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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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21 Responses

  1. Bruce
    Bruce November 26, 2007 at 8:50 pm |

    Absolutely.

    I think that the proper title of any same-sex marriage statute should be “the Religious Association Protection Act of 2008″ which should explicitly recognize the right of religious institution not to recognize any marriage. Not because it’s legally needed – it’s surplusage over the content of the 1st Amendment itself – but because it should be made clear to the stupidest theocratic jackass that he is not protecting marriage as defined by his church, but oppressing real people who aren’t in his church anyway. But better would be to get the state out of the religion ceremony business and vice versa altogether.

  2. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne November 26, 2007 at 9:15 pm |

    A lot of people don’t realize how weird marriage was until the past 300 years or so. Read a bit about Fleet marriages and the like and see how equivocal marriage was for most of European and American history.

    In England, at least, it was also a way to crack down on dissenting religious groups: only Jews and Quakers were exempt from having to be married in the Church of England.

  3. kate
    kate November 26, 2007 at 9:24 pm |

    This is most definitely an issue that gay rights groups and feminists should pick up on and carry water for. Focus on the fact that religious leaders/churches should have the power to exercise judgment on what marriages will pass under their doors.

    At the same time, it takes away the dominance of religion in government and solidifies marriage as more an economic and policy matter for the government’s interests, which is all it should be.

    I imagine that the wingnuttery will of course see this as a direct threat to their fantasy of complete government control, but the left should continue to press the envelope with them to show the fence sitting public what these people are really interested in.

  4. Karen
    Karen November 26, 2007 at 11:25 pm |

    I do have one problem with Coontz’ proposal though, and it’s entirely a practical one. It would make title searches and determining property ownership a complete and utter nightmare. (At least one reason the state got so interested in regulating marriage was that so many more people owned property.) Texas is a community property state, which means that all assets acquired by a married couple during the marriage, including wages but excluding gifts or inheritances are deigned to be owned by both partners. Thus, my husband had a 50% share in my retirement and I have the same in his. If there is no generally acknowledge source of records for marriages, how on Earth will the administrator of my pension know who gets the remainder when I die? Remember that most people die intestate, and I really don’t think compelling wills is a good idea.

    The state registers deeds, car titles, certain securities transactions, corporate charters and dissolutions, all in the interest of providing the public with notice of who owns what. Buying and selling would be vastly harder without that kind of notice of ownership. I really don’t see how we can return to completely private relations without eliminating spousal property rights. Far better to work to expand marriage rights than to eliminate community property.

  5. nonskanse
    nonskanse November 26, 2007 at 11:49 pm |

    I always thought it more sensible to have a government definition of “marriage” – and call it something else. And let the churches have the word marriage. That way, I can have my… unite-age… license with my SO and if I don’t want the church to recognize us, then fine. I would get the rights, etc. Religious people could still feel they were validating their relationships with church approval, hooray.

    Of course, I’m not interested in the tax increase – I earn about the same as my SO and that would just cost us $$. If I had property issues or was worried about inheritance or rights in the hospital, it’d be a different story.

  6. Sara
    Sara November 27, 2007 at 12:32 am |

    The state doesn’t get to tell a church which marriages to sanction as it is, nor necessarily vice versa (as Warren Jeffs now knows well). I get the feeling that this is just an argument over the amount of churchy sentimentality people attach to the term “marriage.” Even when people are married in courthouses all the time, having nothing to do with churches. I mean, if two domestic partners want all the legal rights of marriage (and could obtain a marriage under current law), why not just get married? I’m all for extending the right to marry to people other than heterosexuals, but I’m just not clear on how making up a new name for a set of legal rights and protections that already exists would make anything work any better. And that includes when heterosexuals enter domestic partnerships.

    And then – why privatize? That sounds like an excellent opportunity for people to get screwed by bad private contracts. Marriage as it stands sets up a lot of useful legal framework for dealing with two people who live together and have kids, and has the added bonus of interacting with legislation like, say, the family medial leave act.

