Whose role to define marriage?

Published 11:04 am Saturday, July 6, 2013

I’ve debated whether or not I should write this column for a couple of weeks now, ever since the Supreme Court rendered a decision that seems to have helped clear the way for the legalization of same-sex unions.

My reluctance to tackle this topic, and this is coming from someone who rarely hesitates to share his opinion on most anything, stems from a couple of factors. The first is the fact that my opinion is likely to anger everyone, and not just one side of the debate or the other. It’s a lot easier to write something you know at least half of your readers are going to agree with. The second is that I’m not sure that I’m right. I feel pretty secure in the fact that those who disagree will let me know I’m not.

So here goes nothing.

I believe that marriage is intended to be the union of one man and one woman. That’s what I believe. I believe so because that’s what The Bible, the foundation of my entire faith in God, leads me to believe. There are those of you who believe differently than I do, and that’s your right. But I’m pretty set in my belief on this issue, and I’m not sure anyone can convince me otherwise, although I welcome you to try.

And that is what will make this next statement seem so contradictory, which is the fact that I am not opposed to the state legalizing what is referred to as same-sex marriage.

How, you may be asking yourself, can a person be so firm in their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman yet not be opposed to same-sex marriage? In my mind, the explanation is really quite simple.

I believe that marriage itself is an institution ordained by God, not by the state. I believe that marriage, while it is a union recognized by the state for legal purposes such as property transference and making medical decisions, is a spiritual decision entered into by a man and a woman based on their shared belief in God. Therefore, I don’t think that the state actually plays a role in the spiritual meaning of marriage other than to define the rules that govern the legal contract that such a state-recognized union becomes.

If the state’s recognition of marriage then is nothing more than a mere legal formality, why should the state be allowed to pick and choose who may or may not share their belongings and make medical decisions for one another? On that basis, I fail to come up with a good reason why it should.

Marriage, to me anyway, means so much more than whom you get to leave your belongings to when you die. Yet in a very technical but oversimplified sense, that is the only role the state plays in the union of two people.

I believe very strongly that the first amendment to the United States’ constitution, which describes what is commonly referred to as the legal separation of the church and state, further defends my position. It states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” If at its very core marriage is a religious institution, and Congress were to decide who should and should not participate and thereby becomes a voice for the church, would that not directly violate the law of the land?

By the same token, if state-recognized unions are not a religious entity but a legal one, should the state have the right to decide that certain people don’t have the right to legally share their property among themselves?

Many Christian conservatives believe that same-sex unions are a threat to marriage. I just don’t believe that same-sex unions, or heterosexual unions for that matter, are the same as marriage at all. In my heart and mind, there is only One who can ordain what is and is not marriage, and in this case the state is not the one.