What's in a name?

There has been much in the news lately about marriage, specifically "marriage equality".  The most recent thing is the so called "issue" with the beliefs of Chick Fil A's owner and the company's policies.  From my perspective, these are non-issues because 1) there are no Chick Fil A's in my area and 2) it's a private company that can do what it wants so long as it complies with applicable state and federal labor laws.

However, the real controversy is the broader issue of who should be allowed to get married.  Let me lay a little background.  There has been much said, on both sides of the issue, about the morality and/or fairness of allowing homosexual couples to "marry".  Let's first be clear that the only thing homosexual couples will gain should "marriage equality" become legal throughout the land is certain legal rights that are reserved for those with the legal title of spouse.  You can make medical decisions for each other.  You're not obligated to testify against a spouse.  You can file joint tax returns.  And so on.  So here is my question:  Why do we need to call it "marriage"?  Because if it's just legal rights homosexual couples are looking for, why can't something called a "civil union" achieve the same result?  What's in a word?

Before anyone gets all indignant on me, read on.  I'm not done yet.  As a lifelong liberal, I've always been about fairness.  And from a legal perspective, I don't have any issue with 2 people that decide they want to live together in a legally bound relationship to have additional rights and/or privileges according to the law.  So what is the end game?  Is it moral acceptance?  Is it societal acceptance?  That, I believe, will not result, even if the term "marriage" is applied to all unions between 2 persons.

Why?  First of all, because you're trying to legislate morality and change societal attitudes based on the law.  Look at your history.  You just cannot legislate morality.  And as for changing attitudes, abortion has been legal for how long now?  And how many minds have changed on the issue since then?  Any?  But let's not get distracted.

Here's my real beef with this so called debate.  It doesn't address the real issue.  The REAL issue here is that, regardless of where you stand on the debate about "marriage equality", marriage as an institution is being cheapened and reduced.  There are groups out there calling for us to "strengthen marriage".  I 100% agree.  But in most cases these groups are using "strengthen marriage" as code words for "ban homosexual marriage".  Here's what I mean.

The divorce rate in the US is over 50%.  That's just outrageous.  How many couples these days are married for life?  Sure, it's part of that fairy tale kids grow up with.  You meet the perfect person.  They're your "soul mate", your "other half", they "complete you".  And that's part of the problem.  Everyone seems to have this overly romantic view of what marriage is really about.  And sure, there's romance to marriage.  But I have to tell you, while I love my wife dearly and adore her greatly, she is none of those things to me.  The bond we share is deeply Spiritual.  Yes, I used a capital "S".

What people seemed to have forgotten is that marriage is really a vocation.  It is something you don't enter into lightly and that requires you to work your ass off to make successful.  Most people understand that to make it in your professional career you need to work hard at it and keep at it.  How come we don't think a relationship as important as marriage doesn't require even more hard work?  Do people these days get engaged thinking about the long haul?  Or is there a prevailing attitude that if it doesn't work out, you can just trade up?  You know, like if your car isn't exactly what you want you trade it in on a different model?  Does that seem harsh?  I think the divorce rate speaks for itself.

So before we start talking about "marriage equality", how about we make marriage matter first?  How about we work to get the divorce rate way down and get people to commit to the long haul?  What effect would that have on our families?  What effect would that have on our children?  What effect would it have on our nation?


Unknown said…
Amen, and well said : o )
Jude said…
You're so right about needing to enter marriage looking at the long haul AND working hard to make it successful! Apparently in Canada the divorce rate has been declining for the last 3 years but it still must be close to the U.S.

Why do people of any gender mix wish to get married? In general it is out of love and the wish to spend the rest of their lives together.... as well as any other points you made so well. I believe that the same reasons for marrying apply to either hetero or homosexual relationships.

I tend to look at the issues regarding gay rights the same exact way I think about race, religious and female rights..... all of which have come a LONG way but still need a lot of work by humanity.

Great post Vince!
sydwynd said…
Tricia: Thanks!

Jude: I believe everyone should have the same rights under the law regardless of race, religion, orientation, etc. You're indeed correct that we still have work to do in that area. I'm pretty evenhanded when it comes to marriage. My thinking is that perhaps under the law, all legal unions (the ones that confer rights) should be called civil unions or some such. Then we can keep marriages in the realm of the spiritual. After all, are those "weddings" among celebrities really marriages? Somehow I think not.
Jude said…
Same sex partners enjoy and want the same spiritual union that we do, and I'm not sure what you mean by legal unions, ones that confer rights....

