Marriage: A Contract

It is my belief that a great deal of time, effort and emotion is being wasted on the controversies centering on who can marry whom. The time has long ago come where the governments – other than theocracies – must remove religious prejudices from their civil law as it regards marriage. Religion has little or no place in what is essentially a civil contract.

Secular marriage today is essentially a civil contract between individuals that enables them to function in much the same manner as a corporation would. It spells out basic financial conjoinments and allows for the signatories to function as legal proxies for each other in most activities. From a contractual perspective there should be no difference between traditional heterosexual monogamous marriages and homosexual monogamous marriages, and heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual polygamous marriages. In all cases secular marriage law would and should function in a manner similar to a partnership with right of survivorship.

Once religion is added to this all manner of prejudices are invoked. The three major western religions – or sects since they worship the same god – each have strong regulations regarding marriage. While those regulations and restrictions may well be appropriate for the worshipers of those religions, they should have no bearing on secular marriage law. Religion and Law should stay well separated.

It is easy to pass over the civil union struggle as a fringe battle for a minority of the population but you have to look at what I am saying with closer eyes. Christians like Nikki do not just look at this issue and refer to the Bible as their standard rule of law they look at EVERY ISSUE using the Bible as their rule of law. This is a flawed view. The Constitution is the correct document to refer to when speaking of secular law, NOT THE BIBLE, or the Koran, or the Torah, or any other religious text. These books help shape lives and their philosophies of love, kindness, and compassion do a lot of good in the world today. I have a deep sense of respect for religious people the world over. That being said, I am not willing to cede my rights to any faith. My rights are based on the Constitution and the powers set forth therein. Any other view is contrary to the spirit of America and exposes the real goal of the religious right. They want a theocracy.

 

The Bible, The Constitution, and the James Carville Experiment
by Tom Luffman
November 5, 2004

I do not in any way mean to imply that religions and their church hierarchies should be forbidden to restrict access to their wedding ceremonies and rites. Those religious ceremonies are entirely the purview of the respective religious orders and their church leadership has the express right to grant or deny access to their own rites and sacraments however they see fit. Just as religions should not dictate secular law, secular law should not dictate religious doctrine and dogma.

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23 Responses to “Marriage: A Contract”

  1. Dennis Says:

    Amen sister!

    🙂

  2. Nabiha Meher Shaikh Says:

    Yes! Religion should have no place in politics, nor should it influence laws. To not allow same sex marriage is a blatant violation of human rights.

  3. jonolan Says:

    Agreed!

  4. David Miller Says:

    Wow…. How is that a blatant violation of human rights? i think its a violation or Mike Vick’s rights that he cant fight dogs. i think its a violation of mr.ahdmenejad that he wouldnt be allowed to visit tground zero.David

  5. David Miller Says:

    Well I didnt really have much time to put the post i actually wanted to on this page but what struck me in the post was this

    “Once religion is added to this all manner of prejudices are invoked. The three major western religions – or sects since they worship the same god”

    Allow me to clear up this misconception, Christianity, Judaism and Hindu do NOT worship the same God. Christianity worships a God of love and justice, whereas Judaism denies an entire section of the Bible that Christianity embraces (the new testament) Hindu (i haven’t brushed up on Hindu to much lately so correct me if im wrong) preaches a “gospel” of reincarnation until you finally reach a state of “nirvana” or nothingness. Now with those basic differences set down that should clear up the religions worshiping the same God. Feel free to bring up anything else you would like to say about this and point out any flaws in my argument.David

  6. jonolan Says:

    David,

    The three sects or religions that are being referenced are: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Hinduism isn’t involved at all. The three Abrahamite faiths, sometimes referred to as “The People of the Book“, all worship the same god albieght differently.

    As for your specific reference to the Jews, the Christians could be said to also deny a whole text of holy words. Christians incorporated the Torah into the Bible but discount the Qur’an.

  7. Tia Azulay Says:

    I agree that marriage is a civil contract and has civil consequences that could apply (if the law allowed it) to many different types of partnerships. For many religious people, it isn’t as binding if it’s not “before God”, though. I think this reflects their fear that they won’t be able to see it through. Though simple, it’s not easy to “let your yes be yes and your no, no”, without swearing an oath to God (James 5:12), especially if you’ve been brought up on the mantra that nothing you do apart from “His” strength has any value at all anyway.

    Regarding Christians “discounting” the Qur’an, Jonolan, don’t you think that might have something to do with the fact that, whereas the Hebrew scriptures predated the Christian ones by hundreds of years and the New Testament authors (most of whom were Jewish, or relied heavily on sources attributed to the original Jewish followers of Jesus the Jewish rabbi) quoted them heavily, the Qur’an was only revealed to Mohammed several hundred years after the church had already decided on the Christian canon. Islam wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye yet!

