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For quite some time, the issue of marriage equality has been a hot button topic for many folks pitting each side against one another. Over the past few weeks though, it seems to be have escalated and seems to be reaching a touchpoint as the Chick-Fil-A controversy ignited a flashpoint where for the first time that I can remember, those who are are the anti-equality side have been given an opportunity to “protect” one of their own... an organization who, through the quotes of one of its officers, Dan Cathy, who stated that his belief in  a “Biblical” definition of family. Interesting to note here, that he did not specifically state what that definition was or specifically gay marriage. Notwithstanding, the reactions from both sides of the issue have grown in fervor because of the statements and the ensuing media coverage. 

There are so many nuances to this issue that it seems overwhelming. For my own sake, I wanted to write a couple of pieces about it because as a gay man who is happily in a monogamous relationship and is planning on marrying in the State of New York, there’s a lot of facets to the issue that flow through this odd head of mine. Writing them down so that I can explain my views on the issue seemed logical.

But where do I start? Well, let’s start by taking look at it from the legal standpoint.

“Redefining the definition of marriage”

Many followers of many of the Christian faiths are very concerned about the “redefinition” of marriage. Using New York State as an example, let’s take a look at that.
On July 24, 2011, marriage equality became legal in the State. On that day, many gay and lesbian couples stood in line outside of designated government buildings to tie the knot. They went in, received their marriage licences by the State and were subsequently married by a government official.
Looking at that, it is correct to say that the “definition of marriage” was redefined. It was done so that the State of New York could allow those who wish to marry could do so regardless of the gender of both parties. Further, it obligated the State to recognize that relationship so that the two that entered into the union could have legal and civic benefits.
However, at no point during this process did the State mandate that all religious institutions in New York must marry same-sex couples. To this day, I do not know of a single same-sex marriage that has been performed in a house of worship that, based on its dogma, did not believe that same-sex couples could be married based on their definition.
When the aforementioned Christians have spoken about that redefinition which they tout so highly, it is being done so with a failure to recognize that there are many facets of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution in play here.
  1. All citizens have the freedom of religion. That includes the choice to not participate in an organized religion as well. I am free, as an American, to choose to be Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or even an atheist. It is my right. That freedom also includes religions to decide who they will let into their congregations based on their belief systems. Jews are not allowed to become members of the Catholic Church. Lutherans are not allowed to be members of the Mormon church. Members of the Metropolitan Community Church are not allowed to be members of a Muslim Mosque. I don’t see where a Catholic parishioner believes that their religious freedoms are being infringed upon when they are not allowed to become members of a Jewish Synagogue.  With that in mind, no religious organization and its members must marry those who are not members of their church. It’s their right. They can, as was the case with my own parents who were raised in two different Christian faiths, but are not required by law. Honestly, I don’t know of any members of the GLBT community would would want to be married in a house of worship that would not affirm their commitment. As for me, when my fiancé and I get married, it will be done as a civil ceremony. Will we ask the officiant to ask for God’s blessing? Yes, because it is our choice and our right of religious freedom. 
  2. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...” That’s the first words of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is the basis for the separation of church and state. ("State" means the agencies that form the basis of the federal government, and by default the individual States of the Union that had to ratify the Constitution before allowed entry in the United States.) The affairs of the State are just that. The affairs of religious institutions are just that. If you don’t, through the eyes of your religion, believe in gay marriage, that’s great for you. The United States cannot force your religion to marry two people of the same gender. With that right comes the responsibility that you accept that since there is no State religion, other religions can have a different viewpoints. 
But at the end of the day, if you are straight and want to get married, you MUST get a marriage license that is issued by a governmental organization. If you don’t, you can still get married in your house of worship, but the State will not recognize it.
In my opinion, I would love to see the government get out of the marriage industry. Since that simply signing of the license with witnesses is creating a union in the eye of the government, calling all “marriages” civil unions would be ideal. Unfortunately, the government has co-opted the word marriage to mean two people who have signed a license so that they are recognized as a single couple with a multitude of benefits that can now be assigned to them. Since that definition change can’t be changed, the union of two consenting adults must be called “marriage” in the eyes of the government.
The argument in a nutshell. If you and your religion don’t want gay marriage, don’t support it in your church. However, as Americans, you must allow for the separation of church and state and allow any two consenting adults to have their right to marry, not in your church, but in a location that is correct for them.

More to come... 
 


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