Monday, February 12, 2007

Marriage and All That

Blue Oregon has spun my hit meter real good, and a little article has gotten a lot of play, so I thought I ought to explain some of my reasoning in case anybody stops back.

Marriage is an institution of civic order, I know churches get very involved and god and all kinds of things get rung in but marriage doesn't mean commitment, that's a thing in itself separate but involved. If you love someone enough to stay with them through all life's variables, that's commitment, getting married in these days of common law property and etc doesn't necessarily increase the financial risk but does increase some legal standing. Government needs orderly transfer of property, assets, and child responsibilities, these ordinarily involve the civil contract called marriage. Because governments and religions were so entwined in the past the god business got charge of the civil contract and enforced it with religious oaths and consequences - good for government, by taking enforcement out of their hands. In secular government churches still perform the ceremonies alongside government entities like Justices of the Peace, tradition is preserved for those who wish it and another avenue for those who do not. All good. With an exception; marriage has become, in the popular consciousness, a religious institution usurping the governmental civil role it plays. With that comes religious interference in the civil law regarding spousal relationships.

It is in the interest of civic order for property and other responsibilities and benefits to be transferred in an orderly fashion. If spouses (life partners if you prefer) do not have a civil law relationship things get messy. Inheritance gets complicated, particularly in absence of a will - or even in the face of a will - and property winds up in the hands of lawyers, the tax man, or people the deceased never intended. Child custody no longer is the prerogative of "parents." Hospital visitation, life support options, and a myriad of benefits and responsibilities married couples take for granted become nonexistent or legally complicated. Common law relationships are not recognized if the spousal relationship is not recognized. When the State of Oregon refuses to recognize the life commitment of some of its own citizens it creates a second-class status, both in benefits and in responsibilities and it does so in regard to religious interests.

I neither commend nor condemn religious outlooks on gay life, gay marriage, or any other aspect of gayness, it is entirely the business of religion to relate to it as it sees fit. Belonging to a religion is entirely a voluntary affair, not so with existing as a gay in the State of Oregon in relation to its laws. There now exists a theological bar within civil law. Philosophically I do not like the religious co-option of the civil contract of marriage, it is wrong, it is un-Constitutional, and it is blatantly unfair. Then there is the "BUT."

If this situation is to be addressed within a realistic time frame and without tremendous political difficulties a work around becomes necessary. The creation of a "civil contract" is probably the only remedy. The difficulty presented is that it is a de-facto recognition of the religious interference in civil law. While it may satisfy the legal needs of gay couples it does not address the second-class issue. The all or nothing conundrum presents itself, I have no answer to that.

Gayness is not an issue for me, one way or the other, what is an issue is equal treatment of our citizens, in rights and responsibilities. I have no tolerance for special treatment of members of our citizenry, in either their interest or their detriment. I volunteered to be a "Voice" for Basic Rights Oregon not out of sympathy for the gay lifestyle, but out of the interest of our citizenry, all of them. Institutionalized discrimination is bad for all of us. Last I knew, BRO was still looking for "Voices," if it's something you could help with, maybe you should.

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