In a bold move to support families of all shapes and sizes, the New York State legislature recently joined Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa and Washington, D.C., in legally recognizing gay marriage.
In our country, states issue marriage licenses in order to grant legal privileges, rights and responsibilities to a spouse in the interest of preserving family unity. Some of these rights include financial benefits in the form of tax incentives to hold the family together, tax free inheritance and social security benefits in the event of the death of a spouse. Other benefits include being included in insurance plans and immigration privileges, as well as other social rights such as hospital visitation and the rights to make decisions regarding the health care of a loved one, when that person is unable to make the decision for themselves. Each state issues a marriage license solely to establish a legally enforceable contract between two people, a contract that can only be dissolved and arbitrated by the state divorce courts. Marriage licenses granted by the state do nothing more, and nothing less.
Opponents of gay marriage often see the institution of marriage as a religious blessing of a sexual union of two people and therefore do not wish to “bless” the union of two homosexuals in such a fashion. This is a logical leap from a religious point of view, but the State has no such interest in the blessing of a marriage. In fact the state only cares that a person is only married to one other individual at a time. There is no state requirement for any other sort of morality in the relationship. The state views it solely as a contract between to adults who legally consent to the mutual contractual arrangement of marriage. The state doesn’t ask your religious beliefs or care if you are faithful to the contract.
The reality is that same-sex couples exist, many in long term relationships who are also raising children they have adopted. If the state wishes to grant benefits to couples in order to strengthen and stabilize them for the betterment of society, then there is no reason to deny those stabilizing benefits to a family just because the two persons are of the same gender. A stable family is stable regardless of the gender of the head of household.
None of this is designed to encroach on the beliefs of those who think that homosexuality is against God’s will or designs, and churches should never be required to perform religions ceremonies for couples they don’t agree with theologically or morally. But to my knowledge, the state has never required Mormons to perform ceremonies in their temples for Non-Mormons, nor have they required Catholics to bless the union of two Baptists within the walls of their sanctuaries. If any church chooses so, they may, but the government has never prosecuted a church for refusing to perform a ceremony for those who do not believe as they do. Such a prosecution would be a serious breach of the freedom of religion.
If it were up to me, I would eliminate the word marriage from all state law and replace it with the phrase civil union. The conflation of religious marriages with state law is the problem. The state should grant a license of civil union to heterosexual couples as well as same-gender couples and then if that couple wishes to have a religious marriage ceremony they are free to do so, but the government should stop allowing religious clergy the right to perform a governmental function of signing a marriage license, for that is a crack in the wall of separation of church and state.