I don’t want gay people getting married in my country. I live in the United States, and in this country, gay marriage is unconstitutional. Have I caught your attention? Is that controversial enough for you? I’m about to get even more controversial. I don’t want straight people getting married in my country. I live in the United States, and in this country, straight marriage is unconstitutional. Confused? Angry? Allow me to elaborate.
The problem with marriage is that it cannot be defined. The concept has been around for such a long time, that nobody really can explain exactly what it is. One thing that certainly seems to be the case, though, is that the ruins of marriage are religious. This fact is often mentioned by opponents of gay marriage. Gay marriage opponents often say that permitting two homosexuals to get married would ruin the sanctity of marriage. The fact of the matter is, gay marriage does ruin their version of the sanctity of marriage.
This happens to be the problem with marriage. If marriage has any kind of sanctity that needs to be protected, the government should not be involved with it. Remember that little thing about separation of church and state? In this country, the government does not participate actively in religion, and marriage is a religious institution.
Lets think a little bit about what happens when two people get married in the United States. Why do people bother obtaining the legal status of “married”? According to Wikipedia, the following are some of the rights that go along with marriage: joint filing of bankruptcy, family visitation rights for the spouse in a hospital or prison, next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions or filing wrongful death claims, domestic violence intervention, access to “family only” services, such as reduced rate memberships to clubs & organizations or residency in certain neighborhoods, tax-free transfer of property between spouses (including on death), funeral and bereavement leave, joint tax filing, and making spousal medical decisions, among many others. These are not the things that ruin the sanctity of marriage for anybody. If a man wants another man to be the person who he files his taxes with, who really cares? The thing that people dislike is when those two men decide that they want to be called “married.”
So the problem seems to be in the name, not in the substance of what the word stands for. There is a very obvious solution to this problem. We need to stop using the word marriage! Not completely, of course. You could still go to your church and get married. When most people get married now, there are two separate parts to the process. There’s the part where you go to town hall and get a license to marry, and there’s the part where you go to your church/synagogue/mosque/religious institution and have a ceremony. The fact of the matter, though, is these are two completely different things. If one spouse were to tragically die between the official state process and the religious process, the surviving spouse could still collect the social security pension. So why confuse the matter by giving both processes the same name?
The religious part can be called marriage. Religious people can define marriage how they want, including as only between a man and a woman. What the government offers is something different. Legal marriage gives two people certain rights. The gender of the people who share those rights should make no difference. This means that the government needs a name for this relationship that does not imply two people of opposite genders. A name that is already in use is “civil union.” Civil union is a very good description of what we currently call marriage anyway. If two men want to file taxes together, they can have a civil union. If two women want to be protected from domestic violence, they can have a civil union. If a man and a woman want to make emergency medical decisions for each other, they can have a civil union. And then, if they want, they can go to their church and have a religious wedding.
Unfortunately, civil union already has an ugly connotation. For those who oppose gay marriage, it’s a loophole in gay marriage laws that allows gay people to essentially be married. For those who support gay marriage, civil unions are a less than complete compromise in order to get some rights at all for homosexuals. It’s really too bad that we can’t just call every legal coupling a “civil union.” That is really what it is, after all. If people do not like that term, though, another name can be invented. It really makes no difference what it is called. One example comes from Matthew Baldwin in his blog “defective yeti.” Baldwin suggests that the United States should switch to a “buddy system.”
In the end, the name that is chosen is irrelevant. The rights that go along with marriage should not be limited to couples of opposite gender. It should not bother anybody if a man wants another man to man to be the one who can visit him in the hospital. Furthermore, that man should not be differentiated by the government from another man who wants a woman to visit him when he is sick in the hospital. If the churches want to make a difference, they can go ahead. Churches can refuse to marry gay couples if they want. The government, though, should have no say in who files income taxes together. The fact of the matter is, it is about time we gave equal rights to those who have different feelings from ours.