Sunday, June 26, 2011

The “Marriage” Conflict: State vs. Religion

With the debate on “gay” marriage raging, states are trying to define “marriage” and what it means under states law, while religious organizations are having difficulty with the legal definition being in conflict with their religious beliefs. 
The term “marriage” is being used to describe two very different things in that the usage of the word “marriage” is different.  The etymology  of the term marriage “the English word marriage derived from the Old French word mariage derived from the Old French word marier derived from the Latin word maritare (marry, give in marriage) derived from the Latin word maritus (husband, married man; lover; nuptial; of marriage; married) derived from the Latin word mas (male; male; masculine, of the male)” [1] is of no use as it is the usage of the word that is in conflict.  Religious organizations use the term “marriage” to describe a union between two people based on the religious beliefs of the organization, whereas state governments use the term to depict a union of two people based on governmental legalities. While both describe a “union” the two are not interchangeable.  A union based on faith is not the same as a union for the benefit of receiving “perks” based on a governmental sanctioned “marriage” such as tax breaks and insurance.
While it is not an inappropriate use of the word “marriage,” it is unfortunate that government uses the term “marriage” to describe a union of two people for legal purposes while the term “marriage” has been used as a faith based union for centuries. 
It is my belief that the term “civil union” should be used to describe the legal union of two people based on governmental legalities and a “civil union” license issued entitling the couple to all the legal “perks.”  This “civil union” license would entitle any couple, be they man/woman, man/man, woman/woman, interfaith, interracial, athiest etc., legal rights that are encompassed by the state laws. 
The term “marriage” should be used to describe the religious union of two people based on the individual beliefs of a religious organization, and a marriage certificate given by the religious organization sanctioning the “marriage” of the couple based on that religious organization’s beliefs and faith be they Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Mormon, Protestant, etc.  It would be up to the individual Religious organization to define “marriage” in that faith and this would be separate from the government sanctioned “civil union.”
Though it would not be a terribly difficult thing to do, to change the legal term “marriage” to “civil union”, it might be difficult for people to change their way of thinking since the term “marriage” has been used in government so long.  It is doubtful that any state would be willing to make a change now and change all legal unions to “civil unions” versus “marriages” since they are not looking to change the terminology of the laws but rather keep trying to define the term “marriage.”  As long as government uses the term “marriage” there will always be conflicts with religious organizations.


[1] http://www.myetymology.com/english/marriage.html