Monday, November 2, 2009

Same Sex Marriage and Separation of Church and State

No, I haven't been living on another planet, but I do feel like we've lost sight of a fundamental, American axiom: separation of church and state. Same sex marriage is simply one example of why I am confused. Shouldn't it be left to the various religious denominations to determine whether or not to perform marriages for anyone? For example: would it be appropriate to ask a Greek Orthodox priest to marry a Jewish couple or a Presbyterian minister to marry a Muslim couple? Why should government, at any level, have anything to say about who can marry whom? This may sound like an trivial comparision, but when I was a Girl Scout and Girl Scout Sunday was to be observed at the local Roman Catholic church, we Protestant girls were not allowed to attend. It was not because our churches didn't want us to. It was because the Catholics did not. I don't recall any girls running to our mayor's or governor's office to complain about it. We accepted it as custom -- regrettable, but them's the breaks. Civil laws are separate from religious canons. This, of course would not stand up in a court of law if, say some denomination decided to start making human sacrifices during worship services. Murder is still a no-no in both realms. But then again there is a denomination whose members test their faith by handling venomous snakes . . . but I digress. If the representative, governing body of a denomination decides that it is permissable to marry persons of the same gender, should it be left to the discretion of each congregation within that denomination to decide whether or not to abide by that decision? Sadly this has separated members within the same congregation. I know tax laws and church property controls are also at issue in these cases. I still don't see a role for government in these disputes. Whether or not same sex couples should be allowed to marry in civil ceremonies should be handled the same way it is for agnostics. The legal, civil binding of two persons is simply a contract of exclusivity. With that come rights and responsibilities for the two parties. Why is that so hard to accept?

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