Are Marriage Rights “Special”?

So something we have all heard is that Gay people aren’t just asking for civil rights, they are asking for “special” rights.

In light of California’s recent ruling, I thought maybe we can all talk about that a little. First off, I would like to address what Marriage is in religious and civil terms. In religious terms, it is two people consecrating themselves before God and entering into a holy union, going on a journey through which they will be taught more about love and temperance than through any other relationship they have. In civil terms, a marriage is two people combining possessions and resources, and being afforded several civil rights. Marriage means being on each other’s insurance plans and being able to visit each other in the hospital and being able to make decisions about the way in which their children are raised and educated.

Now… Here is where things get sticky. One could give gay people “equal” rights through affording them every civil right that marriage encompasses, but calling it something other than marriage. When gay people say, “hey, hold on, why can’t we just get married” people get irritated. Sometimes the reply is, “what, are you trying to make society put a stamp of approval on your relationship? What, you’ve got to have special rights?”

That infers, then, that marriage is special somehow. Because homosexuals aren’t asking for rights above and beyond what heterosexuals have been afforded, they simply want the same thing we have. So is what we have really so special?

One can point to thousands of years of tradition in which marriage has been between a man and a woman. Okay, that makes sense. But let’s also look at what that marriage between a man and a woman was. A man needed children to inherit his wealth, or work the fields, or keep the family name alive. A man could not get that through another man. So marriage was both “holy” and a civil arrangement that met certain needs. And throughout the ages men left their wives to carry on relationships with other men.

Our society has grown beyond marriage being defined by the production of children. We marry for love now, something which throughout history was not a primary concern when it came to heterosexual union. Were marriage solely about procreation, obviously homosexuals could not enter into it.

But if it is about love and unity, they can.

I’m not going to give a ruling on what I personally think. I just want everyone to ask themselves a few basic questions:

  1. Is the marriage certificate awarded by the State a stamp of approval on heterosexual coupling?
  2. Is civil marriage truly equal to religious marriage?
  3. If homosexuals were to be awarded every right afforded to heterosexuals but we simply called it something else, would what we have still be a special kind of “marriage?”
  4. Or shall we not give homosexuals all the same rights?

Just think about it.


15 thoughts on “Are Marriage Rights “Special”?

  1. I had this discussion with my mother several weeks ago. She came up with the whole equal rights thing, and that it shouldn’t be called marriage because it is different.

    When I challenged her to find exactly what is different about it, she gave all of the same arguements we have heard over and over.

    I replied to her, so, you are saying that it is an inferior form of relationship because YOU aren’t built that way? Why do we have the right to say that homosexual activities are inferior?

    We get on the very slippery slope of morality when we start deciding who can become married and who cannot. Should we next decided who is allowed to have children or not? And just who of us gets to make these rules? Have our juries proven that they are without corruption and fault? The fact is that people have their own agendas, prejudices and moral values. No two could ever truly be the same.

    Understand that by us judging for God that we become the very thing we abhore. We become the oppressors. Is that really our goal? Do we want someone to be able to nullify our belief systems and inner cores? Do you want to be told that you ARE NOT ALLOWED to be a Christian any more? It would be the same thing you know.

    We are all God’s children. All equally loved in his eyes. EQUAL. Our American constitution says we are all EQUAL. I don’t want to not have the same rights as a man, nor would I want people of color and different ethnic or racial backgrounds to not be EQUAL. Who am I to then tell GAY people that they are LESS than the rest of us?

    Let me then ask you this… which is more of a sin? You sitting in judgement and being unforgiving towards your brother or sister, or being Gay. Both under the bible are unrepentant sins. Being Gay though is one sin. Judging and being unforgiving is two…..

    Think about it.

  2. I don’t know if it is a stamp of approval, or just a sanction that “this is normal and right.” You know? I like the way you delineate the term “special” rights and how couples of the same sex are not asking for “special rights”– just the same rights and privileges that the opposite sex couples are automatically afforded–whether they choose a “religious marriage” or a simple civil marriage. When Oregon shot down “same sex marriage” its opponents stated “we have no problem with you having rights and protections, just don’t call it marriage.” So, Oregon enacted Domestic Partnerships. Did they go on without a hitch? No. The very same folks who stated they supported “same rights–different name” are now trying to undo the DPs because they state that it is essentially the “same thing.” So, I don’t think “calling it something else” will help, it seems that the crowd that opposes equal “marriage” rights are not in favor of really much or any relational rights for same sex couples.

