I had an interesting conversation on Facebook about single sex marriage. Because not everyone is my “friend,” I’ve edited it down and will paste it below. There were other comments, including some good ones, but I feel weird stealing other people’s writing (unless you need it to understand my response) so this is mostly my own:
My status update:
Adult U.S. citizens have the right to enter into contracts. Marriage is a contract. Any questions?
Mike: So is Marriage a Buy or Lease kinda contract? If you believe in the “Til death do you part” aspect then it’s a “BUY” but if you believe Marriage is over when you fall out of love then it’s a “Lease”, nez pas?
Kenn: I think it’s more of a mutual employment contract, voidable by consent after due process with or without cause. The vows include all the legal requirements of a contract: a statement of consideration by both parties (“love and affection”) a time certain of dissolving (“til death do us part”), a legal purpose, acknowledgement, and acceptance (“with this ring I thee wed”). When we wrote our vows, I carefully excluded things like “taking out the trash” and she carefully omitted all references to “obey.”
The point though, is that no matter how you feel about the contracts into which people enter, (see “Dumervil, Elvis”) you can’t deny a citizen the right to enter into a contract based on gender
Susan: Sorry friends, you’re missing the point about marriage. It is a contract but between God, a man and a woman.
Doug: Not even going to enter into this debate because it is too personal and I might say something about God being “Love”!
Bill: I don’t think you can ban moral or religious beliefs and such from questions of law, because laws derive from a society’s beliefs. One society might condone virgin sacrifices at the pyramids, another might say that’s horrid. Both base the legitimacy of their laws on their belief system.
Should I be able to legally enter into a contract with the Mafia to give someone I don’t like a long swim? Why not? I’m an adult with the right to enter into contracts?
This is not to say what position I take on any issue, just that for me none of this is an easy black and white question.
Kenn: Sorry, Susan, the Supreme Court does not have the authority to decide matters specific to a particular religion. It can’t say what is a “sin” or what constitutes an offense worthy of excommunication. It does not arbitrate Biblical issues, nor would you want it to. God is not an American citizen, so this has nothing to do with Him or His rights. Congress makes laws, not belief; those laws determine things like right to visit in the hospital. The courts decide on legal matters, and that’s what this is. One’s religious belief is irrelevant to this particular question and the New Testament is not the Constitution any more than the Koran is. You’re free to believe marriage “should” be between a man and a woman. I might say no one “should” get married until after age 33, because Jesus didn’t. That does not make either one American law. The law says that citizens can enter into contracts. We can’t exclude a category of people from that right.
Kenn: Doug, I smiled at your comment and personally agree. But love isn’t relevant either, in my mind, to this legal issue any more than God is. We can’t deprive any class of people of their right to enter into a contract. We can’t say “blacks can’t get married” or “old people can’t get married” or “Jews can’t get married” any more than we can pass laws to exclude them from voting. I suspect this cautious court will rule very narrowly. But to me, it’s a simple issue.
Art: i still think gov ought not to be in the biz of “marriage” which is a sacrament that religious groups confer. gov should simply allow civil unions and leave “marriage” to the churches..
Kenn: Bill– one requirement of a contract is that it be for a “legal purpose.” A contract for a hit is not enforceable and is therefore not a true contract. Marriage is a legal purpose. But yes, society’s moral compass directs our laws, I agree with you. Still, our society has agreed to the basics since the Magna Charta and one of those basic legal beliefs (based on deep underlying moral beliefs) is the right to enter contracts.
Kenn: Art — I’d agree to civil unions for everyone including traditional couples if we were starting from scratch. The problem is that too much established law is based on the word marriage. We cannot easily unwind that, so we’re stuck. The government already bestows favorable taxes on married couples, plus automatic inheritance, social security benefits for surviving spouses, visitation rights in hospitals, etc. Every couple who signs the marriage contract, gets those rights. Even if they get married at City Hall, with no religious aspect at all. Even if they’re too old to procreate. So the issue is not what we “should” do in an ideal world. This Congress can’t act on things they all agree on, they certainly won’t be able to change every law and regulation that affects “marriage.” What the court could do is say that we can’t deprive one specific group (people who like mushrooms, people who sing in choirs, gays) of a right we enjoy ourselves.
Even if we hate mushrooms, or think collecting them is immoral, or think singing is a sin.