Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Protecting the Sanctity of Marriage

Let's talk about the sanctity of marriage, shall we?

You wanna start with the Governor of South Carolina who was AWOL in Argentina over Father's Day weekend with his mistress? Or with the Senator from Nevada who just copped to an extra-marital affair? Or how about with the reality show parents-of-eight whose impending prime time divorce was bigger news on the morning shows today than the unrest in Iran or a soon-to-be new Supreme Court Justice?

We don't have to look past the latest "breaking news" to get the message that the sanctity of marriage truly is under assault. And so -- since marriage is such a crucial cornerstone in the foundation of society -- I'm thinking it's time to call in reinforcements! CLEARLY the heterosexuals need some help.
And we're here to give it to them!
If a picture is worth 1000 words, then these should be good for 40,000 or so ...

These are couples who responded to my "APB" for wedding photos for a video project we're working on for General Convention ... couples who have promised to love, honor and cherish 'til death do them part ... couples who are living their lives in commitment to each other and within the context of their faith communities. There are clergy among them. Lay leaders. I spied a Daughter of the King. General Convention Deputies. Members of the Altar Guild. Senior Wardens. People in the Pew.

Their faces glow with the sanctity of the vows they have taken. Love. Honor. Cherish.

They are asking their church to now live up to its 33 year old promise of "full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church" by moving ahead in Anaheim with rites for the blessing of these marriages.

So let's talk about the sanctity of marriage -- here and when we get to Anaheim. And when we do, let's keep these faces in front of us. And let's challenge our church to do the right thing as we gather in (eeeek!) just 16 days for our 76th General Convention.

Because the sanctity of marriage IS something worth both celebrating and preserving. The sanctity of EVERYBODY'S marriage.



IT said...


Mark Andrews said...

Susan, how would you define marriage? What is your working definition of a secular marriage and a religious marriage? Of course those definitions vary by time, place, society and religion. I guess what I'm asking is "How should marriage be defined in the U.S. today?"

susankay said...

I'm A Susan but not THE Susan+. I would define marriage as the union of two people who find that their love (and, yes, passion) for each other serves to make them aware of God's love (and, yes, passion) for us -- and who wish to shout their appreciation of that miracle to the world and echo it back to God.

susankay said...

Oh -- and I should say that secular marriage is a committment of two people who want to let the world know that they will support and care for and love each other and any children who may be a result of the civil union.

I think people who want a religious marriage MUST also want a secular marriage. But not the other way around.


Mark ... why do you ask?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark - I'm sure Susan will have her own answer, but I would say this:

"Religious marriage is the union in heart, mind and body of two people in a solemn and public covenant in the presence of God."

"A secular marriage is a legal contract between two people, which conform to the laws of the State in which it is performed."

Marriage in the US, for people who consider themselves 'religious', should be the best combination of the two of these realities. For those who do not follow a particular set of religious beliefs, then secular marriage as I have described it above should be the minimum standard.

Brad said...

It's been one year (and two days)since George Carlin died. Check out what he had to say about religion.

Mark Andrews said...

I ask because I'm overly familiar with my own definition of marriage. Rather than continue to talk at cross-purposes, it might be useful to define marriage prior to a discussion of who gets to get married.

For example, the marriage equality movement has had great success with a parity - equality - fairness approach. The same rights for everyone, engaged in roughly the same activity. The same right to enter into a secular marriage, the same responsibilities of all who enter into a secular marriage. In the U.S. this takes a particular legal form depending on what jurisdiction you live in. Surely, even in the secular & legal sense, there is more to marriage than strictly legal definition.

It might be an interesting exercise (for me, as I'm the one who is curious - I'm not suggesting anyone else do this) to compare the legal definitions of marriage in the 50 states, DC, and associated territories and commonwealths. Its more of a rhetorical analysis than a legal one. The legal definition of marriage has a complex history to be sure. But, reading a given, standing legal definition, its interesting to ask and answer the question "How should this read today?"

I'm not trying to lead with prescription or proscription. I'm thinking more of description (of what people are actually doing) leading to definition (based on what people are actually doing). Then look at the definition and say "Let's do a thought experiment. If I had the power to snap my fingers and cast this definition into law, what would happen."

