Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Civil Unions

A friend and I were talking, and I came to a new conclusion about the government definition of marriage. I've always felt that it wasn't really the government's place to define marriage, but that it seems to have to define it out of necessity.

Here's a potential problem: If homosexual marriage is officially recognized, then ministers--who act as agents of both religion and government when they officially marry two people--will be forced to recognize homosexual marriage. This violates their freedom of religion. It also means that public school teachers will be forced to recognize homosexual marriage and heterosexual marriage equally. This essentially means that a certain religious view will be being taught in schools that children are legally required to attend unless they can afford a private school. Again, this violates their freedom of religion.

So, here's a possible solution: Take away all official government recognition of marriage. Set up a civil union system designed for people who are living together and uniting their finances on a long-term basis. The government will completely ignore marriage as a social and religious institution, and only pay attention to the legal contract of a civil union. Then, churches, institutions, and individuals will be free to call marriage whatever they like. Churches won't be required to recognize a homosexual couple as married, and homosexual couples won't be required to consider themselves unmarried. Everyone has the freedom to believe as they choose.

Based on what I know so far, I think that this is the best possible legal system.


Denette said...

It is possible that I am missing your point, but by taking away government recognition of marriage, how would a couple get a marriage license? It is the government that sells those and you can't get married in the temple without one! If you make it so that a couple doesn't need a marriage license to be married in the temple, then you end up changing the standards of the Church.

In my opinion, as much as we'd like to believe there is a seperation of "church and state", they are very much intertwined and depend on one another.

Since moving away from Utah, I have come to realize how "peculiar" I am as a member of the Church. I was married before I had children. My children all have the same father and they know and love him. I'm still married twelve years later, and I've taken my husband's name and given it to all my children without hyphens or other combinations. No one else on my street can claim these things.

I am not in a "civil union" like everybody else. I am married and would like that fact to be recognized by both my church and my state. :-)

Olorin said...

I definitely don't want to get rid of marriage. My goal is actually to protect marriage. The problem is that if the government gets to choose what marriage is, then they also get to force everyone else to follow the same system. So, if the government decides to recognize polygamy, same-sex marriage, or any other system, then the Church is legally obligated to recognize it, too. That definitely isn't good.

So, I want marriage to be determined privately--not by the government. The civil union idea is just for the legal implications of being married--taxes, rights for kids, etc. Marriage is not just a social and spiritual union; it's a legal one, too. The civil unions take care of the legal aspect, the churches can take care of the religious aspect, and people can take care of the social aspect themselves.

And I'm just talking from a legal standpoint. From a spiritual standpoint, being sealed in the temple for all eternity always has and always will be the best option. That's definitely what I plan to do. :)

Olorin said...

To be perfectly honest, I miss the days when people had more similar ideas of morality. God will reward each person according to their deeds, but there are a lot of sins that the law can't punish. And the more involved the government gets into the details of our lives, the more it will have to adapt whenever society changes. For example, in our modern society, homosexuality is becoming relatively accepted by more people. I think that's a bad thing spiritually. But I think the government and the legal system have to adapt to protect the fundamental rights of all individuals. That's my goal here.

Bjorn said...

I agree. The government needs to adapt. It wouldn't be changing the standards of the church, it would only be changing the policy on American temple marriages (since the policy varies according to various countries). Policies and standards are two very different things.

However, it isn't free from flaws. The fact is, we believe that doctrinally a man and a woman should be married before having children. We do not think that people outside of the LDS church should live in sin--it doesn't just apply to members of the church. Such a change in US policy could thwart people's desires to get married.

Here is a legal problem too: If you go to another country that requires proof of marriage, you wouldn't have it. Other countries use marriage licences for their rights. It could be worked with, but it would be difficult.

Unfortunately, now that I have thought this over, I don't think it is a good solution. The fact is, marriage is a legal union between a man and a woman. Other unions may exist, but they are not marriage. Those who are not married deserve rights, but so do religious people that want to protect the definition of marriage. The fact is, the government needs to provide for people's rights as people. They aren't entitled to special priviledges just because they enter a union that is difficult to legally define. These issues need to be addressed, but getting rid of marriage as a civil right seems like it could be disastrous.

Andrew said...

I've had thoughts along these lines, too, and originally thought this option had merit. However, I believe the elimination of state-recognized marriage would create a legal and foundational vacuum that would likely be replaced by civil unions. In other words, civil unions would effectively become the new marriage.

The government uses marriage as a foundation for other actions and paradigms. While removing government from the definition of marriage would solve the problem of the state encroaching on religious freedom, the concerns for schools, health care, etc, would still exist.

That said, if advocates of traditional marriage lose the political battle, separating religious and political concepts of marriage may eventually be useful or even necessary for preserving religious freedom.