The church had long welcomed members of all sexual orientations—they had even bucked local Lutheran leadership and ordained a lesbian pastor. But McGowan, a straight man, nonetheless saw a subtle form of discrimination. If the church couldn't legally marry gay couples, he argued, it shouldn't marry straight ones either.
Basically, some churches are refusing to perform civil marriage ceremonies for heterosexual couples because they aren't allowed to perform civil marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples. They will still hold the wedding ceremony for either type of couple, but if a couple wants their marriage recognized by the state, then they have to go to the judge or whomever, and get married there, too.
This is a good idea. And it makes sense to reinforce the separation of church and state in this manner.
I support civil unions. Some may argue this is still discriminatory against homosexual couples because it's not the same as an actual marriage -- it's marriage lite.
But the state shouldn't be marrying heterosexuals either. A civil union is a more appropriate realm for state involvement regardless of the genders involved.
A state issued civil union should have all the legal trappings of traditional state recognized marriage:
- Tax consequences
- Hospital visitation rights
- Insurance access
- Inheritance privileges
A civil union allows two people to choose their own relative for important decisions like this. And people should be allowed to choose their designated partner for these legal issues.
Marriage, however, should be different. If marriage is about two souls coming together as one, or about the embodiment of a loving commitment, or about the sanctification of a relationship, that's great. But it's none of the state's business.
The sanctification and blessing of the relationship has spiritual and religious significance. The elevation or salvation of the soul is the proper role for the church. It is not the proper role for the state.
Religious organizations should have the freedom to define for themselves who they will allow to marry, just as they have the freedom to define their other creeds.
It's time to recognize that civil unions and marriage are two separate things with different meanings.
Civil unions are the proper province of the state. And the state should not restrict who can partner with whom. Many couples who form civil unions will also have an actual church sanctioned wedding and marriage. But many will not.
Marriage is the province of the church. And a chruch marriage should be a different process from a civil union. While the vast majority of people who get married by their church will also form a civil union, it's important to keep the process distinct.
In short, the state shouldn't ban or allow gay marriage. It shouldn't ban or allow heterosexual marriage. The state should allow any two people to form a civil union, and should stay out of the sanctification and blessing business altogether.