Can the State consecrate gay marriage?

Joe Crews
INSIGHTS - by Joe Howard Crews
Nov. 18, 2008

Who consecrates marriage, God or government?

Numerous and passionate letters are published daily in the North County Times about gay marriage. A large percentage state they have no objection to gay couples having equal rights; their objection is to use of the term "marriage" for gay unions. With the closeness of the vote on PROP 8, one wonders if avoidance of this one word could have settled this bitter culture war and brought equal rights to gays.

Caution: Read these letters closely and between the lines for deeper sentiment. Can one believe that those, who are so vehement in denying marriage to gay couples, really based their support for PROP 8 on a single word? They say "It's not a word. It's an institution." Many opponents of gay marriage do not even offer "separate but equal". They blatantly claim "marriage" is an institution to which only they, as heterosexuals, are entitled, often citing a religious text. Are rights, liberty and pursuit of happiness reserved only for those who are in the majority?

Those who do offer "separate but equal" are certainly deluded if they believe that "separate is equal". Separate drinking fountains, separate schools, separate restaurants and restrooms, separate laws and separate words. Except that none of these are equal. Separate schools were inferior and under-funded. Separate rest rooms, one clean and modern, the other dilapidated and filthy. And what was the equality that permitted two white gay men to dine at the Four Seasons Restaurant, but sent black couples on a hopeless search for an equivalent restaurant for blacks -- all because of the status of the one word "negro"? It's all about denial of equal rights under the law. It was bigotry, prejudice and ignorance against African-Americans, and also against gays.

Many argue that for the sake of expediency, the state should divorce itself from all marriages, issuing only certificates or permits for civil unions to couples, whether gay or straight. With this certificate, couples could do whatever they wish, except have a marriage ceremony conducted by a state employee (a taxpayer saving). After all, can the state spiritually sanctify their marriage? Thus all individuals would have the freedom to decide how their marriage would be consummated or sanctified, whether by a priest, pastor, imam, rabbi or lay person, so long as he/she is not an employee of the state. For the deeply religious who believe marriage is a joining only God can sanctify, this should seem acceptable. There are many gods and hundreds of religions, each with different beliefs about "traditional" marriage .

But those believers, who would deny the same right to gay couples, reveal their real intent is to force their religious belief upon other free citizens. This is not the American way. Our constitution does not define religious beliefs. It defines rights. Although Californians are moving inexorably toward this position, fundamental civil rights should never be subject to the tyranny or vagaries of the majority. Let the wise jurists of the Supreme Court decide. That is their function.

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