Illinois is the most recent state to join the nationwide debate to approve or ban gay marriage. However, the real debate should be whether or not government should have a say in any form of marriage.
Pro-traditional marriage advocates most commonly reference a religious argument when defending their position, stating that God created marriage between man and woman. Pro-gay marriage advocates most commonly reference fairness or equality.
The real question would be equal to what? Why would a gay couple want to get married? Although there could be a myriad of answers depending on the couple, these three are the most influential:
This Oct. 24, 2013 photo shows the marriage license issued to Darren Black Bear and Jason Pickel, by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, at Jason's home in Oklahoma City. Despite Oklahoma s ban on same-sex marriage, the couple will be legally married in the state thanks to Black Bear, who is a member of the Oklahoma-based Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes. It s among the few Native American tribes in the U.S. that allow same-sex marriage. Photo Credit: AP
- Raising Children
WHY LOOK TO GOVERNMENT?
Gay couples look to government as the solution because the government already has too much influence on marriage. If it is true that marriage was organized by religion then looking at marriage today one can see plenty of evidence that government has already made laws “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
ORIGINS OF MARRIAGE
The debate of government’s role in marriage should begin with the assertion that marriage was started by a Higher Power. Both the Holy Bible and the Quran state that Adam and Eve were the first humans and that the "first marriage" was between them. From that point on in the Judeo-Christian view and the Islamic view has been that marriage was a union of families sanctioned by a religious entity. Hinduism and Buddhism both also viewed marriage as something the religious organization oversaw.
However, there is evidence that in the ancient world, many families began to “join together” as an economic tool. Most of these families did not affiliate themselves with a religious body, some did. Arranged marriages were also used as an economic tool. Although we traditionally call these situations ‘"marriages", joining of families for economic reasons was not the intent of the Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, therefore these were not really marriages.
GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE BEGINS
After thousands of years of marriage being overseen by the religions of the world, the first evidence we have of government being involved in marriage was with the organization of the Church of England in 1534 after King Henry VIII – who among other things – wanted the Catholic Church to annul his marriage.
[sharequote align="center"]Gay couples look to government as the solution because it already has too much influence on marriage[/sharequote]
Even after that, divorce was rare as most people followed the powerful influence of the Church’s teachings. In 1670, it took government, specifically Parliament, to pass an act that allowed for the divorce of John Manners, Lord Roos, from his wife, Lady Anne Pierpon. This created a precedent for government sanctioned divorces on the grounds of the wife's adultery.
GOVERNMENT CONTROL OF MARRIAGE BEGINS
According to Carol Smart, sociologist from the University of Manchester, The Clandestine Marriage Act of 1753, popularly known as Lord Hardwicke's Act, marked the beginning of state involvement in marriage. The act required couples to get married in a church or chapel by a minister, otherwise the union was void. Couples also had to issue a formal marriage announcement, called banns, or obtain a license.
Now the key here is that most people were already following these procedures but now there was a penalty for not complying, and the penalty was harsh. Researchers agree that this is clear evidence that government felt that control of marriage was too important to leave up to canon law or religious governing. In US Constitution vernacular, they felt justified infringing upon the free exercise of religion when it came to marriage.
Rod Connell, left, of Campsville, Ill., Sue Goode, center, of Jerseyville, Ill., and Sus Bergquist, of Naperville, Ill., pray at the beginning of the "Defend Marriage Lobby Day" held in the rotunda of the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Gay marriage opponents held their own event in Springfield, a day after thousands of supporters rallied for the legislation. Photo Credit: AP
EFFECTS OF GOVERNMENT CONTROL- BENEFITS
After centuries where the Church had maybe too much influence and authority over the State, the tables began to turn. This one act eventually led to government controlling benefits based on marital status. In some instances, marital status was used just for ease of convenience. Next thing you know, the private sector began doing the same thing with joint loans, health benefits and other products and services.
With governments and private groups qualifying things based upon marital status, there were now two groups of people left out, singles and couples who weren’t married but cohabitated (heterosexual or homosexual). In an attempt to fix part of the problem the government came up with something called “common law marriages”. Different taxing bodies came up with varying methods to determine a common law marriage. Anything from living together for specified amount of time to registering at a hotel as a married couple can get you a common law marriage depending on where you live.
With homosexual couples being left out of the common law solution and therefore continue to be denied all of the benefits of marriage, they turned once again to government to fix a problem the government created.
EFFECTS OF GOVERNMENT CONTROL – CHILDREN
One of the integral reasons for marriage was to provide a structured environment to give birth and raise children. However, in ancient times if a child was orphaned, in many cultures they were viewed as a mere burden unless they could be sold into slavery. It was religious organizations who began to teach that the nurturing of children was up to the community. At the passing of parents, the different religious groups would assign an orphaned child to capable couples.
As these different religious organizations, like the Catholic Church, began to organize formal adoptions, they would only adopt a child to married couples. Just as government gradually usurped its power over marriage it wasn’t long before it began to usurp its power over orphaned children, declaring orphaned children were “wards of the state”.
Government continued the religious custom of adopting children to capable couples, but now they also held significant influence over both the child and the marriage. Therefore when homosexual couples who cohabitated wanted to adopt a child they went to government for a solution to another problem the government created.
EFFECTS OF GOVERNMENT – TRADITION
Nowhere else can we see the corrupting of marriage more so than in what has become the tradition of marriage. Something that started out as a simple act that was encouraged by a Higher Power, even solemnized by some, has now become an insipid reason to spend an inheritance in order to be treated like a prince and princess for one day.
The “Dream Wedding” is what you hear. Ask a young man why he hasn’t “popped the question” and often you’ll hear, “I can’t afford the ring yet”. Ask an engaged couple why they haven’t set a date for their wedding yet and you’ll get, “We don’t have enough money saved for the wedding.” The “Dream Wedding” has even infected the religious. The young couple may have a modest wedding ceremony, but the after party wedding reception will be worthy of the Gods!
On the opposite end of those over glamorizing weddings or getting married, you have others who belittle it. Shotgun weddings, drunk Vegas drive-through extravaganzas, silly themed weddings, extreme situational weddings and the like all stem from government’s control over marriage and what it has become, a shadow of what it used to symbolize. Couples are now so focused on preparing for the wedding that they forget about preparing for the marriage.
Once again though, why should only heterosexual couples enjoy such a glamorous, fun or thrilling event? It’s not fair, so let’s turn to government to solve another problem that government created.
PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF
Kelly Bryson, left, and her wife Erika Knott, right, participate in a celebration rally with their children, William, Knott, 7, and Jeremy Knott, 6, right, in Jackson Square in New Orleans, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Legally married to her longtime partner in Canada in 2007, Bryson is talking about a second wedding, in the United States this time, in light of Wednesday s Supreme Court ruling striking down of a law denying federal benefits to married gay couples. Same sex marriage and civil unions remain illegal in Louisiana. The full implications of the DOMA decision were not entirely clear for people living outside the 13 states where gay marriage is recognized. Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert/AP
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has two parts pertaining to religion. The first part prevents the United States Congress from establishing a dominant religion for the country. Although some States and local governments have tinkered with that idea, it’s never been an issue from the federal level.
The second part states that Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise of an established religion. So is government’s role in marriage in defiance of the First Amendment? Just because it was practiced by past governments, including this one, doesn’t make it right.
This is the debate we need to have on the national stage.
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