Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Gay Marriage: Rotten to the Core

In his July 10 radio broadcast (transcription no longer available), President Bush referred to courts defining marriage as a “mere legal contract.”

From a legal, governmental, secular standpoint, that is exactly what marriage is.  The United States government does not and may not recognize a religious aspect of marriage and instead wraps contract law around and through marriage, pointedly ignoring (but allowing) any religious aspects.

Or at least that’s how law sees it, from an agnostic point of view.  (Note: not atheistic, which would be “There is no God,” but agnostic, “God isn’t required.”  There is a difference.)  Religionists like Bush, however, (claim to) look from the inside out: they see marriage as a religious rite, and the legal contracts as stuff wrapped around the outside.

This is then the crux of the issue: is marriage the religious rite in the center, and the other stuff is just fluff?  Or is marriage the legal contracts, and the religious stuff is an optional piece?  (Picture a toy car given as a birthday present, perhaps: the toy won’t run without the batteries, but the batteries aren’t much fun without the toy.  Of course, the toy car can probably be pushed around and played with to some degree sans batteries.)

As observed on this site, outside of Christian terms, marriage is merely such a contract, a means of establishing whose woman (and children, and associated property) is whose.  Out of that has grown all the other legal incidents involving inheritance and taxes and “in sickness and in health”.

I’m not going to say who is right and who is wrong — that’s a question unanswerable by anyone but God, and He ain’t talking.  But clearly if you don’t accept the religious rite as a required core, then marriage is probably the other stuff.

But if the religionists do manage to push through the Federal Marriage Amendment, or something similar to it, it’s worth considering whether this is merely the first step on a proverbial “slippery slope”.  Once they have had one success in codifying their religious beliefs (note: not religious beliefs in general, since some religions are not opposed to same-sex marriage, even as a religious rite; with the toy example above, you can buy whatever brand of batteries you want) into law this way, the next step becomes easier: tying marriage to the religious right (er, to the religious rite).  Not requiring people to be married, but restricting the benefits and legal incidents of marriage to those who are married.  And then defining “married” as requiring the religious rite.  And then defining just what that religious rite is.

In other words, once they can define marriage as being one man and one woman, they can start to work at it having other limits (in order to make it conform to tradition, of course; to their tradition).  They can disallow marriages done in non-approved (non-religious) ways, including Justice of the Peace, Common Law, shipboard, and of course by mayors and other political persons.  And from there, it’s a simple hop to stripping rights from existing marriages of those sorts.

The FMA isn’t about protecting marriage.  It’s about restricting it, reserving it to only those who the religionists deem worthy.  Disallowing same-sex couples is only the first step.  (Make that the third step: they already kicked out groups other than couples, and they used to have limits regarding race, but lost ground on that.  Perhaps only temporarily, in their view.)

Updated on March 10, 2011

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