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May 15, 2009

Church and State – Two Sides of Marriage

By Walter Barton

Gay marriage issue sparks debate on equal rights for the gay and lesbian community. On one hand, conservatives attempt to interject religion; and on the other, liberals contend it is secular. In this argument, conservatives are threatening free govenment and the principles on which this nation was established.


Eugene Robinson’s piece on gay marriage stated, “Marriage is not just a sacrament but also a contract, and the contractual aspect is a matter of statute, not scripture.” Conservatives tend to criticize severely this idea and expressed views that always seem to interject religion into the picture.  

 There is a failure to separate the church doctrines from the state’s secular role in our society. Thomas Jefferson stated, “…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."  What the conservative movement is doing in this debate over marriage is mixing government and religion and is, according to Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, “a threat to free government”.  

From the viewpoint of the conservatives and liberals alike, the Church should not be in any way forced to change their doctrines. But this is not at issue. The premise that somehow Church doctrine will be affected should the law provide equal rights to gay and lesbians is misleading the real issue.  

Over the last 40 years, the movement has moved all over the world. America is truly the beacon of light for the world. The debate over gay marriage is taking place on every continent, except of course Antarctica. The range of rights, benefits and privileges afforded by the secular law in these countries vary widely from simply debate on the issue to full marriage recognition. The number of nations recognizing full marriage is constantly changing but includes Great Britain, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa, Israel, and Spain. The number of countries increases if you include civil unions and increases even more if you begin to include those providing partial benefits, such as Australia, Chili, New Zealand, Brazil, France, Germany and on and on.  

If you take the Church out of the debate, there is no debate to be waged. To keep the Church in the debate threatens the integrity of our Founding Fathers and the nation for which they laid the groundwork. Church and state can co-exist with differing definitions of marriage.

Submitters Bio:
After 26 years retiring from the Navy, then another 14 years as a psychotherapist retiring again, I have finally found time to be more active.