Opponents of Gay Marriage Don’t Understand What Marriage Is

I’ve written about this before, but in the light of the US Supreme Court striking down the Defence of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, and the recent demonstrations against the legalization of same sex marriage in France, it needs to be said again.

Opponents of gay marriage fail to understand that “marriage” means two different things.

One meaning of “marriage” is as a religious sacrament, a holy blessing within the bounds of individual churches. If a church or other religious group only wants to confer their sacrament on specific people, that’s their right. If you don’t agree you can join another religion.

That’s what all the rhetoric about what “traditional” marriage is about.

The other definition of “marriage” is the completely different concept of a legal institution granting certain rights and responsibilities. These include a relationship with the state regarding inheritance, property rights and taxation. It includes extensive responsibilities regarding children.

But this isn’t a religious sacrament. It has nothing to do with churches and their rules and traditions. It is a compact between the state and its citizens. And the state can define this anyway it wants.

It isn’t just opponents of gay marriage who fail to grasp this distinction. Some months ago the leader of the Swedish Center Party was under fire for a proposed party “idea program” that recognised polygamy. This was apparently an attempt to get the support of Sweden’s many Moslem immigrants.

At the time the media played old recordings of now party leader Annie Lööf where then, in her youth, she explained her reasons for recognising polygamy. She too missed the distinction and missed the fact that legalising polygamy in her conception would open the door to massive confusion in inheritance and property rights, etc. It wouldn’t be nearly as straight forward as she seemed to think.

It would be good if people would understand the difference between sacred “marriage” and secular “marriage”. Not the same thing.

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