Friday, February 13, 2004

Treading Lightly

If you haven't heard, newly minted San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom allowed the city's county clerk to issue nearly 100 marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. This is a tricky issue, because no matter your views on the morality of homosexual behavior, the repercussions of such an act are just....beyond common sense. I say that for a variety of reasons.

First, I know that there are many people who just want to say outright that gays and lesbians shouldn't have the right to marry on moral grounds. I'm not going to get into that right now, simply because I've had this debate in the past, and it's just not worth getting into right now.

Second, with the Massachusetts Supreme Court and the San Francisco county clerk's office forcing the issue, what they are really doing is sticking their opinion in the face of the voting public. They are taking the issue out of the purview of democracy (letting the public or at least their representatives decide), and putting it into municipal and judicial hands, which just makes me more than a little bit angry. We need this debate to be a public one, not waged by individual states and cities, but to have a national discussion of this issue, to find out where we as a country stand. In their hastiness, Massachusetts and San Francisco may be setting gay and lesbian couples up for a heart-breaking defeat in the future. It's like dangling a carrot only to pull it away at the last minute because the carrot was never theirs to dangle in the first place.

Third, my own personal opinion on the issue has to do with church-state separation. Committed couples have the right, no matter their sexual orientation, to collect insurance and tax benefits that are available to to married couples. This is why I don't have a problem with civil unions. It just affords gay and lesbian couples the same rights as anyone else. The Constitution never weighs in on the issue, and really never should. My only problem is when the judicial system decides it has the right to define a religious institution such as marriage. Quite plainly, that scares the crap out of me. What might scare me more is that no one seems to be raising this issue. It's like the religious community is in such a tizzy over the morality of the issue, that they are failing to see how the court is stepping into their domain.

No court, not even the Federal Supreme Court, has the right to dictate to the Church how they define and carry out their sacraments and institutions. Civil unions are the purview of the State; marriage the purview of the Church. There really isn't a good argument that allows either side to dictate to the other how to define these institutions.

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