The work of Snyder entitled: "Gay Marriage and Democracy: Equality for All" states that the understanding of what is viewed as discrimination has evolved over time." (2006) This may be true since the founding of the United States resulted in laws that treated men and women unequally and which denied women the right to vote and resulted in the identity of a woman legally to essentially become "invisible upon marriage" as well as "subjecting married women to the authority of their husbands in a variety of ways…" (Snyder, 2006) There are stated to have been few "visionaries" who saw the inequality as being inherently against democratic principles. However, visionaries in today's debate surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage are in reality those who see same-sex marriage as a hindrance and an affront to the principles of democracy and this is due to the principle of the separation of the church and the state.
Turley (2006) states as a solution: "Religious advocates believe that marriage is a term loaded with moral and religious meaning. Gay advocates want to marry for much the same reason: as a social recognition of their equivalent moral standing. It might be the only political war fought over the proprietary use of a single noun. There is a simple solution: Stop using the word "marriage" in government licensing laws in favor of the more relevant term "civil union."
Turley states "if the role of government in maintaining 'legitimate' forms of marriage doesn't make you uncomfortable, it should." (2006) In other areas and in fact in almost all other areas "…the government steadfastly avoids this type of religious squabble, separating governmental functions from religious faiths. Marriage, however, has always been a conspicuous door placed in the wall of the separation between church and state. The government's distinction between legitimate and illegitimate marriages takes sides in a controversy that has raged since the formation of the first religions. Many religious groups, which include tens of thousands of Americans, believe in plural marriage or polygamy as a human right and divinely ordained." (Turley, 2006)
In fact, according to Turley (2006) it is the "reason" that such value is placed on marriage license by advocates of marriage that there should be an expunging of the use of the word marriage in public and legal documents -- and that is the fact that the word marriage "conveys a religious or moral meaning." (Turley, 2006) However, it is the agreement that exists within the frameworks of the marriage and "not…its inherent religious meaning…that compels the registry of marriages by the government. Once married, the legal rights and obligations of the couple change in areas ranging from taxes to inheritance to personal injury to testimonial privileges." (Turley, 2006)
Turley holds that the role of the government in its "policing…legitimate marriages also produces curious contradictions. While the government criminalizes the marriage of same-sex couples without official licenses (denied to them as a matter of policy) it does not police religious practices governing divorces." (Turley, 2006)
Turley holds that the moral validity of a marriage should be the realm of the religious organization while the civic validity of a marriage should be the realm of the government. Turley suggests "For state purposes, couples would simply sign a civil union agreement that confirms their legal obligations to each other and any progeny. Whether they are married in religious ceremonies would be left entirely to them and their faith. The government's interest and role would be confined to enforcing the civil contract, as it would any other civil agreement. Consenting adults should be able to assume the obligations of a civil union regardless of how their neighbors view their morality. As in other areas, adults should be able to follow the dictates of their own faith so long as they do not endanger or harm others, particularly minors."
The principles of religious involved should be the business of only the citizens and their respective faith and the government should only address the aspect of marriage "that concerns its insular needs: confirming the legal obligations of consenting adults. As for our politicians, there are levees to be rebuilt, corruption to end and wars to win. Of course, this solution would deprive both sides of the debate of a controversy that has been a political and financial windfall. Nonetheless, the public certification of the moral relationships is not the call of government; it is the call of the faithful. It is time we move beyond moral licensing by the government and return marriage to its proper realm: in the churches, temples, mosques, and the hearts of every citizen." (Turley, 2006)
Turley's view is shared and specifically stated in the work of Harold (2003) in the work entitled: "Separation of Church and State: Let Religion Define Matrimony" it is stated "Marriage is at once economic, religious and political. It is a complex conflation of two individuals' property and debts into one; a confirmation of faith (in whatever religion) and a spiritual union; and a legal designation that confers an enormous variety of rights and responsibilities, from citizenship to immunity from testifying against one's spouse. Or it may be less than all this -- many marriages are civil, for example, and sometimes economic unions are limited by prenuptial arrangements." (Harold, 2003)
Harold (2003) holds that "as long as marriage retains its importance as a civil economic and political institution, to do so would be to perpetuate great injustice." Yet to grant gays the right to marriage brings with it the necessity of "carefully trying to disentangle the civil aspects from the religious." Instead, Harold (2003) agrees with Turley and states "Rather than trying to clean the religion out of marriage so as to make it suitable for state business, the state should wash its hands of marriage altogether. Governments should not grant marriage licenses, or otherwise keep record of their citizens' private doings. The state's proper interest in any two people's choice to make a life together is quite limited. States should grant civil union licenses to adults, gay or straight, who request them, in order to protect both members if the union dissolves, and in order to facilitate other legal procedures, such as inheritance and citizenship, that are already regulated by the state." (Harold, 2003)
Summary & Conclusion
The issue of marriage is one that should be between citizens and their religious organization and should be an issue that the state does not enter into except to issue licenses. It would be very easy and would serve to effectively end this debate to begin initiation of certificates of legal unions which did not have the gender of either spouse as a basis for that certificate. This would allow religious organization to regulate their members while allowing the government to maintain its census data successfully.
Bidstrup, Scott (nd) Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives. Online available at: http://www.bidstrup.com/marriage.htm
Harold, James (2003) Separation of Church and State: Let Religion Define Matrimony. San Francisco Chronicle 6 Aug 2003.
Marus, Robert (2003) Is Gay Marriage Debate a Church-State Issue? Christian Century. 6 Sept. 2003. Online available at: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_18_120/ai_107760341/
Rupli, Robin (2004) Proponents of Gay Marriage in U.S. Compare Issue to Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. National Black Justice Coalition. 19 Mar 2004. Online available at: http://www.nbjcoalition.org/news/001029.html
SF Gay Marriage Proponents Celebrate Iowa Ruling (2009) cbs5 3 April 2009. Online available at: http://cbs5.com/local/iowa.gay.marriage.2.975442.html
Shyder R. Claire (2006) Gay Marriage and Democracy: Equality for All. Rowman & Littlefield 2006.
Turley, Jonathan (2006) How to End the Same-Sex Marriage Debate. 2 April 2006. USA Today. Online available at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2006-04-02-faith-edit_x.htm