Marriage Does Not Belong to the State

All this stuff you hear about marriage being the union between a man and a woman is fine enough…as far as it goes.

But why is that the case? What is the basis for this claim we make so casually?

It is the word “marriage”  that is at stake here, not the nuts and bolts of a marriage; love, double beds, kids, two pay envelopes, community property, or, in the gay world, even the right to exist as partners in a legal estate identical to that of marriage.

You see, that term “marriage,” in hundreds of different languages, has belonged to the religions and cultures of the world for thousands of years before there was ever such a thing as a government. The tribes of Israel had marriage before Saul was anointed king, and even before Abraham came out of Ur. The Samoans had marriage before Margaret Mead could walk. Amazon tribes had marriage before the first Jesuit got off the boat.

Marriage goes way back, to clans, tribes, long before the state was even a gleam in Athens’s, Rome’s or Charlemagne’s eye. It is universal.

And it is universally religious, having to do with spiritual unions within the community. It is not just about property or inheritance, and has absolutely nothing to do with who bites the pillow or who bites the ear.

As far as we can count time backwards, this notion of marriage, which coincidentally was universally between a man and a woman, was part of a religious rite inside clans or tribes that knew no god as we know ours, yet solemnized a sober moral duty on the participants, so that neither would take the arrangement lightly.

Marriage was probably the first (and sometimes the only) civilized thing barbarians ever engaged in. Even the Mongols married. Marriage was more than mating.

The state’s involvement with marriage came in much later, much, much later, and usually in the context of a state religion. (The freedom of free exercise of religion originated here in America.)

For it benefited every king and caesar to have laws that made predictable (and taxable) those lines of succession and passing of property rights. The state then, as today, had an interest in property, keeping peace in the family…only not in the same way the churches did…and of course, being able to raise a few bucks along the way.

I can’t pick out a date when the government stole marriage, but suddenly, even if a priest prayed over the union, the state had to be the official recorder of the ceremony, and even though the civil union that we call a “courthouse marriage” was still infrequent compared to religious ceremonies, (in Virginia the JP will give couples the option of a religious or non-religious ceremony) they are now the presumed legal default template for marriage in America…because marriage is now officially seen through the prism of the state.

So it would seem the state(s) have a vested interest in steering weddings in their direction.

Bottom line, there’s no question as to who created and is the rightful owner of the term “marriage,” and who stole it from who.

Why I raise this is because my brother, who is gay and has lived in Arizona with the same partner since 1970, called me on the phone in 2008 to complain (rant actually) that the Mormons had breached the “separation of church and state” wall by funding the anti-gay marriage ballot (Prop Eight) in California, which is now working its way to the Supreme Court.

(So as not to be confused, that’s me at father’s knee)

I told my brother essentially what I’ve just laid out here, that the word “marriage” belongs to the religions of the world and if he wants to support the same sort of union under some other name, I’m all for it.

He complained that religion is illegally insinuating itself into a political issue, when in fact it was the state that stole (“preempted” is the legal term) marriage in the first place. I then told him that all people, straights and gays, who don’t want a religious rite with their wedding should receive a certificate of civil union.

I stand by this. Don’t broaden marriage, broaden civil unions. Give marriage back to its rightful owners.

The real gay objective.

My argument with my brother goes back to the 2000 election, when he told me he was voting for Gore because, “Gore was going to protect my right to leave my estate to Dave.”

Now, my brother has an IQ of 145, real genius level, so I asked, “Did you sleep through 9th Grade Civics?’

What does the federal government have to do with wills and lines of descent?

I mentioned that he and all Arizonans had had the right to bequeath property to anyone they wanted since 1912. He countered that he couldn’t visit his partner in intensive care, or make him a beneficiary on a company insurance policy.

His reasons kept getting more lame as we marched down his list. He just could never come out and say, “I want the word!”

Our debate continued for eight years until that last conversation in 2008, where I told him he could have everything he wanted except that word “marriage,” at which time he slammed the phone down. We haven’t spoken since.

But there you have it. If you know anything about the temperament of most gay men, political gays don’t want marriage, they want that word. And they want it in the teat fit sense, as something that has been denied them. It’s as simple as that.

“No” is simply a word they can’t handle very well.

So, what we’re seeing now is a teat fit writ large.

Everything gays want from a relationship they can get from a civil union; all the legal rights and legal protections…which I’m for forcing non-religious straights to get as well, since atheists seem so proud these days.

But “marriage” belongs to the religions of the world, and until track lights are tax-deductible as a church related expense, being gay isn’t a religion.




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