  3. I’ve never understood this either. How is giving homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals affording them some sort of ‘special’ status? Are we supposed to take it as implied that homosexuals don’t deserve the same rights, or start off on a ‘lower’ footing to heterosexuals?

  4. I knew I was just going to write something long and blustery, so I’m going to try to keep it short. Question #2

    Is civil marriage truly equal to religious marriage?

    is the only one I think I can really respond to. I really do think the religious concern is not condoning homosexual relationships. These people want to make an emphatic statement: “It’s not OK with us.”

    So I think the inevitable answer is: No, it’s not. You’re either robbing civil freedom, so to speak, or religious freedom. I have stated before that denominations cannot be reasonably expected to make them the same without altering their principles.

    When you extend the concept of relationships to families, things get much thornier, although… it is less defined by marriage. Here is one “right-wing” argument against gay marriage as quoted by CNN/Time, in that very regard:

    If gays are allowed to marry, it will send a message to straight people not only that having children isn’t important, but that it doesn’t really matter whether kids are raised by their biological parents.

    Remember the Woman A – Woman B scenario I described? The message of “it doesn’t really matter whether kids are raised by their biological parents” is laughable. Where gay marriage has been made legal, the subsequent divorce proceedings have indicated a very CLEAR legal precedent that more often than not, the kids go to their biological parent.

    I would argue that from what I can see, divorce, domestic violence, are a bigger threat to the institution of marriage. So far, the friends and acquaintances I speak to that are co-habitating usually speak to such threats in their childhood as expressed by their parents. It seems very much to be an implication of “I’m going to make sure I don’t get hurt like that again. If it means I disregard marriage, so be it. My relationship does not need that.”

    And so I ask, is “gay marriage” ready for such concerns? Divorce, domestic violence, et al will still have an impact. Divorce factors more strongly with the addition of children, but domestic violence does not– e.g., would “marriage” seemingly trap someone in such abuse? Would it be more true if it was religiously sanctioned?

    I would submit if even the question of “gay marriage” was answered, there’d still be far more questions.

  5. My question is this: When was the last time separate but equal worked? Isn’t that what this is about?

    For me and Cara its sort of like saying we can’t love God. So often the word marriage is brought up in a religious context. We can’t have it because ‘it isn’t what God intended.’

    So because I’m a lesbian, I can’t say I believe in God and hold my relationship with Cara sacred. The vows I said mean nothing because ‘God doesn’t approve’.

  6. I don’t think reasonings of civil rights muddled with debate concerning religious expression helps the matter.

    Which is it? A civil rights issue, or a matter of religious expression?

    I get long and convoluted in my responses. Basically what I said is the two should be distinctly separate– y’know, a matter of separation of church and state. I believe in such a separation quite strongly– despite detractions of “that concept is more about Congress not establishing a national religion.”

    Now I said with the yang of marriage, one must consider the yin of divorce. If one speaks of a joining together, one must also consider a dividing apart. I don’t think “gay marriage” can be adequately discussed without “gay divorce”– and I said there is already a few legal precedents on the books.

    This issue is pretty rife with finger pointing, too– “you can’t marry” this, “you all are so divorced” that. I’m ready for the blame game to end. If two people can handle all the ramifications of getting married and getting divorced, regardless of same-sex or opposite-sex, so be it and may I fry in hell for it, I suppose. But in the same breath, I think it’s futile to tell a denomination “you must religiously recognize us, too” if they don’t. You’re not going to make a tiger change his stripes– they ain’t just in the hide, they’re on the skin. Get a new tiger (new church). Civil freedom. Religious freedom. Leave them separate and alone.

  7. :Everyone: Thanks!

    On the topic of discussing civil and religious marriage: I’m attempting an end-run around that, because I don’t think it takes a great deal of thought to realize that the two are invariably separate. Pastors are not obligated to marry anyone they don’t want to now. Catholics that divorce may not have their second marriage recognized by the state.
    The two are already separate, and I’m trying to get people too realize it.
    And if marriage is by and large already a civil arrangement, then people who would say “let’s just give gays different/separate rights” are discriminating.

