As a Quaker who walks in the way of Christ, I find the whole defense of
marriage concept as wrong headed and internally conflicted. The
Constitution of the United States, neither confirms nor denies the
institution of marriage. Since marriage is defined severally by
religious bodies, and not consistently, we must fall on the First
Amendment, for the authority to even have marriage at all. What was the
Constitutional basis for the United States to attack the Church of
Latter Day Saints in the 1850's? What is the Constitutional basis to
even infer that men and women without religious affiliation could marry
at all much less than to a person of the same gender. Any Constitutional
Amendment regarding marriage would have to define marriage as a
non-religious institution, process, and legal state before it enumerated
biological factors; and it must do all this with regard the
establishment of religion prohibitions. To do any less would set up
churches for governmental oversight.
Among disparate groups of
Friends the debate is hot and visceral and no outside force of law or
government will settle the issue. Only the individual leadings by our
Creator God will bring this debate to a point where each congregation
can agree to disagree. In testimony to integrity, equality, simplicity
and pursuit of peace it is best to keep the government out of our
disputes and agree to disagree.
It is sad that we refuse to
recognize spiritual unions between individuals that are unable to
reproduce biologically. That rules out post menopausal women, people who
have had injury or life saving surgery resulting in a complete
orchiectomy or histerectomy, sterile folks, religious celibates,
transexuals and persons of the same gender as marriage partners.
religious bodies, we cannot expect Constitutional protection from
governmental control and then expect the government to dictate the
parameters under which a religious body accepts or denies couples or
groups in spiritual and physical unions. In many states, like Oklahoma,
there are civil penalties against persons conducting the marriage
ceremony for persons deemed unlawful. This conscripts religious leaders
into law enforcement officers. Where is the hue and cry against that?
Some church bodies do not have individuals conduct marriage ceremonies
and the marriage is certified by the individuals present. In the case of
Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read, were they married according to the
custom of Friends but not married legally? A marriage among Friends in
those days could have been little more than a note tacked to a pole near
the town commons declaring the state of the couple. Of course, in those
days if a Friend married out of meeting to a person of another belief
they would have been read out of meeting. There is no law protecting
marriage in the Constitution because marriage is reserved to individuals
and was not intended to be co-opted by the state, though in most States
it was. Common law marriage was acceptable, though now most States have
legislated it out of existence.
Any marriage law that leans
toward one religious theology or another would invalidate the First
Amendment and begin the downfall of free religion in the United States.
Want smaller government? Start with ditching civil registration and
regulation of marriage at any level of government. Regarding the recent
decision in Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, I believe Judge Tauro is correct in the
decision that the Defense of Marriage Act cannot exclude citizens from
the processes of life and liberty as they are reserved to the citizens
without respect to class, race, color, creed, national origin, gender,
number or sexual preference.
Speak truth to power.