Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On marriage, contracts and separation of church and state

I don't generally delve into the realm of politics, for several reasons. The most notable of these is that most folks have their minds made up and no amount of discussion will change their position.

However, with the furor that is going on in my home state of Maine as conservatives attempt to overturn our newly enacted right for couples to marry, regardless of gender, and having had a conversation with one of my daughters regarding similar legal controversies in Utah over extending civil rights to folks regardless of sexual orientation and belief system, I am going to jump into the fray.

Be forwarned, I am likely to be so far out in left field as to be totally out of the arena, if not my mind.

For many, many years I have wondered how we can, as a country, say that we separate church and state and yet have the grey area in the law that is marriage -- a rite of churches -- that is also a legal status. As I understand it, marriage became a state matter long ago, as a way of further controlling the peasants and the flow of property. In those days, in Europe, there was also an established State church... and the mixing of Church and State politics was the norm.

That was then... this is now... and it is my opinion that the institution of Marriage should be relegated to the individual churches where it belongs. If a church chooses to marry a couple -- and the couple wishes to partake of this particular sacrament, so be it.

But this should have no bearing on anything beyond the communities of faith... not on who inherits what, not on who pays for what, not on taxes, nor insurance nor any of the other doings the involve the affairs of state. For that, there are contracts. We enter into contracts for buying and renting stuff, for saying who gets what after we die and heck, we even enter into contracts to say who gets what when we separate from a union. Why, then, need there be more than a contract (which could be written any number of ways) to spell out the rights and responsabilities of those who choose to pair-bond? It would be the responsibility of the two parties to negotiate fair and equitable terms which they could agree to... including sharing or separation of finances, responsibility for child care and expenses, and so on.

This would of course require a revamping of the income tax system (which in itself would be a good thing!) and adjustments to other contracts such as for insurance. Anyone of the age of adulthood, who is able to enter into a contractual relationship, could choose to execute this contract with anyone else of suitable age.

They might also choose to participate in a church sacrament, but that would have no bearing on their contractual relationship.

And we would be able place legal issues in a legal arena and spiritual issues on the shoulders of the faith community, where they belong.


Amelia said...

Very interesting ideas, very outside the box. I admit, I never would have thought this up, but it makes a lot of sense to me! I wonder, however, what the state of matrimony (between any 2 parties) would become if you had to sit down and create a legally binding contract containing all those details in order to declare your relationship "official"...

Tali said...

very well said. Its like a civil marriage and the lds temple sealing. in my mind.

Jj Starwalker said...

Ameila -- Some folks already do something related as they negotiate (or at least write and agree to) prenuptial agreements. Admittedly those spell out what happens after the relationship ends, but similar thoughts, I think, SHOULD go on the table, even if not in contract form, before folks consider a union.

There are a lot of things, in my experience, that are often not discovered during courtship when, after all, both parties are trying to make a good impression and on their best behavior for starters... and afraid of "scaring off" the potential partner on the other hand, with talk of potentially divisive issues.

And, Tali, yes, very much so, if the sealing was not something that carried the weight of law as it does (for example, regarding sharing of finances in community property states, tax status, etc.)