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Monday, December 13, 2004

Same sex marriage and the separation of church and state

In the debates over same-sex marriage, one thing is becoming obvious to many liberals and a few conservatives that the state definition of marriage is too close to being dictated by the church. Bans on same-sex marriage favor religious edict over the common good and are detrimental to society as a whole. William Raspberry has a good editiorial today calling for getting the state out of the marriage business altogether and offering domestic partnerships to all couples, straight or gay.(Via Stone Court.) I agree whole-heartedly.

There are no convincing arguments for these bans for the common good or for state interest. As for the common good, to believe that the right of certain people not to be offended that gays and lesbians can marry now outstrips the marital rights of gays and lesbians, you have to assume that gays and lesbians are second-class citizens. Period. That's pretty much the definition of second-class citizen status--you have to curtail your basic rights for the comforts and privileges, not the rights, of others. Freedom to marry is a right. There is no right to dictate that other people have relationships to your liking. If there was such I right, then I could invoke it to ban "traditional" marriages where the wife takes on a Biblically mandated submissive role. The state has an interest in marriage for gay and lesbian couples, for the same reason that it has an interest in marriage for straight couples. If you buy that marriage is a stabilizing force for society, then that is true for same-sex couples as well.

I agree with Raspberry that we need to knock the word "marriage" itself out of the legal language and replace it with "partnership" or some other term like that. If it is done for straight and gay couples, then I can't imagine anyone on the side of the angels (that would be the pro-SSM side) would have a problem with it. But the problem of course is that the propagandists who are going nuts over how same-sex marriage is going to destroy marriage itself are not going to be satisfied with this solution. In fact, I can already picture in my mind the emails that will be flying around claiming that the homosexual activists are trying to ban marriage in retaliation.

39 Comments:

Blogger zuzu said...

I've been saying the same thing for a while. I think most people can wrap their heads around civil unions, they just get the heebie-jeebies when "marriage" is brought up.

Besides, pushing for this makes the fundies defend their wanting government interference in religion.

12/13/2004

 
Blogger Elinor said...

Personally, I'm not so happy with that solution. It looks like capitulation to me, albeit of a very petty kind. I'm not gay, but I was raised atheist and when I marry it may not be in a church (it may be, I don't know). Regardless, I still want the government to call it a marriage. I'm not prepared to surrender the word "marriage" to the religious groups to placate opponents of SSM (I should add, in case it's necessary, that I am 100% in favour of SSM). It means something to me too.

I can already picture in my mind the emails that will be flying around claiming that the homosexual activists are trying to ban marriage in retaliation.Zackly. I doubt that playing with the words will help with the hard-core opponents. Anything that puts straight and gay couples on an even footing is going to be a problem for them.

12/14/2004

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been thinking the same thing for a while. I feel the opposite to Elinor - I'm an atheist too, and, to me, the word "marriage" has too many connotations of religion-sanctioned ownership of women. I know that this is a very personal view, and that many of my friends have lovely, egalitarian marriages. But I, personally, would no feel comfortable "buying into" that institution. I would feel far happier with something called a "partnership". And only if such a partnership were available to all couples.

- The Birdwoman
http://www.birdwoman.co.uk/blog

12/14/2004

 
Blogger Jean Dudley said...

Amanda, you said:

Bans on same-sex marriage favor religious edict over the common good and are detrimental to society as a whole. I agree with you. However, I am wracking my brain for a list of "detriments".

The only thing that comes to mind is the saying that if one person is not free, then I am not free.

Can you enumerate more?

What are the detriments to society that banning ssm pertpetrates?

I'm not sure I'm even asking the right question.

Jean Dudley
http://jeansvoice.blogspot.com

12/15/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Considering that gays and lesbians are members of society, and it is a detriment to them, it's a detriment to society.

People don't think the bans are a detriment to "society" because they define "society" as only straight people.

12/15/2004

 
Blogger Cin said...

Amanda,

I still haven't decided which side of the marriage/partnership fence I'm on, and perhaps part of the reason is that there's no longer a sense of urgency about it for me.

Here in British Columbia (as well as Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan), the courts have made it legal for same-sex couples to marry. This didn't happen without a huge fight mind you, but they've made it legal.

Interestingly, there's a growing number of couples out there who are opting to use 'partner' as their descriptor of choice and purposely obscuring their relationship so they can't be stuffed into a category by someone else.

Appreciative as always,
Cin
http://aventurista.blogspot.com/

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