It kind of gives it away when you hear of celebrities Pre-nups....makes you wonder do they have any faith at all that their marriage will last? And are they willing to work at it??
sydwynd said…
Jude: By legal unions, I mean those confered by the government. Basically, if I get a marriage license then I'm entitled to certain legal rights like filing a joint tax return. I would agree that same sex couples may want a spiritual union together. However, that's the realm of religion and belief. So the government should be in the business of civil unions and marriage (at least of the kind I'm referring) should be left to each faith. Sounds a little like playing it from both sides, but I've never been in favor of homosexual marriage in the Church. Teaching for Catholics is quite clear on that. But I recognize that not every faith shares my beliefs and therefore I wouldn't tell another faith how to define marriage. But government should get out of the business.
Jude said…
Thanks now I understand what you meant, keeping the 2 separate (church and government).

I completely respect your feelings as a Catholic on gay marriage in church Vince. Truly I do. I also have 2 (separate) friendships with 2 gay gentlemen who both happen to be practising Catholics, both very devoted to their faith. I'm not positive how they reconcile the Catholic teachings about homosexuality, but I do know they both love Jesus and both feel strongly that God made them as they are so they are comfortable with who they are.

Sorry to change the subject but I've been praying for your friends who just lost a triplet, how are they doing Vince? It's so sad.
sydwynd said…
Jude: I also have a good friend that is gay and in a committed relationship ("married" her partner in Canada and had their union blessed by a priest here in the US). I love her and her partner to death but also am not sure how she reconciles her faith other than to ignore that particular teaching. But she's one of the most spiritual people I know so it's hard to reconcile it all.

My friends have both their babies home now. Last time I spoke to them, it's one of those deals where they're sad, but looking at their children makes them so happy. I think the day to day requirements of taking care of infants are keeping their minds occupied to minimize the loss. They're doing pretty well, all things considered. Thanks for your prayers.
Jude said…
I'm pretty sure my gay friends are doing the same as yours Vince, I think they just choose to leave those teachings out of their "faith".

I'm glad to know the new parents are coping, and it would definitely make things a little less devastating having 2 new little bundles of joy to care for.
Kate said…
I agree with almost everything you wrote here. I also love that you describe yourself as a liberal and Catholic. I do the same and I personally think that's great!

My 2 points of disagreement are:
1. Remember separate, but equal? Didn't really end up so equal, did it? Would you object if you and Ellen were only seen as a Civil Union? I wouldn't like it. Also, if names don't matter, why don't we have a different name for bi-racial marriages, a rich person marrying a poor person, a fat person marrying a thin person? People would balk at this because no one likes to be classified separately from others.

2. Everyone has the right to be in the marriage they choose. Although I would like to see marriage strengthened, I'm not sure it's my right. One of the things that I love about our country is the idea of celebrating our differences. You and Ellen get to decide what marriage you are in - one that lasts a lifetime. Josh and I get to decide what marriage we want to be in - again, for a lifetime. However, those that want to get married for 72 months, weeks, years, or even hours have that right too. Some people have an open marriage. Not for me, but I'm sure they wouldn't want to be in my marriage either.

Different strokes for different folks. I also have a hard time believing taking rights away from a group of people is going to strengthen anything.

So there's my 2 cents, for what it's worth! I couldn't agree more with your ideas about working at marriage. If people want to be in it for the long haul, they would be smart to heed your advice.

Also really agree that there is no "one." I believe there are HUGE repercussions for our kids and our nation because when they grow up and they find a nifty person, they think that person completes them and then when it comes to the hard work it takes to sustain it, they're out because it shouldn't be so tough with their soul mate. Then they do the same thing with another person. I also believe this goes hand-in-hand with wanting a wedding over a marriage, which concerns me.

I would be very interested in your views/perspective on the upcoming election and the 2 front runners or whoever you're supporting. Of course, I'd understand if you don't want to share, but if you don't mind, I would love it!!
sydwynd said…
Kate: You deserve a response. But I'm going to be out of town for a few days and then you'll hear from me. Didn't want you to think I'm ignoring your comments.
sydwynd said…
Kate: You deserve a response. But I'm going to be out of town for a few days and then you'll hear from me. Didn't want you to think I'm ignoring your comments.

Popular Posts