Surrenderring “Marriage” to Religion: A Case for Civil Unions

There is a controversial question placed before California voters today, Proposition 8 which will legally impede same-sex  couples to marry if it passes. Plenty of money has been placed to pass the measure, most prominently, the Mormon Church which poured approximately 20 million dollars into the campaign to pass it. The progressive viewpoint is to champion the cause of same-sex marriage, and at first I would be so inclined, as it isn’t fair to discriminate how people choose to unite regardless of their sexual orientation. The deeper problem is the word “marriage” itself. This issue will not go away, and the best way to transcend it, is to give the word “marriage” to religion and have the state only perform civil unions for ALL couples.

I am not a fan of marriage as an institution to begin with. I’ve already argued that it has nothing to do with love, yet I can concede that there are potential reasons why two people would want to get married: children and property. Civil unions can provide the identical protections without calling it marriage.

Giving religion the word, will dismantle the lever which those who wish to project their religious morality through the mechanism of the state. Those who get the religious ceremony would still need to get a civil union to be recognized by the state. Those same-sex couples of faith who still wish to get married, may need to wait for a while, yet surely there will be some progressive religious groups who would perform the ceremony, since the freedom of religion is inviolate.

Additionally, by giving the word marriage to religion, it gives greater clarity to the division of church and state.

All this time and energy fighting over a word is pointless, attention that keeps us distracted from more important issues, like the economy, the environment and questions of war and peace. Those with progressive secular values could simply abandon the quibble over one word, it simply isn’t worth it. Religion can even take the words “husband” and “wife” and we can embrace the inclusive gender neutral “spouse”.


4 Responses to “Surrenderring “Marriage” to Religion: A Case for Civil Unions”

  1. WOW!! What is there left to say? You are 100% on target with what you are saying. If everyone had you point of view there would be some much harmony and acceptance of people personal/sexual preference.

  2. @nrbl: Thanks for the kind words. I maintain the hope that attitudes are changing, and hopefully fewer will feel threatened by those who decide to couple in ways they may find unusual. The results of Prop 8 remains to be seen, but may show a indication where attitudes are heading. I will update this post when the results come in. In the short term it would be best if the proposition was defeated, but in the long term, it would be best for the state to get out of the marriage biz. I appreciate the feedback! 🙂

  3. I think if ths were to happen we would find out in many states that the issue is not over the word marriage at all, rather the issue of social conservatives accepting gay couples into society. I think that the word marriage is one argument argued by supporters of Prop 8, but I don’t think it is the real issue.

  4. @cvman: Thanks for your comment. My understanding is that the real issue is equal protection and benefits under the law. Not to gain acceptance for those who are likely never to give it. I think it is pointless to use the levers of the state to force people to accept things, as government is a poor agent for societal change, and more often than not it is a hindrance.

    Both the state and religion sharing the word marriage blurs the division of church and state in people’s minds.

    I’m pleased to see I’m not alone with this take on same-sex marriage. Here’s a reddit debate arguing this same issue that you might find interesting:

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