This I Believe

Jeffery - San Rafael, California
Entered on November 20, 2006

Still reeling from the recent electoral upheaval sparked by the Holy Wars of the twenty-first century I read with a sigh of relief the news of the separation and pending divorce of a gay couple with child. Their troubles remind me of the importance of language. Words, words, how vast a universe they capture. So before they subpoena the Secretary of Defense for exaggerating his title, I’d like the newly elected to review the government’s appropriation of the term, “marriage.” In its definitions of the necessary elements regulating contracts and property between individuals, remove the term “marriage” from describing the contract that joins two [or more] individuals. Leave it to whichever community celebrates such unions to determine who [or what or how many] may “marry.” In law, call it Fred or the dotted line; “civil union” has been mentioned, a far more accurate term, less ambiguous than “marriage.” How on earth have we gone so far as to propose a law banning a gay marriage?

Once again, the entire presumption of a state religion proves as pernicious, as intolerable an infringement as our constitutional founders knew. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. What the state joins should be the concern of the court, to regulate and define. What the church celebrates; what God creates as His final word on such matters has no business in civil law, and such use of the term in statutory mandate needs be excised. In the spirit of this post-election bipartisanship, we should all prefer “civil” over “gay,” joining the shared passions of unlike minds. This proposal reminds us to hold to the separation of state and church if only to avoid the oxymoronic inventions that are the inevitable result of their fusion, i.e. holy war, just peace—Remove the word marriage and end the debate.

Having just quietly celebrated [actually, I forgot] my thirty-ninth wedding anniversary, I can and do confirm that any notion of marriage as a gay union must be viewed with irony. A civil union, yes; secured over time, surely; a certain gravitas, a weight, a momentum if observed from without, certainly; but never gay. However, I do wish the institution well, even in the hazy fatigue that follows any Saturday after the grandchildren have been tucked, the more hazardous scatter cleared. The date on that license in flowing script legitimizes what is yours, what is mine, but not the rueful affirmation, a peck, a soak in the hot tub, to sleep, perchance to dream, sweet idylls. Such a union is sometimes more, sometimes less, a necessary compromise over what seems even now to be a very short span. But gay? Not even close.

Let us all bless America together, and join in a union of common interests and obligations. Leave the moral distinctions to the true believers, the committed, their parents, dependents and invited guests. Let’s take church out of the government, make the division between God and Caesar clear by removing the word marriage from the legal tablets. We’d set the world a better example by allowing that the state regulates civil unions, and leave marriage to the faithful.

Happy anniversary, dear.