My Mind Made Public -

I held off as long as I could ...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A New Way of Marriage?

A friend of mine, Bart Campolo, brought this recent TIME Magazine article to my attention through his blog. The article is about two law professors, one who is in favor of gay marriage and the other who is against it, and their new theory in how to provide legal and political space for marriage, that would satisfy both ends of the spectrum. They suggest that in order to provide this space marriage must be removed from the hands of the government.

“Instead, give gay and straight couples alike the same license, a certificate confirming them as a family, and call it a civil union — anything, really, other than marriage. For people who feel the word marriage is important, the next stop after the courthouse could be the church, where they could bless their union with all the religious ceremony they wanted. Religions would lose nothing of their role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that they find in keeping with their tenets. And for nonbelievers and those who find the word marriage less important, the civil-union license issued by the state would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states and in federal law for married couples.”

In a further explanation the article went on to state that:

“Both sets of lawyers agreed that the idea would resolve the equal-protection issue. Take the state out of the marriage business and then both kinds of couples — straight and gay — would be treated the same.”

It’s an interesting concept, one that I think the GLBT and secular communities would have no problem with—but ultimately one that I don’t think the Church would ever agree to. Legally it makes sense: if there is a legally documented separation between Church and State, then marriage must be included in that separation as well. These professors’ theory makes room for such a thing. But at the end of the day the Church has staked a claim on the “marriage business” and I would be shocked to systemically see that ever change.

None the less, it doesn’t mean it’s not a great concept or one that should be seriously considered.

I was wondering all of your thoughts as well? This could be a really interesting discussion…

Much love.


Jon Trouten said...

Gay couples, in most areas of the US, have been having weddings in churches without the benefit of state marriage licenses for years. My husband and I were married at our Iowa church 12 years ago. The church recognizes us. The state still doesn't think that either we or our children are worthy of the civil protections or responsibilities of marriage. Frankly, I'd be fine with a state civil union or domestic partnership or whatever. But those are pretty toothless when unrecognized by the federal government or by employers ("sorry, we only recognize married spouses -- not domestic partners").

Like you, I don't see the church going for this compromise. Or any compromise, really. The church, by and large, is doing everything to keep our relationships voided. It's also doing everything that it can to prevent us from adopting, fostering children, having job protections, serving in the military, whatever. The church is out to protect gay people from ourselves. They won't budge and they won't stop fighting to reverse any protections that we do acquire.

Anonymous said...

From the legal viewpoint, it makes lots of sense. Sometimes, I think the gay marriage issue became so big because of the insurance issue.
Our 'socialistic' government years ago mandated that employers have to give some benefits to full-time workers, and the people themselves are always demanding insurance. It has become almost a birthright in our country.
Enter the gay worker. He does just as good a job as the 'straight' worker. The straight worker is eligible for insurance for his spouse & kids. The gay worker in his mind feels as married as Mr. Straight, but under the law, he is considered single. So he receives o insurance. One day his partner gets very ill. He feels cheated.
So the story goes!
My solution would be for each worker to be able to insure one person of choice if that benefit is added. It would mess up the fee structure as someone may choose to insure her elderly mother or handicapped child. But, the spouse may be sickly, too. It never can be completely resolved, but can you see how the gay person would feel?
The civil union would solve that problem. The civil partner would automatically be the one to be insured, etc.
But there may be some who would just pick a friend or a neighbor to have a 'union' with, so that person would get the insurance. I think my Streetwise vendor is a very nice guy. If I were single, I could arrange for him to use my address, & then do a civil union so he could get more help. See how the human mind works, trying to beat the system. While civil unions sound like a good idea, there may be other problems.
Now that our government is even more socialistic, they may not even mind, as they are spending our money, not theirs.
As I write this, I see that this is even more complex than I thought.
But I do sympathize with the GLBT community, & as a Christian, ask fellow Christians not to be so judgmental toward others. They haven't walked that mile in their moccasins. D.T.

Anonymous said...

I think that some people would be fine with calling everything civil unions, but honestly, as a member of the gay community who is getting married (legally in Massachusetts), there is still a fundamental problem with that. It still implies that gay people are second class citizens, so to speak, and are not worthy of the word marriage. The actual word "marriage" is so completely important. We are fighting for the recognition that we deserve - the right to marry - just as any other straight human being. Taking this off the table and making things civil unions, in my opinion, is not the answer. It might be a temporarily good solution, but it is still damaging and it is still separating the rights of the gay community from the rights of the straight community, and backing down from the fight, which is that all individuals should have the right to marry whomever they choose.

Andrew Marin said...

I think a few very good points are being brought up:

1. The slight the gay community feels for anything that might be considered "equal" within culture

2. Christians (at least 1 now) understanding this is WAY more complex than many conservatives are led to believe

3. The word "marriage" is a big deal!

I think the article does a good job in bringing up the usage of the word "marriage", highlighting its significance from both persepectives. I have a friend in Los Angeles who opened my eyes to something like this recently....

