Thursday, November 20, 2014

Separating marriage rights from marriage rites

It's been a dizzying advance in the marriage equality business over the last 6 weeks.  TOday, the Supremes refused to grant a stay to South Carolina, which is covered by the recent decision in the 4th circuit and is grudgingly now an equality state.  Montana is covered by the 9th.

Kansas continues to throw roadblocks at equality and refuses to recognize what are in all technical respects, legal marriages. Eventually that will work out.  And eventually  SCOTUS will take it up (given the split in the circuits) and sort it out.

Meanwhile, a  group of right-wing Christian pastors has called upon their brethren to refuse to sign legal marriage licenses because they contaminate "real" marriage.  So people who want to be married, get married twice:  once by a judge, and once in church.

You know what?  Fine.  That's the system that works in many countries in the world, in which civil marriage is explicitly separated from religious matrimony.  Many liberal clergy have found it equally uncomfortable to be both an agent of the state, and a person of the cloth. At some level, separation of church and state almost requires it.

And I think it's a good idea. Indeed, we were married civilly, and only later (2.5 years later, actually) had a religious service to bless our marriage. 

Our civil marriage was a free-form set of vows and a wonderful celebration, with the dresses and the food and the party.

Our blessing was small, intimate, with only a small reception afterwards.   Instead of focusing on caterers and wedding planners, the preparation was filled with liturgical discussions and the required "counselling" although for an already-married couple, it was more like a review of the state of the union.  And so our faith community claimed us as their own, quite apart from how we claimed each other.

Separating the two made the religious component very intentional, without distraction.

So, to the separatist ministers, I say, fine.  No one wants you to be forced to do something against your faith. 

I actually think it's better for the couple, too. 

But they might want to be worried.  Once they are legally married , some couples might choose to forgo the church and just have the party.

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