Reasonabling Himself to Death (Updated)

February 20th, 2004  |  Published in Uncategorized

Oh for God’s sake, Josh, quit dithering about it: The state has no business discussing marriage or any other “spiritual matter.” It has some interest in recognizing the legal prerogatives marriage implies for the sake of helping the courts figure out certain issues (such as what to do when someone’s too sick to express their own wishes about their fate and has family and partner pulling in different directions, or who gets your stuff when you die).

Short and sweet? You get married in a church, but you get a civil union license. Period. Any two people who walk through the door at the courthouse get the same slip of paper, and churches marry whom they want when they want based on their individual creeds. If they want to present a faux parchment scroll that has the words “Holy Matrimony” or “Hitched With Mad Vishnu Stylingz” or whatever else, let some old blue-hair with a calligraphy set in the closet draw one up and run it down to Kinko’s.

Keeps the state out of the church, keeps the church out of the state.


Update: Josh continues to dither on this issue, responding to readers who proposed the “civil unions for all and let the churches marry whom they will” solution by saying “[…] let’s not imagine that the people who oppose gay marriage or gay rights generally aren’t going to have any problem with that.”

I’ve never imagined anything other. I’m also very clear on the fact that many “people who oppose […] gay rights generally” frequently have a problem with the ongoing existence of gays at all. They won’t accept any compromise, however reasonable.

Polls show people are much more uncomfortable with “gay marriage” than they are “gays being allowed to participate in legally recognized civil unions.” My thought is that the noteworthy disparity between the “anti gay marriage” numbers and the “pro gays in civil unions” numbers is seen, in part, because some people believe “legalizing gay marriage” could mean “mandating churches to perform gay marriages” in a bizarre variant on the kinds of accessibility laws that require wheelchair ramps outside of public buildings.

One of the things that keeps me from giving up and fleeing the country in despair is an ongoing faith that most Americans, when confronted with issues of equity and fairness, respond well when they don’t sense coercion or a threat to their own prerogatives. Use the words “special treatment,” and the average American almost always responds negatively. Use words that imply equal or universal treatment, and a much more expansive side of our national character comes into play. That expansiveness won’t be enough to overcome the loathing for gays that some of the people behind the assorted “defense of marriage” proposals feel, but it’s probably enough to capture the vast middle ground that has demonstrated a desire to see the issue resolved equitably, and without a sense that the state is violating the Establishment Clause or perhaps threatening churches with a legal burden to extend a sacrament to people in relationships this church or that deems unfit for that sacrament.

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