Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Threat to Christian Marriage

This one Christian marriage, anyway. A Christian couple in Australia has vowed to divorce if same-sex couples gain marriage rights in their country. I suppose that's really the only way to construct an argument where the "threat to straight marriage" makes any sense, but it sure sounds stupid to me. Apparently these two are so entitled that if their religion can't define marriage, they want no part of it. Either that, or they're just grandstanding for the media and will in fact do no such thing.

A Canberra couple have vowed to get a divorce, ending their "sacred" 10-year union, if Australia allows same-sex couples to legally marry. Nick Jensen and his wife Sarah believe widening the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples threatens the sacred nature of the union and leaves the door open to polygamy.

The Christian couple have been happily married for over a decade, have no intention of separating and hope to have more children. For all intents and purposes they have a healthy marriage. But in a novel protest against any successful move to legalise same sex-marriage in Australia, Mr Jensen wrote in an article published in Canberra CityNews on Wednesday that they are prepared to divorce.

Personally I favor a model of marriage in which the civil and religious components are entirely separate. You have a "civil union" that establishes legal rights, and then you can have any religious ceremony you want that a church is willing to perform, or you can skip the whole thing altogether if you're not religious. When I officiated a wedding for a good friend last year, I had to get myself registered as a "minister" with an online church so that it would be legal. That's silly. Everything would work better if the ceremonial and legal aspects had nothing to do with each other.

Let me also point out, though, that the "slippery slope to polygamy" argument really doesn't hold up well, even under my preferred model. In principle I have no problem with more than two people getting married, but the additional legal framework that it would require is massive. Marrying someone establishes them as your uncontested next of kin for all sorts of legal purposes - but let's say you're married to two people and wind up near death in a coma. One spouse wants to take you off life support and the other doesn't. Who decides?

A living will can address that one issue, but there are many others that work the same way. Marriage has a value to society in terms of streamlining legal issues precisely because you can only be married to one person at a time. The minute more than one has to be considered, that advantage disappears, which is why I think legal marriage involving more than two people is a long way off. Same-sex marriage, on the other hand, does nothing that requires a new framework because it works just like opposite-sex marriage as far as the law is concerned.

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