Friday, May 18, 2012

A Solution?

In a May 15 letter-to-the-editor of the Star Tribune, Robert Veitch offers a "solution to the same-sex marriage dilemma" which I've heard articulated elsewhere though perhaps never quite as succinctly. The only problem I see (and it's a significant one) is that for most people (including those who are non-religious) "marriage" is the term recognized and accepted for what Veitch calls a "civil contract." Without doubt, "marriage" is very much a secular term.

Of course, many Christian churches have a strictly religious term for marriage, that being matrimony. Indeed, in Roman Catholicism we talk about the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Unfortunately, until religious folks like the US Roman Catholic bishops realize they don't own the term marriage, they'll no doubt resist any "solution" that, unlike Veitch's, acknowledges and uses this term outside a religious framework.

It's also important to acknowledge that for most same-sex couples and families, the legal rights and benefits of Veitch's "civil contract" are secondary to the reality that only the word "marriage" conveys to all of society the joy, connection, and deep commitment that is made between two people who love each other. Accordingly, as I've noted previously, same-sex couples want to join in marriage, not redefine it. And I think it would be fair to say that the understanding of "marriage" that same-sex couples want to be part of is what most people understand as civil marriage, and not the understanding of matrimony championed by the Roman Catholic clerical caste.

Anyway, following is the "solution to the same-sex marriage dilemma" proposed by Robert Veitch.

The solution to the same-sex marriage dilemma is to make the formation of a family unit purely a matter of civil contract. Any couple ought to be able to form a family corporation, as equal partners, with all the rights and responsibilities currently included in a marriage contract, including the various tax advantages and Social Security rights.

Marriage should be something that religions can offer as a sacrament to those who wish to "sanctify" their civil contract. Religions can have whatever rules they like governing whether they will sanctify a particular relationship.

In this country, people are free to find a religion that accommodates their beliefs. The religious ceremony should have no legal standing and church personnel no ability to grant civil family unit contracts.

All legal issues should be addressed in the civil contract. Government has a strong interest in promoting stable family units no matter the gender composition. Stable relationships promote the general welfare; economic stability; productivity; health; child well-being, and lawful behavior.

Religious affiliation and the rules religions impose on their congregations are matters of individual conscience, and the government can and should have no say, provided that no laws are violated and no public funds are used.

– Robert Veitch
Star Tribune
May 15, 2012

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Facts
Thoughts on Archbishop Nichols' Support for Civil Unions
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Distinguishing Between Roman Catholic Theology and Civil Law in the Struggle for Marriage Equality
Kristen McQueary: "Yes to Civil Unions and Yes to My Catholic Faith"
An Ironic Truth
Two Attorneys Discuss Same-Sex Marriage


Unknown said...

"Unfortunately, until religious folks like the US Roman Catholic bishops realize they don't own the term marriage, they'll no doubt resist any "solution" that, unlike Veitch's, acknowledges and uses this term outside a religious framework."

According to my dictionary, "Marriage" means "legal union of a man and woman as husband and wife."

I assume you have a crew working on that one? There are lots of dictionaries and lots of languages out there. Better get moving.

It's incredible how self-centered you folks are in that just because you want something, billions of people will have to change their languages, books, dictionaries, libraries, lifestyles, and run the risk of going to jail if they don't want to cooperating in the change.

RD Veitch said...

A couple of thoughts. While it is true the religious folks don't own the term marriage, if it were necessary to give up a term to achieve the fundamental right of any two people to form a domestic union under exactly the same rules, it would be a small price to pay and quite likely, with time, the civil union would usurp the term marriage.

Second, "marriage" comes with some baggage -- like the terms "husband" and "wife" and considerable language suggesting that the relationship is not one of equal partners. The civil union must be a relationship of equals and perhaps the proper term for the significant other in such a relationship is "partner" with the equality that term suggests.

The truth is all civil unions would benefit from this change.

Claire Robson said...

Great post. I absolutely agree that the Catholic church should not be so concerned with granting a legal right to peoplethat will have little or no effect on others. Marriage has always changed, throughout time and across people, even within the Church, and yet, humanity has managed. Why should Cathlolics hold so desperately to how the secular culture bonds people for the sharing of property?