Government Stay Out of Marriage

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I have heard several people both in and out of the Church that have suggested in response to gay marriage to have the government stay out of marriage. They have suggested that it churches should define marriage and governments should perform only civil unions.

I used to agree with this position. After thinking about this some last night, I am not so sure it is that easy.

Even if churches defined marriage, the government would still need to recognise those marriages as being legal unions. This would be necessary in order to recognise spousal rights and benefits (health care, insurance, access to information, and so forth). That would mean the state would need to recognise any definition the individual churches would decide. Granted, most would determine that marriage is between a man and a woman. There are others, however, that would define it as between two persons, and others that would define it as between two or more persons. This would mean the state would need to define unions between two men, a father and daughter, a man and three women, and the other endless combinations.

Is that something we are willing to accept just so the government stayed out of marriage?

In addition, if the churches defined marriage, would they also be responsible for exercising divorce? If so, we must recognise that some churches may be patriarchal in nature, and potentially would not grant divorce to a woman who is in a physically abusive marriage or would not recognise the rights to property of a wife. As well, some churches may not grant divorce in any case.

Taking defining marriage away from the state can open up a huge assortment of problems, and I am not so sure I want to go there.

6 thoughts on “Government Stay Out of Marriage

  1. There is no reason the government would have to recognize any religious ceremony. As I understand it, some countries require a civil ceremony even whe a religious ceremony has been performed. If a religious marriage does not conform to the government’s rules, then no civil ceremny would be performed and no civil benefit would be forthcoming. But at least the religious benefits would remain.

    What is actually more vexing is how the Church would determine the true marital status of converts. Say a convert couple got married in a Catholic ceremony, but declined to go through with a civil ceremony because the government recognizes same-sex (or polygamous) marriages, which taints the entire institution in the eyes of the couple. Are they married in the eyes of our Church? What if the religious ceremony was Wiccan? Would we make them go through another religious ceremony even before they were eligible to go through the temple. Or would we make them go through the civil ceremony? This is where the worms get out of the can.

  2. The dye has been cast and there is nothing that is going to turn back the clock.

    What we now need to do is ensure that marital and common-law relationships are treated equally.

    This means equal division of assets upon breakup; the spousal abuse rules upheld in gay, as well as heterosexual relationships; any 2 co-habitating individuals for 2 years or more, automatically inherit the estate of the other roommate, regardless of intention; as well as child and spousal support laws.

    With these and other laws strictly administered for gays and heterosexual relationships, common-law, civil or religious ceremony, and publicly announced time and again, so that there is no ignorance, we will soon return to committed, long-term relationships that are the backbone of our society.

    Then it won’t matter who is in charge of recognizing marriages versus civil unions.

  3. Rick,

    You hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t remember the name of the Act and only addressed it in oblique terms.

    Those who are opposed to same-sex marriage(and I was one of them)now have to adjust to political reality in Canada.

    However, I believe that equal enforcement of the law for both gays and heterosexuals will take the bloom off the rose for those disposed to only wanting equal rights without equal responsibility.

    Gov’t’s do, and should have, the responsibility to be in the marriage game. Otherwise, there is no accountability, other than moral accountability, since no other body has the right to establish and enforce law.

  4. The government has to define civil unions because it is the arbitrar of divorce.

    Marriage in the legal sense is essentially a contract. A contract that extends various rights and responsibilities to the participatory parties. In order for the government to legally recognize the contract, and therefore adjudicate it when in dispute, the contract must be legal under the law.

    Churches have no legal right to adjudicate disputed marriages and therefore do not have the right to define what is a valid marriage contract and what isn’t.

    Hence, it is impossible for government to “stay out of marriage” unless all married persons wish to have churches making rulings on marriage when there are disputes.

  5. From the Alberta government’s perspective, all this talk may be moot anyway. The Adult Interdependent Partners Act basically defines a range of relationships which are given rights under Alberta law. Your care-giver, or live in might as well be married to you in many of these situations because they already have rights and entitlements (whether they are aware of them or not) anyway.

    Governments are IN the marriage game, and have to be. It’s not about defining marriage, it’s about protecting rights.

  6. Most believe that marriage is purely an emotional connection between two mates and none organization at whatsoever level should have any rights to interfere. But the other side of the same coin convinces us of being secured in a relationship by legal sanctions.

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