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WHO DEFINES MARRIAGE?
October 26, 2008 - Ray Hall (Archive)
The California Supreme court in a 4-3 decision in May of this year overturned the state's ban on gay marriage. The court’s 121-page ruling said that the right to marry in California extends equally to all, gays and straight alike. In anticipation of the ruling, conservative religious groups quickly submitted more than one million signatures on petitions to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. The measure will appear as Proposition 8 on the November 4 ballot and is expected to pass despite opposition from major political figures and companies like Google and Apple. But, the question is advanced: Who gets to define marriage and its terms?
The earliest “marriages” may have been mythical or ritual sexual acts connected to fertility as described by the Ancient Greeks, but there probably has always been, even in pre-history, some sort of ritual connected to cohabitation. Most religions prescribe marriage rituals and marriage is a Sacrament inside the Christian Church. Although state laws govern marriage, the Church has assumed near exclusive guardianship of the marriage franchise and has generally defined the terms and conditions not only of marriage but also of divorce. There are few instances where the “wall of church-state separation” has been so completely ignored than in shaping governmental policy for marriage and divorce.
The idea that marriage should be anything other than a union between a man and woman was hardly on the radar screen before 1950 when the subject appeared on the cover of a Hollywood magazine. It was not until the latter part of the Twentieth Century, however, that the subject of gay marriage erupted in a colossal explosion across the country. The late Reverend Jerry Falwell railed against homosexuality but was particularly harsh in condemning gay-marriage. He openly argued that gay-marriage opened the door to child brides, pedophilic matches, incestuous relationships, plural spouses and legalized bestiality, but opposition is hardly limited to southern evangelicals. Although arguments that gay-marriage will in some way diminish marriage as an institution, that idea is fatally flawed by the actual divorce rates among heterosexuals. However, the suggestion that two women or two men should become united in marriage continues to send shockwaves across the country.
The Catholic Church has been equally dismissive of gay-marriages worldwide, but has lost the argument that procreation between males makes it impossible to follow the scriptural admonition to go forth and multiply. The possibility of male-to-male procreation no longer remains any more of a scientific curiosity than it is for scientists to achieve the speed light. Science knows how to accomplish both and it’s only a matter of time before scientists somewhere, South Korea maybe, mixes skin cultures from two males in a Petri dish, implants the developing cells into an artificial uterus and grows a human being much like a potted plant. One day, probably sooner than we care to believe, that will be the preferred method of pregnancy for women over the more familiar, but cumbersome incubation process.
Regardless only two states, California and Massachusetts, allow homosexual marriages and Proposition 8 is expected to carry the day in California. Some vocal opponents like former Congressman Tom Delay (R-Texas) insist that the issue of gay-marriage is not a close call. Twenty-six states have a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman and 19 states have adopted laws through state legislatures to restrict marriages to one man and one woman. But, the question is not whether marriage should be extended equally to all, of course it should and people of every political persuasion should demand equal treatment.
Marriage has benefits; inheritance, rights of title and an assortment of common rights taken for granted between heterosexual couples. I know a common-gendered couple that has been together for more than 40 years and it is a matter of extreme cruelty that as they advance in years one or the other might legally be denied hospital visitations. Although the state should reasonably limit marriage by age and legal consent, the state should never tell a person whom to marry.
However, despite ballot initiatives, despite TV evangelists, despite pandering politicians and despite religious opposition, same-sex marriage is here to stay. There is no greater evidence of that than the August announcement by Hallmark Cards that the company is releasing a series of same-sex wedding cards.. NOTE: Connecticut became the 3rd state to Approve same-sex marriage-Oct 10-08 in a 4-3 ruling by the State Supreme Court.
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One of Hallmark's same-sex wedding cards released in Aug 08