Uncivil unions (part 2)

A few years after I got married in an Episcopal Church in Newtown Square, Pa., some friends of mine tied the knot just a few miles down the road at a Unitarian Church here in Media.

They also weren't able to secure a marriage license, but the minister wasn't bothered by that bit of Caesar's paperwork. The ceremony was consecrated by the minister in the name of God and blessed by the congregation. No one present felt the wedding or the marriage was in any way less valid, less sacred, because they had failed to secure the imprimatur of the clerk of Delaware County, or that the minister was lacking in spiritual authority because she spoke only in the name of God and did not invoke any power invested by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The main difference between that wedding and mine is that those guys are still married.

Another difference is that those guys are both guys.

David and John have been married for close to 10 years now. They and their church did not feel the need to wait for a resolution of the national "debate" over same-sex marriage. They did not wait for the county, the state or the courts to grant approval. They were in love, so they went to church and got married. "What God has joined together," etc.

They of course remain acutely aware that their marriage is not legally recognized. And they hope that one day it will be. But if or when that day comes they won't start recalculating their anniversaries from the day the paperwork gets processed. The day they will continue to honor and celebrate will be the anniversary of when they stood at the altar in church and said their vows. (Well, okay, when they stood at the podium — they're Unitarians, they don't have actual altars.)

I bring this up because it again illustrates the distinction between "marriage" as a sacred rite and "marriage" as a civil right. Churches (and synagogues, mosques, temples, etc.) ought to be free to administer the former without interference from the state. And the state ought to be free to administer the latter without interference from the churches.

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  • Ab_Normal

    I’d say “amen”, but I’m an atheist. So I guess I’ll just have to say “right on”.

  • Get HR2239 Passed Now

    Great post. Listen to Stanley Kurtz’s commentary on gay marriage today on Morning Edition (NPR) and you’ll see that the right is going to beat us over the head with pseudo social science to try to win this fight in places they can’t make any ground tying church and state together. Kurtz’s commentary is beyond illogical but as you listen and it goes by so quickly phrases like “statistical bureaus” and “marriage is slowly dying” stick in your mind after the commentary mercifully ends.

  • Keith

    I second the Right On. As an atheist, when the time came for my wife and I to get hitched, I was all in favor of just throwing a big dinner party with our friends and family saying ,”Considder us married, pass the wine,” and if we absolutely had to for tax reasons, takign a trip over to the courthouse.
    As a Mexican Catholic, my wife wanted the whole shabang; priest, lasso and everything ( you should see the lasso trick, it’s weird). So we jumped through the hoops anf got the paerwork and due to the fact that he is my wife’s godfather, we were married by the Bishop of San Antonio. The part that got me though was the fact that after the ceremony it is tradition for the groom to give the priest $50. In this case my mother in law took care of it, deciding, and rightly so, that I would feel uncomfortable paying a priest to do what we just spent an hour proving was God’s work.
    As I undertsand it the payment is more a pragmatic thing as Priests, especially down Mexico way are poor and compensated very little for the work they do. Meanwhile the Pope struts around his multiple pallces in gold slippers. but that’s a whole other topic…

  • Jeff

    And, I would add that churches ought to be free to *not* administer the sacred rite without interference from the state when, to do so, as in this case, would be sin.
    In terms of the state, civil union is not a civil right but rather a legal merger.

  • Catsy

    Of course, churches should be free to not administer the service if they don’t wish, Jeff. I don’t hear any voices on the side of gay marriage advocating that the law compel churches to do anything of the sort, and the GOP arguments to the contrary are nothing more than scare-mongering to stir up their religious voting base.
    But consider this: if nobody can be compelled to perform a ceremony with which they do not agree, how can anyone imagine that the issue of gay marriage affects the rights and lives of anyone but the couple in question?

  • Harv

    Don’t follow the link posted by frightened – it’s porno spam for sure.