Saturday, 8 December 2012

Gay Marriage and the Separation of Church and State

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Gay marriage is a hot topic these days, in particular in the United States where the issue will be decided upon by the Supreme Court. So herewith, my two cents:

Personally I think this is a matter where there is confusion between the powers and authority of Church-and-State and that this issue is one that mixes Church-and-State. The United States was built on the idea of the Separation of Church and State, something I especially support. The history of mankind is full of examples of the evils that result when a proper distance between Church powers and State powers is not adhered to.

Why do I say this whole marriage controversy is a Separation of Church and State issye? I say so because there is confusion between the religiously sanctioned marriage covenant, and the state sanctioned civil union. See, in the past the clergy would announce something like this: “By the authority invested in me by God, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife.” The clergy has the authority to oversee a covenant between three parties: the couple towards each other, and the couple towards God. Their marriage is a covenant, a sacred promise, that they make to each other and to God. Somehow, this covenant became mixed up with a legal contract between partners that is enforced by law where a government official can declare: “By the authority invested in me by the State, I now pronounce you legally bound.” For some reason, the civil union became a “civil marriage” where the government official could “marry” couples and clergy could “legally bind” couples. It is this concept of a “civil marriage” which I disagree with because it brings together a legal contract (“civil union”) with a religious covenant (“marriage”) and pretends as if they are the same thing, which they are not. A civil union, which is a legal contract, is based on the authority of an earthly government, the State. While a marriage is based on the authority of a religious system, God. The two ought to stay separate functions.

How do I feel about homosexual marriages? Well, the same way I feel about heterosexual civil unions. They are two separate couplings (one being a legal contract and the other a religious covenant) that should or should not be obliged by the separate authorities that oversees such matters. You do not need one to have the other—i.e. you can get married during a religious ceremony or you can get a civil union by signing a legally binding contract, or you can do both. If you want to be legally bound to someone, then you should get a civil union. This is a legal contract between two parties and it doesn't differ in any way from any other legal contract between two parties, whether they are of a personal nature or a business nature. If you want to make a religious covenant with another person, then go to the religious authority that oversee and condone the type of covenant you wish to make, and if one sect (i.e. one denomination) doesn't condone your coupling, find one (another denomination) that does. And in truth, depending on your religion, you don't even need to have a clergy present. Two people can by themselves make a covenant between themselves and God—no clergy or government authority need to be involved—it is a matter of the heart.

In short: People, regardless of their sexuality that want to be legally bound to each other should sign a legal contract by getting a civil union. Similarly, people that want to make a religious promise of fidelity towards each other, should engage in a marriage covenant. Keep the Separation of Church and State by keeping these two matters distinct.

Read a thought provoking article by a gay man who is against gay marriage, here.

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