  7. meggygurl
    meggygurl November 27, 2007 at 11:33 am |

    I utterly love this idea. I’ve been wondering for some time if instead of fighting to get to marry, we (the GLBT community) should be fighting to re-define marriage completely. Cause let’s face it, the current state is not so good. Why can’t we seperate it? We get our civil unions (will full rights) from the governemtn, then if we want a pretty ceremony that our given church will recognize, go for it!

  8. Quiet Truths
    Quiet Truths November 27, 2007 at 12:38 pm |

    Privatizing respects everyone’s rights. The accessibility of civil unions to all ensures that everybody has their civil rights; reserving the word ‘marriage’ to the churches/individual spiritual practitioners/whomever ensures that nobody has to be part of an institution they disapprove of. Like many sensible libertarian solutions, it’s a win-win for everyone except for people who want to control how others live.

  9. Terrance
    Terrance November 27, 2007 at 12:49 pm |

    Coontz is one of the best minds out there on marriage. If you read her and E.J. Graff, you’ve pretty much got it covered.

  10. chad
    chad November 27, 2007 at 1:26 pm |

    Interesting article. But I think a lot of people have thought that getting the govt to issue marriage licences to LGBT couples would have a positive impact on the way that society views and treats them. Getting govt out of the marriage business (as the article is suggesting) gives up that goal, right? So I would expect lots of opposition to this among LGBT activists.

  11. Holly
    Holly November 27, 2007 at 1:58 pm |

    As an activist who’s part of the LGBT community, and someone who used to work for one of the largest pro-gay-marriage organization… those LGBT activists can go fuck themselves. Seriously, I’ve had it up to my eyebrows with that stuff. The issues that Coontz points out about problems with state-policed marriage in general, for all kinds of unmarried cohabitators, are far more important and solve the material issues of all sorts of people, including gay couples. And that’s a higher priority than just getting positive recognition for married gay folks in some kind of “look-we-have-a-white-picket-fence-too” fashion.

  12. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne November 27, 2007 at 3:46 pm |

    We get our civil unions (will full rights) from the government, then if we want a pretty ceremony that our given church will recognize, go for it!

    You’d never know it from the rhetoric by the right wing, but that’s already the system that we have. You never have to step foot inside a church or any other religious building to be legally married. Not only that, but you can go through a ceremony that’s recognized by your church as a marriage but not be legally married if you didn’t follow the state’s requirements.

    We probably need to follow the example of England and separate out the legal marriage from the wedding ceremony. As I understand it, in England you take a trip to the registry office to do the legal marriage, and can then have whatever kind of ceremony or party you like afterwards.

  13. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney November 27, 2007 at 5:34 pm |

    Wow, what Holly said.

    I used to be all for marriage, but now I think getting rid of it as a legal thing is the way to go, and give people the ability to get these rights for whomever they choose. Don’t even call it civil unions, or anything. Just make it a legal definition that extends these rights both ways – medical, tax, whatever.

  14. meggygurl
    meggygurl November 27, 2007 at 5:36 pm |

    You’d never know it from the rhetoric by the right wing, but that’s already the system that we have. You never have to step foot inside a church or any other religious building to be legally married. Not only that, but you can go through a ceremony that’s recognized by your church as a marriage but not be legally married if you didn’t follow the state’s requirements.

    I can’t do much of anything. I could following all the legal steps and my marriage still won’t be recognized. When I said we, I meant all people, straight couples and gay. My church will marry me and my girlfriend, but living in the South… the state doesn’t give a crap.

  15. VicSin
    VicSin November 27, 2007 at 5:59 pm |

    That’s just not fair…Why should two people who love each other and have been together for years be denied the right to be together in the eyes of the law, especially when two drunk idiots can get married then divorced on a Vegas whim…if this is why it’s so “sacred” then forget it. And most people back up their political beliefs with the God says point – what about separation of church and state.

  16. mythago
    mythago November 28, 2007 at 12:42 pm |

    I used to be all for marriage, but now I think getting rid of it as a legal thing is the way to go, and give people the ability to get these rights for whomever they choose.

    Could you re-read that sentence and figure out why it makes no sense whatsoever?

