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Giving marriage back to the church

By Frank Salvato
web posted November 24, 2008

Across the country the issue of "gay marriage" is being debated, examined, voted on and legislated. Groups, both pro and con, have taken to the streets from Massachusetts and Connecticut to both ends of California to express their support and opposition to legislating finality to this issue. While the answer to this ideological impasse may indeed come from legislation, it may come in an unexpected form and require those on both sides of the issue to dial back on their own self-importance.

At the risk of leaving many a religious person's mouth agape, I don't have a problem with people who have declared themselves homosexual. Having spent many years of my young adulthood in the entertainment industry I came to know many good, honest, hardworking, patriotic people who had come to the conclusion that they were gay. While this is not a lifestyle I choose to embrace for myself, because I believe in the concepts of "liberty" and "the pursuit of happiness" I find it hard to pass judgment on someone's lifestyle when their actions do not affect my liberty or pursuit of happiness.

My anti-homophobe and heterosexual declarations understood, I can't say that I would ever be moved to limit someone's ability to provide for another, especially where the issue of a life's devotion is concerned.

As my wife and I emerged from our polling place this past November 4th, we ran into one of our neighbors. I will call her Marilyn. Marilyn and Diane had lived as partners for the entire time we had known them and had, in fact, been in a monogamous relationship for a long time before that. On this day Marilyn informed us that she and Diane were splitting up and that she would be moving out of their house. Looking onto her face I saw heartbreak and sadness. Not a heartbreak and sadness reserved for someone belonging to a special interest group but the heartbreak and sadness of a person who was witnessing the end of a relationship with someone they once loved unconditionally. The pain was obvious and it was genuine.

At that moment I thought to myself, "Why? Why all the disagreement, all the vitriol, over allowing two people to officially declare that they want to spend the rest of their lives together?"

Then, as I watched the evening news recently, I witnessed a group of gay rights zealots invading a church service in rural Michigan. These activists disrupted a religious service by chanting pro-gay marriage slogans, throwing leaflets into the crowd, kissing in front of the congregation and otherwise displaying a grotesque and grand disregard for the parishioners First Amendment constitutional right to freedom of religion. This brought to mind recent events in San Francisco where similar "protests" were executed against the Catholic Church for their "stand" on gay marriage. My only conclusion to these events was that these fanatics don't represent the gay people that I know and that they were setting their own cause back years if not decades.

Again, the issue here was a gay person's freedom to "marry."

The concept of "marriage" is as old as the ages. Within the context of Western history, marriage was a private matter employed between two families; the government, or the state, was not a party to the act. In fact, it wasn't until the 16th Century that the Europeans began the practice of licensing marriages. And although the colonial United States required marriages to be registered it wasn't until the mid-19th Century that states began to restrict the parameters of "marriage."

Interestingly, and perhaps disturbingly, the initial restrictions placed on marriage in the United States were born of bigotry. By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying interracially; marriage between whites and blacks, "mulattos," Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Mongol, Malaysians or Filipinos was prohibited. A dozen states wouldn't issue a marriage license on moral grounds; if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a "mental defect."

As the United States entered into the Civil Rights Movement the courts invalidated marriage laws based on racism and other discriminatory practices. But this moment in time saw the government place another role onto the legality of marriage; as a vehicle for distributing resources to dependents. Whether the issue was the distribution of Social Security or pension benefits, the inclusion of descendants and spouses in employer insurance benefits or the issues of inheritance and the receipt of medical information, government had successfully manipulated what was first meant to be a private bond between two families into a legal vehicle for ascertaining liability and authority.

In addition, government used the vehicle of licensed marriage to create – create – revenue generating instruments of taxation.

So, what was once a private matter between two families has now been transformed – or better yet, hijacked – by government for self-serving and self-beneficial reasons. And, as is the problem with most overreaching initiatives enacted by government, those responsible for the transformation failed to utilize the vision needed to avert societal crisis.

Some indicate that the remedy for this societal crisis is the institution of a constitutional amendment mandating that marriage is the exclusive domain between one man and one woman. This ideological approach has incited great angst on both sides of the issue and is ten-thousand pounds of cure when an ounce would do.

If government were to remove the word marriage from its purview – instead creating a common language contract document that recognizes a formal and legal bond between two consenting adults – marriage, the term and the concept, would revert back to the spiritual domain of the church and once again become a vehicle of celebration instead of legal indoctrination.

In approaching the issue by reverting back to the original premise of marriage, those who wish to engage in gay marriage would be afforded the freedom and liberty to search out a church in which their union would be recognized and celebrated; the legality of their union recognized through a common language contract that reserves the sacrament of marriage for the churches. It would also dispose of the need for overbearing ideological zealots to encroach upon houses of worship that don't share their ideological viewpoint.

Of course, this means that the government would have to get out of the marriage license business. Don't look now, but you just witnessed a solution at the hand of the limited government concept. ESR

Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for BasicsProject.org a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His organization, BasicsProject.org, partnered in producing the original national symposium series addressing the root causes of radical Islamist terrorism. He also serves as the managing editor for The New Media Journal. Mr. Salvato has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News Channel and is a regular guest on talk radio including on The Right Balance with Greg Allen on the Accent Radio Network and on The Captain's America Radio Show catering to the US Armed Forces around the world. His opinion-editorials have been published by The American Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times & Human Events and are syndicated nationally. He is occasionally quoted in The Federalist. Mr. Salvato is available for public speaking engagements. He can be contacted at newmediajournal@comcast.net.






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