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Happily married to my native-of-Arizona husband for 23 years and proud parents of four wonderful young adults/teenagers, I am concerned about the division the topic of the definition of marriage is creating in our country. I believe each of us has valid concerns regarding this topic no matter where we stand individually on sexual orientation, our religious convictions or our political ideology. I studied marriage both historically in the US and throughout world history, the U.S. Constitution and the solutions that other countries have sought in addressing this issue and would like to present a possible solution and my journey of discovery through this research. I believe that “marriage” should be defined as that between one man and one woman but also believe that our government should not show favoritism to any group based on religion, race, class, gender, age, disabilities or sexual orientation and so as a nation we need to use different terms separating “marriage” and “civil union”.
In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed into law DOMA (Definition of Marriage Act) which basically stated that the term “marriage” meant only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. DOMA only applied to federal issues to define terms like “marriage” and “spouse” that are used in federal statutes and regulations. A large majority of the states affirmed the male-female definition of marriage after DOMA was passed often by amending their state constitutions. This past summer, the Supreme Court determined DOMA unconstitutional declaring that DOMA violated the Fifth Amendment in denying to any person the equal protection of law.
As a nation we must be careful about preserving equal rights for all regardless of our personal opinions, feelings or preferences. Our nation should be governed by Law and not by the whims of men. The Founding Fathers believed our rights come from our Creator and we are entitled to them by “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”. Individuals have rights which transcend that of government. Among these rights is the pursuit of Happiness which one may deduce includes the ability to live one’s life in whatsoever manner as one may choose as long as it does not infringe upon another’s rights. The right to join with another, the right to choose whom to join with – regardless of sex or race is given by the Creator not to be defined by government.
My whole life, my understanding was that “marriage” was not some contrived term that man created to establish a simple mutual relationship but a term that was defined long before the US existed and has its roots in religion. “In the English common law tradition from which our legal doctrines and concepts have developed, a marriage was a contract based upon a voluntary private agreement by a man and a woman to become husband and wife. Marriage was viewed as the basis of the family unit and vital to the preservation of morals and civilization. Today the underlying concept that marriage is a legal contract still remains, but due to changes in society the legal obligation are not the same.” (www.law.cornell.edu/wex/marriage) As discussed in this quote, the term “marriage” is ambiguous. Yes, “marriage” is a religious term meaning one thing and yet “marriage” legally has become to mean something else entirely – even a secular contract as outlined by the various States. There needs to be a separation of the term “marriage” both secular and religious. Perhaps taking in consideration a different term for the secular contract or legality of “marriage” such as “civil union”, as used in the UK would allow for clarity and equality under the law.
Our creator gave us rights and we, the people, created government to safeguard those rights. It is the Right and Duty of the people to exercise their power to limit government encroachment on their God-given rights. In addition, if the people do not have authority, to define “marriage” for their neighbor for example, they cannot delegate that authority to the government. If the government chooses to provide benefits for people who have chosen to join together – be it man and woman or otherwise – it should not be exclusionary. Consider joining with me in helping to steer our government in considering using alternative terms so that “liberty and justice for all” may prevail.