Skip to content

Marriage Bucks the Separation of Church and State

December 22, 2010

I got married in a courthouse, and I don’t regret it. It was strictly for financial purposes – that year my partner and I had given birth and bought a house, in that order, so on the 12th of December we signed up for a legal (and socially acceptable) tax break.  There was nothing religious about it.

Mine is a minority story, however. Most modern marriages still find their roots in religious (or spiritual) beliefs. Even if the wedding doesn’t actually take place in a church or reference God, the union itself is a religious sacrament.

I would argue that this is true even for those who write their own vows and reject the church’s involvement in their life. Even for those who marry for love. The institution of marriage has been with mankind for so long that no governmental decree can change how we feel about it. Even as we re-define the nature of relationships and family, marriage remains a universal ideal.

Look at the main arguments for and against same-sex marriage. For; gay couples deserve the same civil rights as hetero couples. Against; it is a sacrament intended to be shared only between one man and one woman. While one side argues from the state, the other is arguing from the church.

One thing is certain: regardless of your reasons for getting married, there are legal implications. If it doesn’t work out, one of you may be liable to support the other for the rest of your lives. If you have children, the situation is complicated tenfold. A judge – someone outside of your own family unit – has the power to decide what is best for all of you.

You can write your own vows, but you can’t re-write marriage law. It’s very possible that you could marry for religious reasons and end up getting divorced through processes of the state. What did Jefferson say?

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

By this token, the United States government has no business interfering in your marriage.

It’s like we need dual definitions for the word. Or maybe two words. One for the vow you take before your pastor, to love and cherish your partner; and one for the vow you take before a judge, to provide for and nourish the same. Of course, who would want to marry before God a person who wouldn’t promise to take care of them for the rest of their life?

As things stand, it’s not a straightforward question. You can go into marriage blind and stupid, and most people probably do. Only lawyers study divorce law before they actually need it. I wish I had. The first time we split up I did talk to a lawyer, and it became apparent real quickly that working with my ex was a far better alternative than involving outsiders – as the system is set up now, and with the advantage of a very gracious partner. She must have discovered the same thing.

Turned out our ‘strictly for financial purposes’ marriage had deeper meaning after all.


From → Rants

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: