whatever way they choose, within their own religious or social circles. They can get married in a church, shul, affirmation ceremony, or simply call each other ‘husband’ or ‘wife’. Each community can recognize marriages or not, as per their preference. But government will simply recognize legal rights as conferred by the civil union agreements.

I am sure that there would be some problems I haven’t thought of in the actual implementation of such a plan. But the alternative is state after state passing constitutional amendments against gay marriage, miring the government in the church-state morass even deeper and creating a slippery slope for the religious right to push even more of their agenda.

All this being said, it’s unlikely that marriage will become divorced (if you’ll pardon the term,) from governmental sanction anytime soon. And therefore, in the meantime, I agree with the California court’s decision. One cannot confer a right on certain members of society while denying it to others. For those who fear gay marriage, especially those within the Orthodox Jewish community, how is it likely to affect your life? You will also have to pass laws regarding other things in the Torah referred to as “To’evah” (abomination).

For some differing perspectives, see:

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