As the nation absorbs the magnitude of the victory of bigotry and intolerance displayed in North Carolina on May 8th 2012 let me offer some thoughts on the subject of marriage.
Our President, or as some of my friends say, “Dear Leader” announced (9 May) his support for same sex marriages. A truly courageous stand and one which will probably not cost him any votes in November as those opposed to same sex marriage would not vote for him anyway.
But the brouhaha over same sex marriage is not going away in part because of how marriages are performed in the United States. Unlike most Western liberal democracies the church is heavily involved in the act of marriage in the United States. In most western democracies one obtains the permission of the state to wed (license) and upon signing the marriage license by both parties the legal contract of marriage is executed. A couple can then choose to have a religious ceremony but that is immaterial as in the eyes of the state they are married.
In United States while one can simply choose to be married in the Courthouse, one may also obtain a marriage license and a member of the clergy perform the ceremony, with the member of the clergy representing the “State” by affirming the ceremony took place.
For a nation supposedly with separation of church and state it seems the church is unnecessarily bound up in the affairs of the state when it comes to marriage. What is interesting is that those western democracies I spoke of earlier in most cases have either established churches or religion receives direct support from the state.
I raise this issue as I believe that those opposed to same sex marriage are on the wrong side of history, but because I believe that as their stance is rooted in religious convictions that it is time to remove the church from the civil aspect of legally binding a couple in a union. For those couples who wish a religious ceremony they may do so and in the eyes of their religion they will be married. For others this permits them to visit the courthouse, get hitched as they say back home, and get on with their lives.
More importantly this permits those religious institutions which object to same sex marriage on theological grounds not to be involved and insulated from same sex marriage.
While the President is rightly and properly leading on this subject of civil right ultimately it is up to the states to decide the definition of marriage in their own state. While my solution will not change anything in those states only time will allow them to see the harm of their hate and bigotry it does provide a means of removing religion from the civil aspect of marriage.