On November 4th, while many California progressives were out of town working for Obama, golden state voters passed Proposition 8, which denied same-sex couples the right to marry. As the California Supreme Court debates the legality of this proposition, the key issue is the role of government in marriage.
California and other states require notification when we're born, die, and marry. Religious institutions have parallel ceremonies to commemorate birth and death with baptisms and memorials. However, church and state merge when we marry. Only state officials can sign a birth or death certificate, but there are multiple possible signatories for marriage. Religious couples may have a minister or priest sign their marriage license, while non-believers have the option of getting a judge's signature.
However, in many countries outside the United States, there's complete separation between the civil ceremony and the marriage. In France, the marriage certificate is issued and signed by a mayor or judge; only after the civil union is legalized can the marriage take place.
Writing in the February issue of
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