The word marriage can be a very presumptuous word used to define the rather simple concept of joining a couple. It is far more than a legal agreement or representation of love, it is to a large majority of Americans, a religious binding between the couple before God. So it’s really no surprise that the ones the most up in in arms about gay marriage are religious conservatives. The very concept of same sex couples seems to defy every definition of marriage and love found in the bible, when read in a fundamentalist interpretation. Unfortunate for the opposition, marriage also has many legal implications in society. Tax, health and social benefits as well as numerous personal interpretations make marriage an issue of denying legal benefits to one group yet giving it to another . The bible defense should have no place in a government issue as it completely defeats the separation of church and state and denies equal human rights to a minority. Unfortunately due to state constitutions written with fundamentalist viewpoints over a hundred years ago, and many of they same types of decision makers in office today, things are a lot more complicated for gay couples than they should be.
I fully support gay marriage but even more so I support gay rights. This may sound confusing or contradictory but it’s a statement based on my opinions of marriage itself, not gay couples. In movies, books and everyday culture, marriage is associated with the religious ceremony in a church wedding with organ music. There are obviously many other types of ceremonies but this is the most widely recognized in the western world by people of all ages. Human rights groups claim that the conservative Christian majority and lawmakers “make it clear that their real intention (for banning gay marriage) is to protect what they see as the specifically Christian nature of marriage and the family” (Nall, p7). If the conservative Christians want something that represents their religious beliefs for marriage, maybe they should have it. It should not although be the same thing that represents non religious or gay unions. Were Christians “given” marriage, it would rightfully have to be removed from any state laws or recognition just as a bar mitzvah or Mexican quinceneros (girl’s 15 year coming of age). If it’s an important religious ceremony then they don’t really need the health, tax or legal benefits do they? It’s sad that Christians have claimed marriage as their own to begin with let alone that we would have to consider giving it to them to uphold basic human rights. Although I don’t appreciate a christian institution being a legal one too, if the Christians did “win” marriage, Civil Union, the next logical alternative, becomes a badge of loss rather than a win for equality, especially since gay couple have as many rights as Christian conservatives to marry in a church if they so choose and would not be able to if in this case church and state were separated.
Historically, Christians are a little confused on the origins of marriage in relation to their own place in its history. Romans believed long ago that Christianity was a threat to the family because of it’s dedication to celibacy and the repression of carnal feelings. Christians believed that marriage was permitted only in fallen posterity and that it distracted a man from their duties to God. An good example of this is a scripture once taken very seriously, Matthew 19:11-12, “in which Jesus recommends being a eunuch (a castrated or sexless man): “The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Nall, p14). We can’t blame Christian conservatives for changing their tune on that subject, but as they are numerous in the western world, and grow bolder, they continuously ostracize others for things similar to what they were once persecuted for. The overall attitude of Christian conservatives is one of moral superiority and righteousness on subjects that often don´t directly effect them and ones that infringe on the rights of others. There honestly is no place in any government for fundamentalist ideals.
Although I would like to see marriage be separated from state completely and civil union be the norm, open to all and with the same legal benefits that marriage has today, it can’t be denied that gay couples have the right to be Christian as well and get married in a church. Most of all gay couple have the right to use the same laws in place as equals rather than having new ones made to tame the Christian’s outrage.
One photo from a New York protest against California Proposition 8 shows a woman holding a sign that states “I didn’t ask her to ‘Civil Union’ me” (Wiki). Her statement could represent either Christian gays or ones that understand the implication that civil union is essentially settling for whatever doesn’t anger the conservatives (Nall, p5). Most Human Rights groups understand that Civil Union will not be enough of a win to mark a real change, no more than giving black people their own water fountain did.
Overall, this is not a question of church and state, though that is definitely an ideal and logical step. Before the country can take such a major step as to actually separate them fully, (something it can claim but not prove) it is important that all people have the same legal and human rights as the country is today. Were the country to change the definition of Christian marriage for all Americans, and civil union or civil marriage for all Americans, there may be a way to reach an equality and a separation of church and state. But the country is not ready or willing to give up marriage claimed to be owned by Christian conservatives, and may not be for a long time. The only alternative is gay marriage or the drinking fountain (civil union).