Monday, September 21, 2009

The Biggest Threat to the Sanctity of Marriage

The answer is simple: Civil recognition of marriage.

How did I get there? Well, the first easy answer is divorce and I've been watching the campaign of John Marcotte since reading about it in the Huffington Post a few days ago with amusement and interest. See, I have been saying that for a few years now (it came up in an argument with my father, truth be told) that marriage lost any sanctity it may have had when divorce became a common thing, almost more of a rule than an exception. Couples go into marriage expecting that it will succeed but always knowing, in the back of their minds, that if it's a mistake they have a way out that may require a lot of hassle but is ultimately easier than it ever has been before.

One day while I was waiting for someone on 72nd Street in Manhattan I noticed a giant sign in a window that read, "Sale! Divorces $500!" It broke my heart.

I firmly believe we need a divorce mechanism, there are some brutally bad marriages that need dissolution. However, it makes no sense that two people of the same sex who take their vows seriously can't avail themselves of the option when divorce (a much larger threat to "traditional" marriage) is readily available with not much sacrifice beyond money and, hey, you can even shop for sales to help that part!

However, divorce does not really touch on the sanctity thing in the end, as it is a civil procedure that is in no way sacred. In fact, unless you are married in a religious institution according to it's laws and customs, there is no sanctity whatsoever in marriage. Marriages performed by a justice of the peace, a ship captain, or an Elvis impersonator are not sacred, they are secular and legal. If you are Catholic and divorced and remarried there is no sanctity, as the Church will not recognize such marriages and they are technically adultery even though accepted in general society. There are plenty of examples of taking the sanctity out of marriage that apply to heterosexual couples without even entering the realm of true adultery, domestic violence, or other abuses of the institution.

So, can we just let go of that term when we're talking about gay marriage?

Honestly, I understand why some people hate the semantics of this notion, but I think that it would be totally fine if everyone who married outside a religious institution was considered to have a "civil union" (regardless of anyone's gender) and people who took religiously sanctioned vows could use "marriage". Anyone could get a civil union and each religion could have free domain over their own marriage rules. Everyone could have the level of legal and societal protection that suits each couple while religious people could have their sacred ceremonies truly be sanctified rather than a religious/civil hybrid.

Ahhh, separation of church and state, what an original notion that seems to be these days!

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