Saturday, April 25, 2009
I promise to move on from the topic of marriage at some point, but with all that is going on with same-sex marriage issues right now, I feel the need to get all this out on "paper" so I can be done with it in my head.
There is marriage, and then there is marriage. Does that make any sense? Well when I think of marriage - in this day & age - I think of two very distinct issues that branch from that word. There is the very personal side which includes your life-long commitment to another person(s) & all that entails, and then there is the strictly legal side which includes how you navigate through the various legal entities (government) as a family unit.
Understandably (this is not a jab) it is my opinion that the straight folks have been getting married for so long, that they take many things for granted. It is very difficult for some to separate the two facets of marriage - the personal side & the legal side. They tend to look at it as one constant process that is inseparable - you fall in love, you get engaged, you purchase a marriage license, you have a wedding. This is a sequential process that follows (for them) in a linear motion with no branches which separate any part of it.
Because for most gays, there is no legal side to their marriage due to laws in their state, I believe it is much easier for us to look at the different branches - choices - of getting married. But then even for some of us due to our upbringing, it is entirely too difficult to separate the pieces.
In my situation, my husband & I already had the wedding with our preacher, our family, our friends with "official" ceremony. However, in our state, there is no legal instrument for our relationship, so as for the technical marriage process that was it. We did eventually draw up wills, living wills, power of attorneys - you know, all those things that are legally available to us when death occurs - there's not anything for us while we're living though (ironic eh?). But that was it.
And I want to discuss the personal side of marriage and all my opinions of grandure on that subject, but I want to just touch on the legal side tonight.
Through the many, many, MANY conversations I have had over the years with the diverse people about the marriage issue, I have found there are many misconceptions & more education is definitely needed. I guess this may be why I bring this up tonight.
Many people still believe that this "gay marriage" agenda has something to do with the gay community forcing churches to recognize & perform gay weddings. Now I certainly have no right nor any desire to speak on behalf of the entire gay community; but that is definitely not part of any gay marriage agenda I have been a party to. My husband & I happened to find a religion/church that fit our beliefs very closely. They also happened to celebrate all marriages - gay ones included. So that is how it came to be that our preacher presided over our wedding. It never entered our minds to visit any Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Buddhist, etc. church/temple and demand or even request that they perform our ceremony. For me, I cannot imagine being a member of any of those churches in the first place, because I would find it very hard to reconcile being a homosexual and also being a full-fledged member of a religion which believes that homosexuality is a sin...but I suppose if I were a member of such a church, I could see how I may desire to make such a request to the church leaders. So that may be why there are some homosexuals who are pushing for some of their churches that they are members of to actually perform the weddings. However, I just can't see a gay couple rolling up in a church where they are not members, and knowing the beliefs of the religion regarding homosexuality, and asking them to perform a very sacred ceremony. I see that as a lose-lose situation for everyone. For me, such a ceremony should be one of the happiest days of your life, and nothing about it should be forced, or uneasy, or attached to drama. But I do not believe the gay community is asking for churches to set their beliefs aside and perform ceremonies which contradict their teachings. If this is happening, it is wrong, and I'll be the first to stand by the church and defend their right to run their church according to the beliefs of their members.
Now what ARE 'most' of the gay community looking for with this 'gay marriage agenda'? Again, I can't speak for the whole community, but for my husband and I, we simply want to purchase a license which costs all of $36 here in Kentucky. That's it. We go to the county clerk's office, fill out a few papers, pay the money, and it's over. We keep on living as we always have, except now we have a legal document which helps us navigate more easily the treachorous legal waters of the government that runs the country, state, county, town. We're not going to take this license to the Southern Baptist church on the hill and say "hey you have to accept it now, nah nah boo boo". What would even be the point? I think those folks should have all the same rights as us, and to be able to live peacefully side-by-side without all this dramatic discourse.
But if I have to have surgery on my broken hip, I want to make sure there is no question that my husband will be by my side. Yes there are medical Power of Attorneys and we have drawn those up (of course it cost more than $36) but those can be contested by biological/next of kin family. Usually, marriage licenses are hard to contest & are on equal legal footing with next of kin.
Then there is the whole messy tax code which may be or may not be advantageous for us to file jointly. I have never actually run the numbers, but I believe President Bush signed away that 'marriage penalty' clause, so now it truly is beneficial (in many cases) to file jointly. Not to mention the fact that legally married spouses can give tax free gifts of money/property to one another up to certain amounts. Even most inheritances after death pass tax free from one legal spouse to another. There is no legal instrument in existence for my husband and I to make that happen. Zero, zilch, nada. The ironclad IRS has nery a loophole for such a relationship.
The list of legal benefits/drawbacks of being legally responsible for one another via a marriage license goes on and on - and many of them are very detailed, specific situations that may or may not ever be an issue for us. But it would be nice to know that for $36, my husband and I could ensure that our legal responsibilities to one another are set and no matter what comes up, legally, we can do what we need to do without crashing and burning with the government.
Now I really have no idea how that desire is going to be the destruction of marriage as we know it. That idea makes no logical sense to me. Again, the only thing I can come up with is that people are unable to separate the branches of marriage because it has always been a linear process for them and it is too easy for them to jump from the legal issues into hellfire and brimstone religion.
One last bit of idealism, and then I'll quit typing...
Truly, I am 100% opposed to the government having complete control over the legality of my personal relationships. I like to consider myself conservative - not neo-conservative - just conservative - meaning, the smaller the government, the better.
If we had a vote today on banning the government from issuing marriage licenses, I'd campaign and vote for it whole-heartedly. We do not need, nor have we ever needed, the government to tell us how we should form our relationships. They came up with the marriage license business because they believed it was in the best interest of the 'state' to encourage marriage of couples. That hasn't quite worked out for the best has it? It's because it's a flawed idea from jump.
We don't form personal relationships because there is a government license which legalizes it. We form relationships for a myriad of reasons - but none of which has anything to do with the sanctioning of said relationships by the government. Creating marriage licenses certainly has not been an effective program in encouraging marriage - look at the divorce rate. Legally banning recognition of gay marriages has not stopped gay marriage from occurring - my husband and I are very happily married, and will be so 'til death do us part; the government has no bearing on that.
Sure we need social contracts that 2 or 20 people can be a party to in order to handle issues such as property, child custody, and other financial situations. But that can be a simple contract that is executed in front of a judge in any local courthouse just like we do with any other contract. We do not need to invoke all of this emotion and religious outrage into it by defining it as "marriage".
I have relationships all throughout my family which I would like to be able to legalize with such a social contract because I will have responsibilities to these people down the road, and right now, there really are no legal instruments that make that possible. This goes way beyond legal issues that arise with my husband. I have a female family member who I consider my Mother, but we have no biological connection so therefore we have no legal bond to one another. But if her husband is not around as she gets older, I am her only child, and I will be responsible for her care. Why should I not be allowed to draw up a simple legal contract saying that? Why does the government get to decide that biological ties supersede other ties that have formed during life?
Ok so that was not a very small idealistic thought eh? I'll digress for now, but bottom line folks... the government overreaches entirely too far into our personal relationships by dictating what legal bonds we can/cannot create with one another in order to navigate through this red tape they have legislated. For me, that's really the issue with "gay marriage".
Go in peace, and laugh often :)