Saturday, March 12, 2011

Maryland's Marriage Equality Struggle

Honestly, I would have been more surprised if marriage equality had passed in Maryland, than with what happened yesterday.  Between conservative Democrats in the more rural parts of Maryland and the black religious conservative Democrats from Prince George's County and Baltimore, I was never convinced that marriage equality would get through.  I was surprised when it made it through the Maryland Senate.

I still argue that too many people conflate civil marriage with sacred marriage.  The two are not the same, though hets get the state and federal benefits regardless.  Religious conservatives will never unlock the two, and they will come up with every possible rationale to avoid that unlocking.  The key, in my mind, has two potential outs.  One out is to abandon trying to convince those who cannot be convinced, and focus on those who can be.  Another out is to work to have civil and sacred marriage separated legally. 

The first potential out is likely the one that will have to work.  But the second potential out makes the most sense.  Remove religion from anything related to civil marriage for everyone, and then you kill the religious arguments for civil marriage.  Churches will be free (as they are in all localities that offer marriage equality) to deny non-members from receiving sacred blessings for their marriages.  I would also argue that if one takes the sacred marriage option, then the various civil marriage benefits should not be allowed; they are benefits from the state.  I would think that the benefits from the church should suffice for spiritual growth and development.

With civil marriages, same sex and opposite sex couples could seek recognition of their unions by the government.  Once those civil marriages are signed by an appropriate state representative, then those couples will be eligible to receive the various benefits afforded those married in a civil ceremony.  Ultimately, it's the most fair thing to do.  Religious doctrine is left in tact, and equality under the law is upheld.  If a same sex couple is seeking a sacred marriage, then it will be their responsibility to find a church willing to offer that blessing.  But that has nothing to do with the government recognizing a civil marriage.

Someone needs to explain these differences repeatedly to the folks in Maryland, and elsewhere.

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