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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Government Sanctioned Marriage - Flawed Public Policy

Many politicos in America see gay marriage as a threat to heterosexual marriage. Every few years we find a movement which is promoting an amendment to the Constitution which will ban gay marriage. I take an entirely different approach to the problem.

Why is marriage an issue that the government is involved in? Marriage is an event where two people decide based on their own personal and/or religious beliefs to join together in a contractual relationship. The government has sanctioned marriages under the guise of supporting the family unit, distributing tax benefits. and assisting private enterprises in the allocation of financial and health benefits. It seems to me that this is a flawed idea. If more people are permitted to marry this will place more money into the insurance and benefit coffers which theoretically should bring the costs down for everyone.

Gay men and women choose to be with their partners. They can, by way of medical science or adoption, have families. They go to work and contribute to the economy just the same as their heterosexual counterparts. These families need legal protection just like any family does. When a gay person chooses to form a family unit, be it with children or just a spouse, this is a commitment which must be recognized and rewarded.

Those who oppose gay marriage use the argument that they are seeking to preserve the sanctity of marriage. Sanctity is a concept derived from religion. While I value the contributions that religions have made to American society, this is a flawed way to create laws in a liberal society (a society of laws). Most major religions have some prohibition on homosexual conduct. I agree that no one should be forced to sanction conduct that is contrary to their religion. However, by no one, I am referring to individuals acting in their individual capacity. A government should not be acting on the basis of a religious bias.

Religion does serve a purpose in American society but only on a personal level and not on Public level. Gay people have an inherent right to choose their own partners and paths in life. Heterosexuals have the same rights. By allowing gay people to marry it is not lowering the ability of the heterosexual couple to do the same. If anything, it opens up the possibility that more people will choose to engage in a stable relationship.

The real issue is that the government is involved in the sanctioning of marriage in the first place. Marriage is a personal event and should not be intruded on by a government of limited powers. Removing the government from the sphere of marriage will strengthen individual liberties. Anyone should be able to form a union with the partner of their choosing and recieve the benefits of such a union.

The recent disputes in Conservative Judaism, Christianity, and other religions regarding the ordination of gay priests and the performance of gay marriage ceremonies is where the discussion should be held. Marriage traditionally was a religious event joining a man and a woman into one unit as husband and wife. Religions are theoretically G-d given doctrines that cannot be changed. They are roadmaps for a way of life as prescribed by G-d and interpreted by the scholars who study the religious materials. A person is free to find a religion or person who will sanctify their marriage.If a person's religion does not accept the union that is alright. When a government begins enacting its own laws (doctrines) based on these religious doctrines it is not acceptable.

Others will argue that gay marriages cheapen the quality and image of heterosexual marriage. This argument is flawed because in an age where a majority of marriages end in divorce the quality and image of heterosexual marriage is already in the trash bin. If gay couples seek to join the rest of society so be it.

What of the tax benefits and legal protections afforded to married couples now that gay couples do not recieve? There is no reason why the government cannot create a program which registers couples. These are called Civil Unions. They are contracts which provide each member of the union with benefits and rights. Tax benefits currently given to heterosexual couples can be shifted to apply to Unions. Life insurance, health insurance, child custody arrangements, property distribution rights, divorce laws, and other laws and benefits can all be shifted to include Unions. No one would be forced to register their marriage as a Union but those that do not would not be entitled to the benefits and protections afforded those that do.

I do not know if being a homosexual is a choice or a "birth defect" or an inborn condition. That is not for a government to decide. Government is set up to protect the people and enact laws to protect personal liberties. Sexual conduct of citizens has largely been ruled out of the reach of the government except in some limited cases to protect children and incestual relationships. Where there are two consenting adults there should not be a government intrusion. As a heterosexual married person, I find it intrusive that I was required to register my marriage. In fact, the Rabbi performing at my ceremony would not marry us without a government marriage license. I certainly would have registered my marriage as a civil union to protect myself and reap the government sponsored benefits of such a union, but that should have been an individual choice, not a legal requirement.

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