We Know It As Marriage . . .

“Would not a rose, by any other name, smell as sweet?”


I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the New Jersey decision yesterday declaring that the denial of the rights and privileges of marriage is antithetical to the NJ Constitution. There are a couple of discussions about the subject over at The Malcontent that raise some interesting questions as to the application of the NJ decision that you might check out. 

On the heels of that very decision comes an article in the Yale Daily News, “Conn. Episcopal diocese approves gay unions“:

Bishop Andrew Smith, the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, announced on Saturday that Episcopal priests may give blessings to same-sex unions in church ceremonies – a decision that has further polarized New Haven’s liberal and conservative Episcopal churches in the last few days.Smith’s decision authorizes priests to formally acknowledge gay couples who have a civil union granted by the state. But it does not force the priests to do so, giving ultimate authority over the matter to individual churches. Some Elm City church officials said that while they do not condemn homosexuality, they think religiously recognizing same-sex unions goes against Church doctrine. Others said that blessing same-sex unions is an important step toward equality within the Episcopal Church.

And so I wonder: what if the churches start calling civil unions “marriage?” Officially, I mean.  What happens when a church starts performing same-sex marriages?  Will the state step in and say they can’t?  What about that theoretical separation between church and state?  Can the state stop a church from performing a “sacrament?”  Will this cause civil marriages between heterosexuals to need a different name?  Is that how we’re going to “destroy marriage?” (I’m rolling my eyes at that last one, but no matter how ridiculous some of the arguments seem, the battle for the title of “married couple” currently seems akin to two junkies fighting over a plastic spoon.  What’s the point?  Everyone knows that 50% of marriages end in divorce.  It seems that straight people are destroying marriage just fine without us.)

Though many straight people may find the concept of “gay marriage” distasteful, I believe that stems from unfamiliarity, not necessarily any abundant hate of homosexuals (although hate can definitely be a part of it).  The reasons for denying marriage to committed same-sex couples who wish to enter into the legal marriage contract and all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come with it are entirely spurious and superficial, and do nothing to help our society evolve as the democratic republic it is.  Yet the courts, in both the Vermont decision in 2000, and yesterday’s New Jersey decision, decided to leave the option of “separate but equal” available, resulting in Vermont’s civil unions and who-knows-what in New Jersey.  Why?  Because gay marriage, while theoretically logical, is such a fundamental societal paradigm shift that it must be gradually incorporated, as all fights for civil rights must eventually be.  After all, many black voters still believe (rightly so in some instances) that they are being purposefully disenfranchised, yet the civil war was fought a century-and-a-half ago.  Christianity itself was a fragmented, persecuted religion for at least 400 years after the death of Jesus Christ.  So while we as gay men and women fight for what we so rightly deserve–“full marriage rights”–we must first recognize that there is no instant deliverance from intolerance.  Gradual, incremental societal growth is the only method that has ever achieved lasting results, and while I believe same-sex marriage is eventually ours, we may as well embrace the compromises we are given, for now, as society evolves to accept its own changing mores.  To deny ourselves the benefits available from these court decisions, even when they may not be 100% to our liking, is plainly foolish.  By all practical measures, New Jersey just gave us same-sex marriage.  After all, as the saying goes, “a rose is a rose is a rose,” (no matter how much they want to call it a turkey.)

There has been considerable reference to “protecting the sacrament of marriage” within this debate, and I find that both disingenuous and repugnant.  The government has no business “protecting” a “sacrament,” nor defining one, for that matter.  I have long held the position that marriage is either a sacrament or a legal union; to use the same terminology for both leads only to hurt feelings, legal battles, and general confusion and dismay.  I have said time and again that government should get out of the “marriage business” altogether.  Because “marriage” should have nothing to do with “business.”  The days of contracting for a bride based upon dowry considerations are long gone in America; at least one would hope they are.  The joining of two people who wish to commit to each other for life should be a celebration of love, respect, and fellowship, sharing that committment in front of friends, family, and community.  Profiting from it by requiring a “state license” is, quite frankly, insulting, and I don’t know why heteros have put up with it for so long. 

Imagine my surprise upon learning that, apparently, the Episcopal church in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, is thinking of moving 180degrees in the opposite direction:

Delegates to a convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts will vote later this month (Oct. 27-28) on whether clergy should, in effect, stop signing marriage licenses. Couples would still receive a blessing from a priest, but only after being legally married by a civil authority, such as a justice of the peace.

By opting out of the marriage business, supporters of the proposal argue, clergy would administer the same blessing to all couples, regardless of their sexual orientation. Although gays and lesbians have been able to marry in Massachusetts since May 2004, only heterosexual couples have been able to take part in the church’s marriage rites because the Episcopal Church doesn’t permit gay marriage.

Now a church wants to no longer perform a “sacrament.”  Countdown until Tony Perkins declares this the “beginning of the gay agenda to destroy marriage.” 5. . 4. . 3 . . .


4 thoughts on “We Know It As Marriage . . .

  1. Why thank you very much. I wish it had two sidebars, but I’ll make do. I was wondering how people would like it.

    Now, question: did this post just ramble or did I actually make any sense?

  2. Once again, I leave the comment about the theme in the wrong post. It’s evidently become a thing with me.

    I do think the post made sense. It does push the nebulous envelope between “blog post” and “opinion essay”, but that’s a good thing. I say that because I do it all the time.

    I think you’re pointing out all the inherent problems and questions that arise when a supposedly secular government bases the granting of benefits, responsibilities and privileges on not only religious criteria, but the criteria of a specific religion. Even now, there are religions that recognize same-sex marriage, either throughout the whole of their faithful or at least in part. While it is undoubtedly wrong for the government to use a religion’s definition of marriage as its own, it would also be wrong for the government to limit a religion from practicing a sacrament and ascribing terminology as they see fit. It’s an interesting question you pose: Assuming the popular bias that marriage is a religious institution legislated into our civil rights package, can the simple usage of terminology in the religion that provided the definition of marriage evoke corresponding change in secular law? If it can, should it or is this just further compounding the problem?

    No easy answers, unfortunately. You’re right that discrimination doesn’t end overnight. We have to be wary, though, as we slowing march towards equality that we do not win that equality at the expense of others. What may seem wholly unrelated now may prove to be significantly damaging in the future if attention isn’t paid. Given our nation’s track record recently, I’m not sure if I trust us to not do more harm than good here.

  3. Once again, I leave the comment about the theme in the wrong post. It’s evidently become a thing with me.

    lol. You were just too quick, that’s all!

    As to the rest: I’m in a “wait and see” pattern, because I think the next ten years specifically are going to see some radical redefining of the American soul, as people are forced to come to terms with the fact that what they’re sold and what they see are two different things entirely.

    We progress, as always, in baby steps.

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