    If there is no “legal thing”, there are no rights. Right now, you and an SO of your choice can live together without any “legal thing” involved. Of course, you will have no rights. You don’t get those unless there is a “legal thing” to make sure you have rights.

    That “legal thing” doesn’t have to be marriage, but I don’t get the argument that we should get rid of marriage, or that LGBT people who want to marry are all middle-class picket-fence-envyers. An awful lot of them (who don’t have time to join LGBT groups, for the most part, because they’re, like, trying to earn a living and raise families n’ stuff) want to get married because they want to be married. Spitting on them because they’re not cool bohemians with a New Paradigm seems pretty arrogant to me.

  17. Kelsey Jarboe
    Kelsey Jarboe November 28, 2007 at 1:59 pm |

    I’m such a Coontz fangirl. I recommend “The Way We Never Were” to just about anyone who shows a glimmer of interest in social history.

    I kick myself thinking I almost had her as a professor. Sigh.

  18. Alyson
    Alyson November 28, 2007 at 11:52 pm |

    If there is no “legal thing”, there are no rights. Right now, you and an SO of your choice can live together without any “legal thing” involved. Of course, you will have no rights. You don’t get those unless there is a “legal thing” to make sure you have rights.

    Yes. This makes more sense to me!

  19. Pockysmama
    Pockysmama November 29, 2007 at 10:28 pm |

    I think what Lisa is saying (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that “legal thing” arbitrarily grants certain rights, duties and obligations based on a government-sanctioned definition of marriage that has specifically excluded certain people in the past or now wishes to exclude a differnt combination of genders, based on religious dogma. Instead, why can’t people simply designate whoever they want with these particular rights or obligations. For instance, I have been with my honey 25 years but we are not legally married. We have a 16-year old daughter. If I die in the next two years before she’s 18, she will be able to access benefits through my social security. Fantastic. If, however, I die 4 years from now she won’t get a dime and neither will anyone else, because I have no “legal” spouse. Therefore, my social security payments that I have been making since I was 14 years old is, in my view, wasted because I am unable to designate a beneficiary for those funds once my daughter attains her majority. It’s all very well and good that my money will help fund the system but why I am not able to designate someone of my choosing to receive those funds after I die? I did after all, make those payments through every paycheck I ever earned in the last 21 years.

    What about the fact that parents, if they are divorced or were never married, are unable to both claim the child(ren) as a deduction on their income taxes? Even if you pay court ordered support? Or some states require you to pay alimony to someone even if they remarry? Or win the lottery?

    I’m more in the “private contracrts” camp about marriage, or alternatively, civil and religious marriage should be separated with access to governmental benefits, or other limited obligations requiring a civil marriage. And even then I’d like the ability to be able to “write” my own contract, even if only part of it. I dislike the one-size fits all approach to marriage contracts that currently exist and greatly distrust them when the government is the one writing the contract. And legal marriage would include judicial review which would protect anyone entering into such a contract because no court will let you enter into an inherently unfair contract or one that contradicts the main fundamentals of contract law.

  20. Pockysmama
    Pockysmama November 29, 2007 at 10:31 pm |

    Ok, I thought I proofread. That is, “private contracts”.

  21. strawhat
    strawhat December 2, 2007 at 3:39 am |

    I believe in most European countries, people wanting to be married register at city hall or some other civil bureau. Civil marriage. That’s where the legal documentation happens, that’s where they “get married.” Then *if they want to* they have whatever ceremony they want, religious or not. (In Rome you’ll see brides & grooms in their finery at the Saturday afternoon papal audience/pep rally — just standing in the vast crowd. They got married at the registry office earlier that day, and there’s a party in the works for the evening.)

    Here, whether you’re planning a civil or religious ceremony (a judge in a courthouse or a clergyperson in a house of worship), you get a marriage license first. When you have the ceremony, the officiant signs it in front of witnesses and sends it in to be filed. That’s the legal documentation. On our copy of the license, there’s a blank for what kind of ceremony: civil/religious.

    Personally, I’d like to see us follow the European model. One of the churches in the neighborhood has a sign: Civil Marriage is a Civil Right. I’d like to see it treated as such.

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