With the Prop 8 trial finishing up today, I’ve been thinking a bit about the issue. Part of me, the part that was dominant for a long time, felt that, much like the previous post on women being ordained as priests, it didn’t really matter because nothing spiritual was actually happening from a Christian perspective.
Gay people can’t get married because, ontologically, marriage is a sacrament that can only happen with the proper matter: a man and a woman. If the words of the sacrament are spoken over two men, they’re not married. They’re two men who have gone through a ceremony that signifies their commitment to each other but does not enter them into any kind of spiritual union.
This has no bearing on whether or not gay people can get a marriage license from the state. They certainly can. It’s happened. Society has not fallen apart. What’s the big deal if we let them have their piece of paper?
What’s more, I don’t think this is what the gay community intends in their quest for state approval of gay “marriage.” I think they want to be socially equal with straight people, but that’s another question entirely.
I’ve since been persuaded by other arguments that are really tangential to the question of the spiritual meaning of the sacrament of marriage. Our culture is extremely confused on sexuality right now. There are kids going to public school who have absolutely no idea about true sexual morality and are deeply harmed by this confusion.
How much worse will it be for these children if the state recognizes gay “marriage”? They have no way of parsing the theological nature of a sacrament and what marriage really means. Their information on what is acceptable sexually comes largely from cultural influences. So if gay “marriage” is approved by the state, it will add exponentially to the existing confusion. This will be bad for individual people, which I find a much more compelling argument than the impending destruction of society predicted by the Focus on the Family crowd.
After hearing a news story this afternoon, I got to thinking about the idea of domestic partnerships, which already exist, and can be entered into in many places by heterosexual or homosexual couples. They’re basically agreements about property rights and what have you. They’re civil contracts, no different than a contract between two businesses. People enter into these all the time with no regard to sexuality.
It is, of course, the obligation of the state to protect contracts and sexuality has no place in these contracts. We shouldn’t ask about someone’s sexuality when they’re getting a loan or starting a business. Why should it ask when two people want to forge an agreement about property to govern and protect their interests in a relationship where they happen to live together? For the record, I’m very open to objections.
Why Involve the State at All?
So my question is, why should the state be involved in anything involving the word marriage at all? What would it harm Christians, society, the Church or the American family if the government were to get out of the marriage business entirely?
Because, really, the state doesn’t have anything to do with marriage. If there were no civil state to approve marriages, as has often been the case in history, Christians could still engage in the sacrament of marriage. The state recognizing the marriage is really just the state issuing a domestic partnership contract to people who happen to have engaged in the sacrament of marriage.
The state has no power over whether or not the marriage exist. They only have power over property disputes. The state is hijacking a Christian sacrament when they claim to be issuing “marriage” licenses. By the power vested in my by the state of Illinois, goes the line, but the state of Illinois has no power to approve, disapprove, create or dissolve a marriage. They’re grasping at power they don’t really have.
So why not give up the battle altogether. Why are we not advocating for the government to get out of marriage altogether? That seems to me like the most Christian option.
If we could all be happy with anyone being able to enter into a property contract with anyone else of age, and considering it a social norm that married people would generally enter into this sort of contract, for the good of themselves, the state and the family, what objection could there be to the state dropping all pretensions when it comes to marriage?
I’m really open to persuasion since I don’t claim to have a firm grasp on the issue, but this seems like a win win win arrangement to me. What do you all think?