For example, the governor of South Carolina just admitted having an affair. Let's pretend that this guy (sorry, his name escapes me) was married in South Carolina. I don't have the Revised Statutes of South Carolina handy, but what I imagine is there is something like this:

Marriage in the State of South Carolina is defined as the union of one man and one woman in a common domicile, etc, etc.

That's what the law says, but that's not what the governor was doing. His definition was something like this:

Marriage in the State of South Carolina, based on observed behavior, is defined as the some-time union of one man and one woman, who may or may not be in a common domicile. One, the other, or both partners may, simultaneously be in an intimate relationship with someone else. That other relationship may be overt or covert.

Again, this is all for conversation's sake. But if, but fiat, my so-called "real" definition could be made the law of South Carolina (or any jurisdiction in the Union), what would the result be? It's a definition based on description - what people appear to actually do - rather than a minimal, legal prescription.

My point in all this is to ask a bigger question. Rather than constantly argue over who gets to get married, why don't we define what marriage is today, and pencil out how that definition affects the people in the marriage and the larger society. I'll end with this thought: marriage is not a private matter. If it was truly private the people getting married would not require or seek external validation. And that private relationship would not affect anyone else. Right now a "private relationship" is affecting the State of South Carolina. I'm not sure anyone is really happy about that right now.

bluestockingsrs said...

I especially like that you noted Ensign "copped" to an affair.


Caminante said...

Are these photos of people who are married? There are still those of us out there who have civil unions but have to wait (in Vermont until 1 September 2009).

word verification: feted! That is most appropriate!

IT said...

Actually I read somewhere that in South Carolina, you can be prosecuted for adultery.

Ah, blue laws.

Civil marriage is a legal and exclusive contract between two unrelated adults that creates certain legal benefits and responsibilities to promote stability for society and families and is generally entered into on the basis of love and mutuality.

Марко Фризия said...

Sanford is, as governor, commander in chief of the South Carolina National Guard. He is also an officer in the U.S. Air Force reserves. Therefore, he is answerable to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Sanford, as a Republican, is opposed to the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. But his own adultery is a violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Yes, adultery is a crime in the U.S. military, a punishable offense. In a morally just universe, Sanford would face a military court martial for this misconduct and punitive sanctions (dishonorable discharge, jail time in Ft. Leavenworth, and monetary fines). So gay people are being told they can't serve openly in the military by a heterosexual military officer who has admitted committing sexual misconduct and violating the military's Uniform Code of Military Justice. As a gay Army veteran, I think the hypocrisy is breathtaking. Sanford's conduct, "was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."

uffda51 said...

Husbands betray their wives and children every day, but this case comes with international media coverage. The toll on Sanford's wife and children will be devastating. The Father's Day timing makes it so much worse.

Jim said...

It occurs to me that when finally going through all the barriers a gay couple finally hears a blessing, they are more likely to really, really mean the promises. At least, having had to fight for them they likely think about them!

Of the 3 couples we know who have been together longer than we have, two are gay. The idea that the 'sanctity of marriage' is under attack by gays is laughable. The idea that it is defended by the likes of the governor, Mayor Giuliani or Speaker Gingrich is obscene.


LGMarshall said...

Are there any boundaries that we should have re 'Marriage'?

If it's not 1 Man & 1 Woman anymore, I think you need to be more specific.

What happens when two sisters want to marry (maybe for inheritance reasons), or two brothers want to marry, or a Father and a daughter, or a mother and and a 1/2 daughter?

You have no case against any of the above if we go by the new definition of Marriage that you prefer.

What if two men want to marry another man? Why can't there be 3 in a Marriage, or 4, or 5?

If you change the definitioin of Marriage, you will weaken any stance that prevents the above scenarios.

There WILL be people who will demand polygamy as their Constitutional Right. I think that's what Traditionalists mean when they say the 'Sanctity' of Marriage.

Obviously we will always have sin even in the most 'perfect' marriages. No one has ever said that people that marry will never stumble.

Sidney said...

Could we dump the phrase 'til death do us part' in the trash, please? Nobody means that any more; our church has not believed in that for 40 years. To be an honest witness, the prayer book should be revised to read 'til the relationship is no longer happy.'

