Why Church and State should be separate in the issue of marriage.

According to a number of religious groups calling the union of a same-sex couple marriage under law fundamentally undermines the institution of marriage..

….So in light of the recurrent hissy-fits thrown by various religious leaders, politicians and feminists alike (albeit for radically different reasons -usually), I propose the government of the UK abolishes the term marriage entirely and institutes new terminology:-

  • a word meaning relationship sanctioned and solemnised by a religious organisation,
  • a word meaning relationship recognised and protected by the state; and
  • a word for all other fucking arrangements

Christians may have matrimonia, Jews nissuin, Muslims Nikah etc. or choose some other word that denotes the change in status (as befits their traditions and language – which lets be honest I’m not an expert on). Civil ceremonies can have partnership. Then anyone who confused marriage and parenthood or got antsy about the role of a person in their domestic partnership because it was called marriage could be fined for whining about a word that has been outlawed and told to mind his own bloody business.

What I mean is that the key issue that I see within the debate is a complete failure of separate parties to comprehend the values attached to a word by the opposing side. Realistically I understand that if your idea of relationships involves following the strictures of your religious leaders seeing others do it differently is threatening to your situation because it suggests that either you are wrong or that they completely fail to respect you or simply that they are risking their immortal soul (insert equivalent here) by not following your guidelines. Similarly if you are a hard-line liberal suggesting that there is a right way to do relationships fundamentally threatens someone’s freedom and putting a label pre-owned by religious institutions on it might suggest ownership or restrictions and degredation of women – ideas that might seem horrific to people whose religious ideals are being judged.

It therefore seems clear that there should be provision for separate commitments. All religions can therefore be treated equally – each of them can be recognised as offering a form of union with its own rules and privileges within the community but none of them automatically conferring state rights. Then a civil union can be sought with or without religious involvement with exactly the same rights and responsibilities invoked no matter who is concerned.
Would it really destroy the Christian church if instead of sanctifying and legalising a marriage in one go the state’s involvement was done before or after as the individuals saw fit? They could go about their affairs, choosing who entered the sacrament and keeping that sacrament ‘holy’, and the choice of the state to protect and equalise (for example) next-of-kin rights or tax benefits between gay or straight couples would not be tantamount to forcing the Church to change their position.

I realise that the key issue is emotive – some gay couples want the ability to call their union marriage, just as some couples (gay and straight) hate the word and want recognition regardless. Similarly certain religious groups feel the word belongs to them.
Hence my proposal is that if you can’t play nicely and share then none of you can have it.

Marriage is outlawed.

Edited to add: I am by no means anti-marriage and am in many respects deeply happy with my civil-partnership. See Here. I am however deeply frustrated by a debate that appears to focus on an attachment on the idea that one word will change the way people form relationships – well sod it!


2 thoughts on “Why Church and State should be separate in the issue of marriage.

  1. …or we just call the contract that gives the two signatories the same rights and obligations marriage. No government should afford its citizens rights according to their gender. It would be tantamount to someone wanting to open a company, i.e. a limited partnership, and the registry office says: Sorry Madam, only men can sign up for that.

    • I take your point – it would be simpler to change the law to allow marriage for everyone regardless of their gender.
      On the other hand in modern western society many feminists would argue it automatically implies (if no longer requires) a sense of male ‘ownership’ of a woman which I think you don’t have to be homosexual to find distasteful; furthermore it suggests a number of conventions and expectations neither necessary nor helpful. See Here and here. I know that in fact formal partnerships have taken any number of forms but that doesn’t stop assumptions being made and we have an opportunity to start again without those rules and sense of heirarchy.
      Marriage will always be something that eventually the heterosexual, monogamous centre-left granted to us ‘fringe’ families – and it feels patronising.

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