  8. Absolutely agreed. Marriage by any other name is really not marriage; without having it be full fledged marriage for us, the rights are not the same, not matter how it is written or what it is called. And, believe me, my partner and I are well aware of the prospect of marriage as well as divorce; we know the realities of relationships beginning, lasting, and ending. However, for me, the ability and freedom to marry my partner of twelve years, for both the civil and religious aspects, would be a dream come true. I also want the fairy tale, as many heterosexual persons desire for themselves, and the hardships and struggles and compromises also. We know what we want, and that is marriage, marriage that is called marriage.

  9. Not everyone gets married in a church. You don’t call a straight couple “domestic partners” if they get married at a courthouse–you still call them married. I don’t think that gay marriages should be performed by ministers who disagree with it, because there are plenty of ministers who realize that this is an orientation and not a choice.

    (And incidentally, the whole “point of marriage is procreation” argument is crap. My parents couldn’t have children and so they adopted me. I don’t think their marriage was any less valid because I wasn’t biologically related to my parents.)

    I think this whole argument is so inane, really. Who would be hurt if I married my (currently hypothetical) girlfriend? I wouldn’t insist on a wedding in a church that didn’t want me there. It doesn’t magically taint straight couples’ weddings. It just says that we’re all equal. Which is theoretically one of the major principles this country was founded on.

    It wasn’t that long ago that marriages between black people weren’t considered valid and it was even more recently that white and black people couldn’t get married. It seems like this is what we do as a county–deny marriage to everyone we think is inferior.

    And it’s fine if you think that’s okay, but you also need to realize that it’s prejudice and just because it’s directed at gay people now doesn’t make you any less bigoted.

    (Sorry for hijacking your comments.)

  10. Hello…I came across your blog by chance and thought this an intersting topic.

    My only comment is that people who claim gays cant get married because of religious reasons…as in God would never consider a gay marriage sacred or acceptable…seem to forget that atheist get married all the time…and their marriages are considered sacred and acceptable in the eyes of God. Nobody is forbidding atheists from marrying each other…and Im fairly certain that if God were inclined to frown upon any kind of atypical marriage union it would be on unions bewteen individuals that dont even believe there is a God….hmmm? Im not saying that atheists shouldnt be allowed to marry….Im saying that if your going to forbid people marrying based solely on religious grounds…gays wouldnt be the only ones on the firing line. But once again…society prefers to pick its outcast and deny them entry into “exclusive clubs” so that they feel superior in some way. In my opinion…people who are against gay marriages are not doing it for religious reasons…cause no doubt these same people are busy breaking all sorts of Gods laws in many other ways so shouldnt be so damn hypocritial about it all…they are basically against anything that makes their marriages look like a sham. If two gay people…who probably have a hard enough life just being gay(sorry but its still true today) but are still willing to go through a very public display of their love for each other…despite peoples opposition to it…then how pathetic are hetero couples who have valid and acceptable marriages in the eyes of God…and yet still cheat on each other…lie to each other…and basically make that sacred union a farce? (not all couples of course). I find it ironic that gay people are fighting for the right to marry…and many heteros are fighting for the right to divorce…should say something to someone…hmmmm?

    btw Im not gay….just wanted to comment.

  11. Is the marriage certificate awarded by the State a stamp of approval on heterosexual coupling?

    Of course it is. It is a certificate after all.

    Is civil marriage truly equal to religious marriage?

    Thats a bit of a hard question, because it really depends from person to person.

    If homosexuals were to be awarded every right afforded to heterosexuals but we simply called it something else, would what we have still be a special kind of “marriage?”

    Yes it would. Just the word marriage invokes a feeling of reality, holyness and love.

    Or shall we not give homosexuals all the same rights?

    Yes. I think their relationships are equal and so should be given equal rights and terminology. The words ‘civil union’ just reeks of not real. ‘Oh its not really marriage, just a civil union’.

  12. I’m no attorney but can’t homosexuals/gays get the same “benefits” by signing living wills and power of attorneys, etc.? Except for the tax advantages. I mean if it’s just the “benefits” they want and not the title.

  13. The dilemma with “just the benefits” is that, that even though that is possible, I don’t know many other couples like myself, that only want the benefits of the benefits. And, there are well over 1,000 benefits of marriage that cannot be covered by a specially created legal document. The other dilemma that we are anticipating with getting individual POA’s and such, is that if the anti-marriage sentiment were strong enough regarding gay couples, there are laws that could be created that could say that certain rights apply only to blood relatives, or those related by marriage, which would exclude partners ultimately. My understanding is that that has happened in some states in the US.

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