The discussion, debate, argument, posturing and legal maneuvering is at an all-time high over the issue of same gender unions. There are some things which I find fascinating in this process and two of them particularly stand out to me. The first is what marriage is and where does it come from, and the second closely related to the first; does a same gender couple have the right to require a pastor/clergyman to marry them.
Point of clarification, what each of you does with your life is your business, not mine and not ours. This commentary goes as to the definition of marriage (not a legal exercise) and also as to the religious freedom of others regarding marriage.
Marriage as I see it and as most people see it, is the union of one man and one woman and many of us in the Judeo-Christian tradition hold it as a sacred union created by God at creation and later affirmed by Christ at the weddings of Cana. That’s it, that’s the simple definition. We also believe that what the state does regarding marriage is to give legal status to a union created by God. The argument for the longest time has been that same gender partners should have the same “legal rights” as those in marriages. My only disagreement with that is that it would also be called “marriage” although it could not from a religious stand point, if we hold that it is God who instituted marriage. Many have said over the years give same gender folks the opportunity to have the same legal rights and call it “xyz”.
The argument would continue, we want to go ahead and do this and call it marriage anyway, even if you religious folks don’t consider it marriage; the state says it can be called marriage. The Church does not have a copyright on the word “marriage”. OK the church does not have a copyright on the word marriage, so the aspiring couple could go ahead and “marry” under the laws of a given state and call it marriage. So we now have the same word for two very different things. The problem with this is that the folks that support same gender “marriage” have now managed to confuse themselves into thinking that since it is called “marriage” they can “require” a minister to perform a wedding ceremony.
Hold it there folks, the “marriage” that was just legalized is the one performed by the state which has no power or jurisdiction over the marriage the church performs. You see the confusion this has created. The marriage the Church performs by its ministers, pastors, priests, deacons or rabbis is protected by the 1st amendment of the United States Constitution and by God Himself.
All along the folks that argued for the rights of same gender unions explained that this was a legal issue and that folks in those relationships should have the same legal rights and that consequently God or his ministers had no business in this argument. It was not a religious matter only a legal one. OK, since the state can issue any license and call it what it wishes then the state can go ahead and perform whatever ceremony it wishes.
However, once you attempt to force a minister to “marry” the couple then this is no longer about rights for same gender couples. This is now something else; what should we call it?