Now that my home state of Indiana has decided to go down the sad path of “shielding the sanctity of marriage from activist judges” and opponents of the measure decried it as “singling out gays and lesbians for discrimination” I felt it was time to examine how both sides of the issue are both right and wrong. And unfortunately it doesn’t look like either’s deep felt beliefs will allow them to see the common ground that exists and could result in a compromise that would be both legal and proper.
First, let’s look at the side of the marriage defenders. They see any attempt to alter the current definition of the word “marriage” to include anything other than a man and a woman as an affront on their current marriages or religious beliefs. Some even go so far as to bring up childbirth as the reason for marriage while ducking quickly out of the argument that a man and a woman who can’t conceive should still be allowed to be married.
Now, the side of the opponents of marriage being defined as strictly between a man and a woman feel that by saying that two people who love each other can’t commit to each other in the same way as a man and a woman can is discrimination. They contend that “marriage” should be defined as any union between two people who love each other and that this is no different than the attempts to prevent inter-racial marriages in the 60s.
Ok, with that quick and gross attempt to minaturize each side’s views on the subject out of the way, let’s look at all of the flaws in the previous arguments on both sides.
First, marriage, as defined in the dictionary and common usage for thousands of years, is technically a union between a man and a woman. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law, the definition is ‘the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a legal, consensual, and contractual relationship recognized and sanctioned by and dissolvable only by law.’ The American Heritage uses the definition of ‘the legal union of a man and a woman as husband and wife’.
The history of marriage started with the desire to preserve wealth and bloodlines. It wasn’t until very recent times in western society that the majority of marriages weren’t arranged, and the notion of arranged marriages still exist in other cultures. And of course, as religion was interwoven into society for many years, it was also used to try and keep people from engaging in ‘sinful’ sexual activities by committing with each other.
So, unless we are willing to redefine the word, which is the suggestion of some, we have to concede that marriage is between a man and a woman.
However, there is a little problem. Because of the over 1,000 federal legal rights granted to someone because they are married to a member of the opposite sex, there is some very large questions regarding the 14th amendment that have to be addressed. As we have already seen, many judges are agreeing that keeping these rights from couples because they are not married (ie, not a man and a woman) is unconstitutional.
With similar rulings coming from an honest and thoughtful examination of the constitution, what is the solution? Making a constitutional amendment stating what marriage is does little to deal with the 14th amendment violations. However, saying that people of the same sex can be married isn’t valid either unless we decide to redefine words, something I really think we should avoid.
My solution? Glad you asked.
First, create a new word to define the legal union between one person and another. Let’s say something like ‘joining’ as a start (I’m sure that other smarter people can come up with something a little catchier).
We then award ‘joinings’ to all people who are currently married. They can keep their marriage designation, however we will then remove all legal rights conveyed to marriages and award them to ‘joinings’.
Then, we allow no governmental agency to award marriages to anyone, only ‘joinings’. After all, marriage has such a history with religion, it must certainly defy some aspect of the separation of church and state.
Marriages can still be performed, in addition to joinings, but only by churches, covens, cabalas, etc, but they will no longer have legal benefits to them. You see, we can’t keep marriages with legal benefits and civil unions with legal benefits, because that is ‘different but equal’, something we decided in the 1960s that we would not allow to occur in this society.
In my opinion, this is the only solution to the problem. Will it ever happen? We will see. The path is in place with the legal maneuverings being played out now.
But the real question, will anyone be happy with it? Mostly likely not. Which, as I have discovered through the years, is the only real sign of a fair compromise.
Let the joinings begin!