Today New Hampshire becomes the fourth state of the US to offer civil unions, which is newspeak for Gay Marriage. I couldn’t be happier. No, wait, that isn’t true. I could be happier. I could be happier if the other forty-six states offered civil unions as well.
Civil Union is a good thing. I know there are people who say gay marriage is a better thing, but I am not one of them. I don’t want gay and lesbian couples to imitate the heterosexual obsession with marriage. I want the heterosexuals to share in the gay and lesbian community’s hard won civil unions.
The government has no business in the marriage business. The government deals with contracts, and to the extent a marriage is a contractual relationship couples wishing to marry should be required to enter into civil unions. To the extent marriage is something more, that something more belongs to religion.
If we separated the civil from the religious (a scandalous idea, Mister Jefferson!), we could put an end to this skirmish in the culture war. Those people of faith who believe God only sanctions the union of Tabs and Slots (highly technical jargon for males and females) should not have to defend their position, and certainly not have to fear the government forcing them to accept any other configuration. I have no problem with people who feel gay marriage is unholy; I just don’t want them using their religious beliefs to limit secular freedom.
Couples of any configuration who wish to marry should be required to meet the legal standards of their state, and these should have nothing to do with race, color, creed, religion, or sexual preference. Then, if a civilly united couple desires a religious wedding in addition to the civil ceremony required by the state, they should be free to shop around to find a clergy person willing to meet their needs. When I was a congregational rabbi I performed gay and lesbian Commitment Ceremonies, and would be happy to do so today. (No, not literally today, I have other things planned, but you know what I mean.)
The situation with gay marriage in the US parallels the situation of interfaith marriages in Israel. In Israel the Orthodox Establishment (OE) rules the private lives of Jewish Israelis. And they don’t allow Jews to marry Gentiles. Those who wish to marry someone who does not meet the criteria of the OE must marry outside the country. Lots of Israelis fly over to Cyprus, get married, and come home. The state welcomes them as married; the synagogue does not.
I would like to see Israel and the US truly separate the civil and religious.
This year in Concord. Next year in Jerusalem!