A Secular Case Against Redefining Marriage

This post, as the title should make clear, deals strictly with the debate over the legal definition of the word "marriage."

The official position of The United Methodist Church is that "We support laws in civil society defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman."

Some today label our church's conviction as unjust, even 'bigoted.'  I have watched this "marriage debate" play out online and on TV with great distress because of the amount of name-calling, slogan-slinging, and plain old logical fallacy.  The fact that the presentation in the video below was accused by some activists of being "hate speech" (which presumably they would like to criminalize) is a perfect example of our collective failure in this country to think and debate in a logical manner, and to do business with the logical arguments of others.

I suggest that anyone willing to voice an opinion on this issue of the legal definition of marriage should grapple with the questions raised in the video below.  This is one of the most articulate presentations I've run across so far defending the classical definition of marriage as a positive good for society and warning against the consequences of redefining marriage to include same sex unions (or any other redefinition).  As the speaker says early on, this argument is not religious, but based entirely in philosophy and sociology, looking at marriage from a public policy stance.

Of course, as a pastor in the church, I share this video in an attempt to show that there can indeed be a coherent reason for our church's teaching (and the general catholic consensus on this issue), if only we stop to ask what marriage is and why the government has any interest in regulating this relationship at all (there are plenty of emotionally intense consensual relationships that the government does not take part in regulating - the government does not, after all, issue "friendship licenses" - ever asked why this difference?).

You may ask, in light of recent Court rulings, if the arguing in favor of the traditional stance is a lost cause.  As far as many are concerned, this debate is over.  Yet there are still some 20 states that uphold natural marriage (including my home state, which has been the first in some time to win a federal court case on this issue) and we may yet be allowed to govern ourselves at the state level on this issue (as is in keeping with the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution); furthermore, if our church's position is correct, and if the presenter in the video making the secular case is also correct, then surely it is always worthwhile rallying around the truth and advocating laws that tell the truth about marriage, family, and society.

And here I must also be sure to add that I do believe - and perhaps my home state can still make some progress here - that same-gender couples should be able to gain access to certain legal protections in terms of property-sharing, visitation rights, medical decision making, and the like.  Either some kind of civil contract providing these benefits is needed, or some education for using existing legal tools to protect them (such as powers of attorney, living wills, etc.).  As I've said before, this seems to me a basic case of "do unto others as you would have them do to you" while setting the "marriage debate" to the side.

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Blogger Pastor Juan Huertas said...

I'm not sure that any faith tradition should define what the state considers "marriage," for that is the name that our society has given to the legal contract between two consenting adults. This is one of the reasons why when meeting with couples I like to make a distinction between marriage (the state sanctioned legal contract) and Christian Marriage the God sanctioned covenant between two people to live life together in mutual partnership for life.

This is a secular society and we want to keep it that way, as people of faith we should support all efforts to make sure that all people have equal protection under the law leaving the theological and ecclesial concerns to the respective faith communities.

I vote for Civil Marriage requirement for all couples. Then the marriage can be blessed by a faith tradition if couples choose to . . . Great post brother!

11:10 AM, October 16, 2014  
Blogger Rev. Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I've gone back and forth on this myself Juan, at times favoring a complete separation of civil marriage on the one side from Holy Matrimony on the other. I've written before on this blog about some thinkers urging the government to maintain "civil contracts" but get out of the "marriage business" altogether.

But, then on the other hand I worry that - as the video makes clear, if the church or other "traditional voices" should bow out of this discussion, then children are likely to suffer the negative consequences. This gets us back to the question he is most concerned with addressing in the video - why does the state have a legitimate interest in regulating marriage at all? - and this also is - it seems to me - the strongest rational defense of our church's current official position.

I'm not sure if there is really a good way forward, but I want the perspective held forth in this video to continue to "be out there" in our public discussion.

12:02 PM, October 16, 2014  

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