While listening to the raging debate on whether Gay Marriage should be legalized or not, one of the things I found most interesting was the assumption by many observers that legalization was a question of when rather than if. So the question was, was the item being pushed too soon? There seemed to be an acceptance of the idea, albeit reluctantly on the part of some, that as younger generations move into positions of power they will be far less resistant to the idea that Gay people should be allowed to marry. In other words, sooner or later the law will get passed which allows it.
However, there is a concern that moving the legal debate towards a conservatively based supreme court will make it harder to get passed in the future. Might pushing it now toward the high court create additional road blocks down the road? What kind of pressure would need to be applied if DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) moved onto some kind of form which has it constitutional constitutional? Simply, was it too soon to push mainstream religious America into releasing its stranglehold on the word "marriage"?
Our founding fathers decided for the greater good of unification that the battle to end slavery was too soon and that the necessity for a declaration of independence superseded the moral obligations of making slaves free men. This is one of our earliest examples of how our country had to politically negotiate in serving the diversity of population that it does.
However, those same founding fathers, in their wisdom, decided that no one church or belief system should rule a nation of very diverse religious beliefs, including a fair amount of deists, who said there is a God but refused to define him as the Christian God. Here, creating the separation of church and state is part of our constitution. They also, in their wisdom, created a set of rules and laws that could change and shift with the times and grow as this nation and humanity grew.
It has often occurred to me that there is a core essential piece to this debate. It is not whether or not any religion or groups of religions get to determine what their individual definition of marriage is but that we simply need to examine the state / government's role in the definition of marriage, not as a religious institution but as a purely legal institution. Why is marriage in any form recognized or not recognized by the government? More importantly in its recognition, is it offered fairly to all of its citizens? If there are legal guarantees, government supported benefits, and / or state supported mandates that only apply to marriage partners, then it needs to be offered to all citizens equally.
Any religion, has the individual right to not recognize, from a religious perspective, what it honors or does not honor, within its congregation such as the concept of marriage. However if I told the Baptists that they had to adopt the Methodist version of marriage or the Jewish version of marriage, they would be in an uparar, because each religion, in and of itself, gets to decide what is appropriate or inappropriate within its own congregation, but no one else's. Even more horrendous would be that the state decided on one religion's view of marriage and forced every other religion to recognize that definition of marriage, legally, as their own. Everyone from the head of every church organization to the single parishioner would be up in arms about separation of church and state. So why does any religious group or groups' definition of marriage get to be legally justified?
So that leaves two questions, one a simple, logical one which is representative of the values that this country was founded on, the other which is a much murkier issue to debit.
The simple question is the one about marriage. According to our constitution, no church should be defining a legal issue. Either we create a form of civil union that has equal benefits for all, removing any government or state recognized benefits of marriage and return the word to a strictly religious connotation, or from a state perspective we eliminate any legal rights to the religious institution of marriage all together. Something is either equal and fair to all of America's citizens or it is not. It can not be almost as fair, kind of fair, or sort of fair; either it has ALL the same recognized benefits and supports and is implemented in a legally protected and functionally convenient way or it is not. What we have is not. If the fight is over the word, then give it back to the church, remove it as a classification from the state and create something that is fair for all.
The murky question is about the slaves who died waiting for the right time. They never knew what it was like to be free. Was the political maneuvering of our founding fathers on the issue of slavery seen and understood by them as too soon? Or did they feel that the eighty-seven years was too late?
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