Rebirth of Reason


Something Old, Something New
by Eric Rockwell

Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.
President Bush
In the good Old Testament days, people knew what marriage was.  A union of one man and one woman?  Hardly.  Many Biblical heroes had several wives.  And how did God demand that he treat his wives?  The Scriptures contain explicit laws regarding many marital issues.  For example, if after a wedding the groom discovers that his bride isn’t a virgin, she is to be stoned to death.   Ah, the sanctity of marriage. What’s become of it? 
Our modern idea of marriage was severed from its cultural and religious roots long ago.  If we were to base our definition of marriage on a broad view of history, we might want to revive not only polygamy, but also the practice of pre-arranged marriages.  And what about the Hindu rite of sati, in which a widow is required to be cremated along with her dead husband’s corpse?   No, these cultural and religious customs give us little guidance in our search for a modern definition of marriage.

The president defended a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman, by declaring that this “traditional” view of marriage is the one held by all the world’s religions.  But if it is religious in nature, then the state should have no more control over marriage than it does over baptisms, christenings, or bar mitzvahs.  If a church wants to marry two men, it would be a breach of religious freedom for the government to forbid it.   And furthermore, it would be wrong for the government to acknowledge marriages performed in certain churches but not in others.  It amounts to the government favoring one religious establishment over another, in essence creating a state religion. 

Pandering to a homophobia in his constituency, the president’s proposal is to define marriage once and for all as a purely heterosexual thing.  His democratic rivals like the idea of giving gays and lesbians a consolation prize of civil unions. Civil unions have been created to give domestic partnerships all, or at least most of, the privileges and protections that married people have.  But this “separate but not quite equal” solution is in violation of equal protection. 

Given that, here’s a marriage proposal:  Civil Unions can be the sole domestic contract that the state acknowledges; marriage, on the other hand, should remain outside the government’s purview.  If civil unions are good enough for homosexuals, they’re certainly good enough for heterosexuals.  For people who want to get married in a church, that would be part of their religious freedom.  But if they want official government recognition of their commitment, they would need to get a civil union as well.  Civil unions would be available to any domestic partnership: heterosexual, homosexual, or platonic. Unlike the marriage contract, it would not discriminate.  This proposal would get the government out of religion, while moving towards true equal protection under the law.  

Now that solution might suffice for the pragmatist.  It might solve the immediate problems in this cultural debate.  However, it's a solution that unfortunately deals only with metaphorical trees while ignoring the forest.  What if people choose to be in polygamous relationships?  Can they enter into civil unions?  Would the government then attempt to define civil unions as being between two and only two people? We would then find ourselves back to the government defining and intruding on people's private domestic decisions. The polygamists would rightly argue that they are being discriminated against. A more fundamental approach is needed. 
Certainly the best solution is to get the government out of the marriage business altogether.... 

-Dustin Hawkins

What Mr. Hawkins suggests here is a radical approach to dealing with this issue.  While Civil Unions could adequately deal with the lack of equal protection inherent in the current policy, what's truly needed is to go one step further and get the government out of playing a role which it should never have got itself into in the first place. 

Therefore, a better amendment than the one proposed by the president could read something like this:

The new "J" Amendment:

Law of Consent:  No part or branch of the government may fashion laws restricting or promoting relations between consenting parties, which do not abridge the rights of third parties.
-Jeremy Johnson
The "J" Amendment addresses all the metaphorical trees and the forest as well. It resolves the current disputes, in addition to giving the authority to those to whom it belongs, that being the individuals involved. 
Individuals are best able to determine their own emotional, physical and legal arrangements.

-Ross Elliot
Individuals decide.  Not the majority opinion. Not the state.  Not the church. Not some strange combination of the two.  Just individuals choosing to declare, "I do." 

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