Vail Valley Voices: Gay marriage is a thorny church-state issue
Ryan Summerlin March 29, 2013
I have decided in this commentary to touch the third rail of social issues, gay marriage.
As we watch the drama unfold in the Supreme Court regarding gaymarriage, many are left to wonder, “Who cares?” Why is this such a big issue? We have all heard the pros and cons and will it really be that earth-shattering if it goes one way or the other?
The issue seems to have fallen along political party lines … what a shock! But if we just think about it in realistic terms and remove some of the heated debate, we can probably see valid points in each position and create a viable solution.
I will address the conservative perspective, understanding that the liberal position is counter to these points (although I have heard from many Democrats who agree with this particular stance).
As I listen to Republicans, I am left with the following observation: “Marriage” is a legally recognized religious ceremony. “Civil union” is a secular legal designation (which can also apply to non-sexual relationships, ala “Golden Girls,” in which people who live together as family can share other legal rights as a family).
Republicans have no issue with civil Unions, but altering a religious rite for political purposes has always been against the Republican platform.
This is precisely what the founders addressed in their distinction between church and state; – not that you couldn’t include religious considerations in your “state” positions, but that the state would never interfere in your religion.
The GOP strongly respects the freedom of individual differences and the state’s right to determine what is in their best interest, although a national recognition of the contractual agreement of civil unions should be honored and respected across the country.
Politics and religion are not a good mix for anyone involved.
A question that often arises is, “If marriage is simply a legally recognized religious ceremony, why does the clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles office issue marriage license? Why does it not matter if a religious ceremony is performed?”
The answer is that you secure a marriage license to let the government know that your status in life has changed, which affects government benefits and tax status.
Once that is accomplished, you are not forced to marry in a church (atheists, for example), and the government will officiate your married status.
The civil union issue is fairly recent and a development of our changing society.
Years ago, people could rely upon families if they did not have a spouse (due to death or remaining single). Families often lived nearby and thus were more integrated, so grandparents would help with the kids (nannies were unheard of), and often young adults would return to their communities and work in the family business or join a nearby corporation and remain until retirement, so the “extended family” was not really a necessity.
With a global economy, jobs are often secured far away from home, thus an “extended family” becomes integral to our daily existence. In securing legal rights for these new “family” members, civil unions were developed and not limited to homosexuals.
In consideration of the gay issue, we must keep it in perspective. According to an October 2012 Gallop Poll, only 3.4 percent of the population in the United States is gay, with a majority in the 18-29 age category, at 6.4 percent. By ages 30-49, it dropped in half to 3.2 percent, with ages 50-64 at 2.6 percent and ages 65-plus at only 1.9 percent.
These figures could simply represent the sexual experimentation of those under age 30 because otherwise the numbers would remain fairly consistent along all age groups, making the number of actual gays even smaller than the 3.4 percent reported.
According to the same poll, only 14.1 percent of gays are actually interested in marriage or a domestic partnership. That means that all of this fuss is about less than 0.005 percent of our population, thus 99.99 percent of our population are expected to change their religious beliefs for a relative few who want their partnerships to be classified as “married.”
Given the numbers, this entire fuss seems almost ridiculous on both ends. Yet it is all about precedence, which is the basis of the legal system in this country.
What does allowing the government to interfere in religious practices set forth for us in the future?
If the Supreme Court grants approval for gay marriage, it could infringe upon certain religious canon, and churches could be forced to preform gay marriages against doctrine. In addition, its precedence could open churches to potential litigation and infringement of religious rights in other areas.
Instead of redefining marriage, we should expand the aspects of civil unions to include many of the benefits that are currently excluded, and be honored across the country.
If the couple involved would like to consider themselves as married, then so be it. If people of the same gender love each other, regardless of any sexual considerations, it should be celebrated.
Is this topic much ado about nothing? Not if it sets a precedence of the state being able to interfere with religion.
Loving couples are a blessing to everyone, and mutual respect on one end for their choice and on the other end for their religion is expected.
Jacqueline Cartier, who has more than 25 years of political communications experience and is the president and CEO of Winning Images, recently moved back to Eagle-Vail from Washington, D.C. She can be reached by email at WinningImages.Cartier@gmail.com or by phone at 202-271-4165. Visit her website at www.CartierWinningImages.com.