He got married to his partner when it was legal. They went through the hastle of changing all of the information (insurance, bank, etc), and then when it was repealed, they had to go back and do everything all over again. They have been together about 20 years, so did any of the legal stuff change their relationship? No. But he was sooo mad because he felt his heart and emtions were getting played with by people who didn't care about him, his life or his family. I had never thought about it like that before - through his eyes, through his filtration system, and the effect the back-and-forth can so strongly have. And I can almost promise every other conservative Christian doesn't realize this either.

The one thing that I have always thought for people who "compromise" over civil unions instead of marriage: civil unions are in essence the same thing as marriage, just called something different! Why are people letting lingual semantics make them feel "better" about what they stand for if it's the same thing?

Jon Trouten said...

Andrew: Civil unions aren't the same thing as marriage. This has been observed in Vermont, New Jersey, California, wherever they offer CUs/DPs instead of marriage equality. Employers don't treat CU/DP spouses equally. Businesses don't treat CUs/DPs equally. Hospitals haven't been treating them equally (especially in Jersey).

I have no clue why people like yourself haven't considered the emotional toll on gay couples who find ourselves going back and forth with regards the legality or the security of our relationships. Personally, I don't believe that most conservative Christians care about this issue. They just want our relationships legally voided.

First Anonymous: Yes, some people might enter in civil unions with people other than the one they love/nurture/support/care for/etc. The same thing goes one with marriage licenses with straight couples. If you want to enter into a marriage or a civil union with someone like your vendor and then risk the financial and legal repurcussions of the eventual divorce, that's within your rights I guess...

Andrew Marin said...

Jon, sorry for my mistake on my understanding of the difference between civil unions and marriage. As for "people like yourself", I don't at all believe (for the majority - I'm talking bell curve here) that conservative Christians want to void everything gay. I believe that they (once again, bell curve) are trying to stay true to what their theological belief system says...just like you are doing the same for what you believe.

I believe the broader issue is, like it was through my experience, one can understand an emotional construct or empathize with another's situation, but until that ethereal construct is legitimately brought face to face, many (including myself) could not at all grasp the potency of what the situation brings. The bigger probelm is, when that sacred moment is brought to the doorstep of people, what do they do with that information and experience. And no, most conservative folks don't care about it like you do.

But because I'm so involved with all of my GLBT friends and people in The Marin Foundation, the one thing I can't shake from my head is:

"If I were gay I would be fighting just as diligently as you are."

And that gives me a whole new perspective on what it means to live, and peacefully and productively build bridges in this disconnected "culture war"....something that some on both ends of the divide are missing.

Jon Trouten said...

So what are gay people like your friends in California missing when their neighbors are voting on the constitutional legitimacy of their marriage? What are they blind to in the culture war disconnect?

What does bridge-building look like for this couple or for me when our families are literally under attack?

Maybe a better question should be how should we express our anger and our helplessness when our families are legislatively attacked by people who have a theological beef against us?

Andrew Marin said...

About missing the point:

I was trying to communicate the broader issue that conservative folks need to find that place of realization as I did, one that opened my eyes to a whole new interal and practical expression of what it is to try to somehow understand what GLBT people are going through on a daily basis - something that I've come to learn straight folks have NO IDEA what that must be like...something we wrongly take for granted!

And on the other end from the gay community what I was trying to communicate with that point was a reversal in trying to understand where conservative folks are coming from as well (bell curve again). There are always outliers, and there always will be. Much more than not, both belief systems are filled with extremely well intentioned people trying to stay true to what they believe. Bridging cannot happen from only one end. If you reach out to me and I don't try to understand where you're coming from, you can't do it all by yourself....there is no point in even continuing to try at that juncture. And if I reach out and you don't try to understand where I'm coming from, I can't do it all by myself either. In learning to listen and love, we can at least take a step forward toward more peaceful relationships. But as I said in my last comment:

"If I were gay I would be fighting just as diligently as you are."

That is me admitting that I'm trying to get it as much as I can; and I can only do that with your help. Thank you for putting yourself, thoughts, feelings and experiences out there.

And then, "how one should express anger":

At least from within the conservative community, there is much anger as well because broadly, they feel there is a "gay agenda" which is being forced upon them. Right or wrong, my word is that conservative folks need not negatively express their perceived anger because at the end of the day I believe that anger wrongly expressed perpetuates the divide. That is not to say everyone must numb their feelings and not express them. It is rather to say there is a peaceful and productive way to express them that not only gets the point across, but also provides space for those who don't agree with you to grow and learn from your feelings and experiences.

Much love.

Anonymous said...

Massachussetts Anonymous says the word marriage is important. Yes, it is! That's why everyone would get a civil union, then go to whatever agency(church, temple, club, etc.)they choose & get married under that auspice(sp?).
They would call it marriage & refer to their partner as their spouse.
When everyone goes for insurance(or whatever legal documentation needed), they would show their civil union documents. The HR dept. or hwatever agency would not care if they were gay or straight & wouldn't even have to know.
So whatever lifestyle you are in, you can feel as married as you want & when you have legal dealings, you will be treated equally. Does that make sense?
D.T. again.