I skipped the wedding of some friends last week and have zero interest in attending them any more. No relationship is worth celebrating as a community if it's assumed only temporary. The majority of people I know from church are divorced, and none ever shows any outward sign of regret. If they don't act like divorce is a tragedy then I'm not going to act like marriage is worth celebrating.

So, go ahead and get all excited about who has the right to a silly little sacrament. It doesn't mean much to me, and obviously doesn't make relationships any better.

IT said...

We have dealt with the slippery slope of polygamy ad nauseum, and shown it to be a logical fallacy. Ditto the argument about related people or children. It's all smoke and mirrors, and interestingly, exactly the same arguments were made to oppose inter-racial marriage.

The fact is that LGM and his/her fellow travellers have no choice but to invoke the "slippery slope" because they have no sound civil argument against the definition that I previously provided:

Civil marriage is a legal and exclusive contract between two unrelated adults that creates certain legal benefits and responsibilities to promote stability for society and families and is generally entered into on the basis of love and mutuality.

And that would be a fail.

IT said...

BTW some discussion of the fallacy of the "traditional marriage" argument here.

Traditional marriage advocates: David Vitter, Larry Craig, John Ensign, and Mark Sanborn. All senators. Logs and specks.

Марко Фризия said...

Friend, actually you have no case. You are offering nothing but your personal religious views and philosophical platitudes about marriage in a modern, secular republic without an established religion. Being "icked out" by someone else's personal life is not sound ground for legal discrimination. This is not Iran or a country with a religious taliban. Your religious beliefs cannot and will not be legislated and enforced on the rest of the population (thank God!). There is an establishment clause in the constitution to prevent that (and I believe the 14th amendment will have a positive bearing on same-sex marriage, too). And your personal religious beliefs will have no legal bearing on a matter decided purely on merits of law and justice. Sadly, you seem to be unaware that you have insulted me (my wonderful husband and our great son) and every other same-sex married couple by comparing our marriages to incest and pedophilia. I certainly forgive you for that, but I would like to encourage you to think about the meaning of the words you use when you denigrate and insult our marriages and families. I am curious how my marriage to a wonderful man has hurt or impeded your own marriage and family in any way. Specifically, how has our marriage offended you? We are good and decent people and you would be welcome as a guest in our home any time. We adopted one son and are hoping to adopt another child soon. So, in providing a loving home for children without homes, one could perhaps say that our same sex marriage has been of benefit to the common good. We certainly have nothing against you or your family. Even American conservatives like Ted Olson are now arguing for gay marriage. I think the people who have no respect for marriage are conservative Republican folks who pontificate loudly about traditional values and then are found to be adulterers or are arrested trying to hook up with a cop in an airport toilet. That hypocritical behavior seems to show a cynical lack of respect for marriage. Biblical knowledge is great. I love Scripture. In the Episcopal Church we are immersed in Scripture via our worship and daily prayer. But I'd like to suggest that you get a helpful book which could provide you with a rudimentary understanding of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. case law. Did you know, for example, that prior to 1967 (and the case Loving V. Virginia) that in many states interracial heterosexual couples were not valid and they were not considered a "family" or a "traditional married couple." Because Loving V. Virgina (decided by a pesky, activist Supreme Court in 1967) "redefined traditional marriage" in the legal sense, do you want to go back to a "traditional" ban of interracial marriage, too? Loving V. Virginia was a rejection of Pace V. Alabama, an 84-year-old legal precedent which had served as a definition for "traditional marriage" for nearly a century in the USA. Are you familiar with these important court cases? When I served in the U.S. Army I carried a small copy of the U.S. Constitution in the cargo pocket of my uniform (and a copy of Jürgen Moltmann's book "Jesus Christ for Today's World" in the other pocket...). There are religious and moral points to be made about discrimination, but in the USA only legal, constitutional points will work in legislation and in our courts. Much love to you. Again, our family has nothing against you and your family and we extend our friendship and affection to you.

David said...

the generosity, grace, intelligence and clarity of your response does out rainbow tribe and our Anglican tradition proud.

i can only hope that LG Marshall can appreciate the generous gift you made him.


Марко Фризия said...

