:On the Horns of a Dilemma
President George W. Bush has called for an amendment to the Constitution in order to stop the encroachment of those who want access to the various federal and state benefits that are accorded to married couples. Those benefits include various financial arrangements that were originally provided to encourage and sustain marriage in the United States, i.e., common ownership of property, insurance beneficiary defaults, taxation as a common unit or household, and default inheritance rights.
Those who are calling for marriage rights between same sex couples see it as a matter of equal rights, as a continuation of the civil rights movement and the fight against arbitrary discrimination against various classes or groups of people. “To discriminate socially is to make a distinction between people on the basis of class or category without regard to individual merit. Examples include racial, religious, sexual, disability, ethnic, height-related and age-related discrimination. Distinctions between people which are based just on individual merit (such as personal achievement, skill or ability) are not discriminatory” (Wikipedia). This definition of discrimination is an expansion of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, which was itself the continuation of the emancipation of slaves following the Civil War, and contains the same seeds of conflict.
There are significant problems with this definition and the effort to eliminate all social categorization. This effort is the philosophical continuation of an historical movement known as the Levellers. This movement grew out of a secular misunderstanding of the Book of Acts and common property ownership, and is intent upon bringing about world-wide communism as the fundamental structure of human organization or society. But that is not the subject of this article, though this history provides the context for proper understanding of the same sex marriage issue. Here we are concerned simply with the definition of marriage.
Currently, civil marriage laws fall under the jurisdiction of the various states, not the federal government. Although, part of the federal union of the states requires that each state respect the marriage laws of the other states. The Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for purposes of federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 342 to 67, and the Senate by a vote of 85 to 14 in 1996. Similar defensive marriage laws were also passed in 38 states and express an overwhelming consensus in our country for protecting the traditional (and in the case of the United States – Christian) institution of marriage.
The modus operandi of the various groups working to establish equal marital rights for same sex couples is to force all issues and disagreements into federal courts in order to play out the already established equal rights protection language in existence throughout the various elements of the federal government. The recent passage of same sex marriage laws in Massachusetts will bring the issue to federal jurisdiction for a settlement that applies to all states. Thus, while the issue of marriage is presented as a personal morality issue – with an emphasis on biblical morality on one side, and an emphasis on civil rights morality on the other – the as yet unspoken issues pertain to both state rights within the federal union and the continuing expansion of federal jurisdiction across the board.
There are two ultimate resolutions regarding the present concerns about marriage. One is to establish a Constitutional law that defines marriage nationally, the other is to eliminate the civil financial benefits that are currently associated with marriage. Neither resolution will benefit American society. Rather, the United States is in the process of being impaled on the horns of a dilemma that will result in disembowelment. This result is not unexpected because it is the goal of both Marxists and Leveller ideologies.
The problems with the establishment of a Constitutional amendment to define marriage pertain to the separation of church and civil governments (or state). How so? In every society and civilization marriage is associated with churches and religion because marriage is understood to have divine authority and associations. Thus, for the civil government to enact legislation pertaining to the definition of marriage is an encroachment of civil government into the jurisdiction of church or religious government. Were this Constitutional Amendment to pass, civil government would then establish the social foundation of churches and/or religions – and in particular, Christianity.
In order to see this more clearly, one needs only look at the language of the proposed Amendment, which reads “Marriage in the United States of America shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman” (emphasis mine). The problem with this definition is that it eliminates the role of God, church and religion with regard to marriage.
Traditionally, Christianity defines marriage as a three strand cord consisting of husband, wife and God. God is absolutely foundational to Christian marriage because it is God who provides the covenantal (or legal) foundation for marriage. Christian marriage is not merely a contract between two people, nor merely a contract between two people and a community. According to Scripture, it is a covenant with God that establishes the rights and duties that exist between a husband, a wife, and their children. This marriage covenant legitimates the issue of children.
The husband and wife make specific pledges or promises to one another, and they covenant with God to honor those pledges and promises. Scripture includes instruction regarding family inheritance rights and obligations. Part and parcel of the legitimization of family bonds are matters of property and inheritance rights. In other words, God provides the authorization and foundation of marriage, and will provide sanctions for dishonoring His covenant. In fact, the model of the Christian gospel itself is inextricably bound up with property and inheritance rights. The kingdom of God is the promised inheritance of the redefined family of born again believers. Inheritance policy is critical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The problem is that the currently proposed Constitutional Marriage Amendment writes God out of the commonly recognized definition of marriage in America. Such an act will have serious long-term negative consequences for American society in that marriage will no longer seek nor be worthy of God’s blessings or protection, and will utterly change the structure of American society. Such a change will have serious financial and social repercussions. We may argue the merits or demerits of the change, or the nature of the change, but structural change itself will be the inevitable result.
If the Marriage Amendment is passed, the primary foundation of Christian churches, which is the Christian family and the marriages that constitute Christian families, will accrue increasing disdain and discrimination in the wider culture. Why? Because the foundational covenant with God that establishes Christian marriage will not be recognized by civil governments. This will result in increasing ignorance of the biblical roots of the marriage covenant, which will be increasingly ridiculed as unnecessary – or worse as contrary to the well-being of civil governments by those who oppose Christianity. This in turn will encourage another form of discrimination – Christian discrimination – in the effort to correct the current discrimination against same sex marriage.
This is important because the only biblically legitimate – and the traditional – role of civil government regarding marriage is to recognize the social legitimacy of marriage, not to define or grant it. Marriage is not a right granted by civil government, but is a privilege, with ensuing rights and responsibilities, that is granted by God alone. Why? Because God claims ownership of the issue of marriage – the children produced by the marriage union. The concern is that the authority that legalizes (or defines) marriage has legitimate ownership rights of the children produced. Thus, it is not the church that legalizes marriage, but it is God Himself who defines and legalizes Christian marriage. And it is certainly not the civil government that defines or legalizes marriage.
The role of the civil government is to simply recognize the legality of marriage, and by doing so the civil government recognizes God’s ownership of the issue (children), with all of the rights and duties pertaining thereunto. Thus, it is a very serious thing to write God out of the definition of marriage as recognized by civil governments.
Thus, a better approach to the resolution of unequal civil rights pertaining to marriage would be for the civil government to disestablish all financial benefits pertaining to marriage and to treat all individuals equally with regard to employment and taxation. All civil laws pertaining to financial benefits related to marriage should also be eliminated as a matter of equal treatment of all individuals. This will also harm the institution of marriage in America, but it will not redefine the institution.
Granting legality, rights and/or duties regarding marriage is not the prerogative of the civil government. In fact, all laws regarding marriage by the civil government constitute the encroachment of civil government into the jurisdiction of the churches. The civil government should not be in the business of legitimizing marriage because marriage is traditionally and biblically under the jurisdiction of church (or religion). That is the source of the problem. The state (civil government) continues to usurp the biblically mandated authority and jurisdiction of the church.
The removal of the special financial benefits granted by civil government to married couples will go a long way toward the resolution of the current problem by removing the special financial benefits accorded to married couples by civil governments. Unfortunately, it will also contribute to the continuing degradation of marriage and family in American society because marriage will no longer be financially encouraged across the board.
For more on Christian marriage see: