Tim: What follows is a Guest Post by a new friend, Albert Cho. In this highly-energized debate on gay marriage, and the recent supreme court decision related to the Defense of Marriage Act, it's nice to here a clear and concise solution proposed. I first read Albert's thoughts on photographer Ken Lewton's blog--and asked for their permission to re-post it here. Leave your civil comments below.
I Am Against Gay Marriage (by Albert Cho)
There. I said it. See why I’m against it? How did you react when you read that line? Fury? Exaltation? Most likely you had a rather extreme emotional reaction to my statement. The term “gay marriage” has always been and continues to be provocative and divisive. Little productive conversation has resulted from its use. So let’s stop using it to frame a dialogue on this topic, so that we have a chance to have a reasonable discourse.
The discussions that I’m hearing are not really discussions. They’re rants, screams, tantrums. As if those methods have ever been successful in persuading anyone to change their mind.
What we need is a change in perspective, a new way of looking at the situation which hopefully leads to a solution on which all sides can agree. But first a disclaimer: The following is a combination of my and others’ ideas, complied from several discussions; I no longer recall which components are mine and which are not.
The proposed solution for the debate is based on the principle of separation of church and state. It makes no sense to me that civil laws should force religious institutions to partake in activities to which they object. It makes no sense to me that a religious ceremony should entitle civil benefits. It makes no sense to me that although churches marry, courts divorce. It makes no sense to me why ship captains have the right to grant marriage benefits.
So the proposal: Churches will provide marriages according to their beliefs, which will be a purely religious ceremony. The government will provide civil unions (or domestic partnerships or whatever term they want to use) to officially acknowledge the relationship between two people to whom the government will provide the same civil benefits that are now bestowed on married couples. These would be independent institutions. Using these terms, gay marriage would only refer to a religious ceremony performed between people of the same gender which does not provide any civil benefits.
Some implications (by no means an exhaustive list):
- Governments cannot provide divorces. Churches cannot annul civil unions.
- Churches have no say in who is entitled to civil unions. Government has no say in who churches refuse to marry.
- Being married at a church no longer provides civil benefits. The couple would also have to enter into a civil union if they want to gain these benefits.
- Churches will have to decide how they will handle people who no longer want to stay married. The church has for far too long been able to avoid this problem by allowing courts to cancel marriages. What the church has brought together, let the church decide how to sunder. No more free rides, church.
- Churches will have to decide if civil unions are marriage equivalents or not.
- Polygamy would no longer be illegal, as marriages would no longer be legal issues.
- Ship captains? Sorry. No more gratuitous ability to provide marriages. Having said that, the new civil union laws could allow any group of professions to be allowed to certify these relationships.
- Las Vegas wedding chapels? See ship captains, above.
- Laws will have to be generated as to how and when civil unions can be changed to involve different individuals; there are a plethora of who, what, how, and when that needs to be determined.
To those who are upset about my stance against the term “gay marriage”: if this debate is truly about civil benefits, it should not matter what the new civilly approved relationship is called, as long as the desired benefits are acquired. To insist on calling it gay marriage is needlessly antagonistic to the religious. Besides, given that half of all marriages currently end in divorce (which also includes marriage between Christians), why would you want to enter into this arrangement? Do you expect the relationship to fail? Do you think that you’re so special that you’re going to beat the odds (well, half of you will be right…)?
On the other hand, if the term marriage is desired from a need for acceptance by the church, does mandating acceptance truly accomplish the goal? Would you want to be where you may not be wanted, week in and week out? (Interestingly, for many Christians who happen to be gay, the answer to this question is yes…) I’m being a bit facetious and flippant, but truly, the current rift between the LGBT community and the church should be a big shame for all involved. (For those interested, there is great work being done by the Marin Foundation to improve the communication between these two groups.)
This is a rough outline of a concept rather than a thorough evaluation; I haven’t spent more than an hour or two thinking about this. As with any significant change, there will be far reaching ramifications and decisions that will need to be sorted through.
My $0.02. What do you think?
P.S. My apologies to the evangelical readers for using the term “church” more colloquially as a reference to an institution instead of the people of Christ.
- Albert Cho
Tim: Whether you are gay or straight, Christian or atheist, evangelical or not, let me know what you think of Albert's proposal.