David, communicating via the Internet can be difficult because we can't see one another's faces. And sometimes words can be misunderstood. I don't have any feelings of malice towards anyone. And spiritually, I am trying to move out of an "us-them" mentality (Oh, that's hard work). A lot of my angry, knee jerk responses in the past have been rooted in the pain and fear I felt (for example, having a gay friend murdered 10 years ago this week, etc.).

And even in 2009, one can look on TV or on the Internet and be exposed to really hateful anti-gay tirades from clergy and politicians. No one should be subjected to hate like that every day. I wish I could protect our son from that. I don't know LGMarshall personally (or even that person's gender). But I imagine that LGMarshall would agree with me about the need to help out folks who are going hungry, victims of violence, and the homeless (poverty is so terrible in this current economy). And I don't think LGMarshall hates any of us or promotes violence against us. There might be more common ground than a person thinks. I do not think that any religion should have preeminence in a modern, secular government. And I am very uncomfortable with the favoritism extended to Christian fundamentalists in the last eight years in the USA (weekly conference calls with fundamentalist pastors with the president, etc.). That practice has created a sense of entitlement among certain groups (making them think that supreme court justices, legislation, scientific findings, education curriculum, social policy all have to meet "their" approval and be congruent with their beliefs). This has amounted to a defacto establishment of fundamentalist Christianity as a state religion under the Bush administration. This encroachment of religion on gov't in the USA has disturbing similarities with oppressive gov'ts headed by clerics in the Middle East (those clerics have to approve everything). When someone quotes the Bible as a basis for civil law, I want to ask which Bible? Should we use my husband's Orthodox Bible which has 151 Psalms, a Catholic Bible, an Anglican Bible with the Deuterocanonical books, or a shorter Protestant Bible? Some American fundamentalists don't understand that not everyone uses their Protestant Bible and their hermeneutics. As an American in Bulgaria, I like that the Bulgarian Constitution mandates freedom of religion. The Bulgarian Constitution also prohibits religious institutions being used for political ends. Peace, Mark

Mark Andrews said...

I have a clear memory of a story - a long story - on NPR earlier this year about a gentleman who ran a family owned real estate and apartment management company in Philadelphia. This fellow was African American and a devout Muslim. Muslim as in observing the Pillars of Islam and leading prayer at his mosque in flawless, classical Arabic.

In terms of his reverence for Allah, ethics and morals, he sounded like he was the equal of any Christian. And also intelligent, engaged and likable to boot, not to mention hard working. He - and his wives.

You see, the Koran permits plural marriage. This gentleman had two wives, and children by both. All three adults talked honestly about their conversion to Islam as adults, the struggle to find their way as both people of color in the United States, and as Muslims (among both black and white people).

The people in the story had their names changed to respect their privacy. Its not possible to have more than one wife in Pennsylvania - that's bigamy. So the first marriage is the one with a civil marriage license in addition to a ceremony at the mosque. The second wive had a marriage at the mosque, but that is all.

All concerned sounded committed to making this arrangement work s a matter of fundamental religious faith. That didn't make the emotional aspect of two women sharing a husband any easier for the husband or the two wives (to say nothing of the practical and logistical tasks involved in running a giant household and a family business).

This story is not a matter of a "slippery slope" argument. It is a demonstrable matter of fact. It involves freedom of religion, and both civil and religious definitions of marriage.

On what basis should the State of Pennsylvania deny these people a marriage license?

PS - I'll post a link to this story if I can find it.

Mark Andrews said...

Should have looked in Google first. See the following links:

and also:

Matthew said...

One of the couples pictured is Maggie and Susan, who were both dear friends of mine. I attended their ceremony. Maggie has since died of cancer. They were lucky enough to be able to have their ceremony in the "window" -- after our diocese approved them but before the moratoria. I cannot imagine having to tell a similarly situated couple now "no" because you have to "wait" when in all likelihood one of the partners will be dead if we have to wait much longer.

I am not a deputy and I am sorry to be so ticked off, but I CANNOT tell a couple that has been together 33 years, and where one of them is terminally ill and where a blessing ceremony has been their life dream that they have to wait! NO!

WilliamK said...

The photos of these couples brought tears to my eyes.

What God has joined together, let no one put assunder.