  8. jonolan Says:

    Tia,

    I was responding to David’s comments. I don’t feel that one should deride the Jews for “ignoring” the New Testament unless one is also willing to deride Christians for “ignoring” the Qu’ran.

    As for Secular Marriage or Civil Unions, I wish them to be thought of as any other contract that forms a corporation or partnership. Rights and duties should be spelled out along with clauses for dissolving the union. Marriage is a matter between people and between those people and their gods; what I want is for that to have no bearing on the legal situations of people’s relationships.

  9. Christy Says:

    In all cases secular marriage law would and should function in a manner similar to a partnership with right of survivorship.

    According to your worldview, it makes little sense to question these contracts; but I happen to ascribe to a different set of presuppositions regarding marriage and hold that a marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman. I know we disagree and will have to agree to disagree.

    When we start viewing marriage as simply a civil contract similar to a partnership with right of survivorship, then as you have correctly set forth, who is to determine who can marry whom or how many partners can agree to enter into said contract, etc.? But I do not accept that starting premise.
    Furthermore, I would contend that all three major monotheistic faiths do not worship the same god; its a common misconception they do, but if you review Allah in the Koran and the character and attributes ascribed to him, he is diametrically different from the God of the Torah and New Testament Scriptures.

    Great thought-provoking post. I dont agree with your argument but youve laid it out well.

    Side but related question: what is law? Are not all laws legislating morality? If so, and I would argue they are, then from where do we get our sense of morality? To what are we ascribing as the higher moral law?

  10. Christy Says:

    Perhaps I should read through the comments before I respond, eh?

    I respectfully disagree with your argument that the three monotheistic faiths worship the same God. Ive studied under Imams and thus know that Allah, as described in the Koran, is diametrically different in nature/character than the Judeo-Christian God.

    As for Secular Marriage or Civil Unions, I wish them to be thought of as any other contract that forms a corporation or partnership. Rights and duties should be spelled out along with clauses for dissolving the union.

    Those who wish to enter into those contracts can by their own free will; why push to have those unions recognized as civil unions? For the protection of the said parties? But arent we then implicitly admitting that legislating is tied inextricably to morality? Why the need for contracts except that individuals might break them? We are always making morality judgments/laws. The question is from where do we get our moral code?

  11. jonolan Says:

    Christy,

    For the purposes of Law I think that it should be handled as a partnership agreement – a formation of a corporation if you will. Perhaps I should have used the phrase Civil Union instead. I was speaking only of what I feel the Law’s involvement in such things should be. Churches and individuals have the right to restrict their approval to those unions they feel are proper.

    I feel that many laws are legislating morality and I am not pleased with that. I believe a nation’s laws should be set forth to protect it’s citizens from each other’s bad behavior, not their own.

  12. Christy Says:

    Jonolan,

    Intriguing that you readily will call said unions Civil Unions instead of pushing for them to be called marriage; I respect that.

    I feel that many laws are legislating morality and I am not pleased with that.

    Arent all laws legislating morality? Even simple speed limit laws are put into place in order to protect others. It seems, perhaps, that you are differentiating between moralities one within the home/bedroom and one with respect to public life?

  13. jonolan Says:

    Christy,

    All such unions – Marriages, Civil Unions, whatever – should be considered the same insofar as – and only insofar as – secular law is considered. I think the law as set for by governments should only concern itself with the contractual side of the affair.

    I believe that protective laws do not need to have a moral component. They need to exist for the greater good – as defined by me as greatest net benefit – to the society. When laws are enacted for reasons other than the smooth and safe operation of the society things can, have and will lend themselves to repression and abuse. Essentially I believe in pragmatic law that keeps a society functioning with relative smoothness and comfort.

  14. Christy Says:

    Jonolan,

    They need to exist for the greater good – as defined by me as greatest net benefit – to the society.

    Youre a utilitarian, eh? 😉

    Even your pragmatic law, Jonolan, is based in morality a morality of recognizing a need to abstain from behavior that will hurt the greater good. In a desire to keep a society functioning with relative smoothness and comfort, youre legislating just enough (but still legislating) to allow for that. Why? Because without it, we would not act as we should; we do not, fundamentally by our very natures, put others before ourselves; we need the law to legislate morality. Ideally, we wouldnt; ideally, we would be able and equipped to live in harmony with one another, but this is not reality. And so, we have legislation to protect ourselves and the greater good.

    To try to extrapolate legislation from morality and somehow claim that it is not, fundamentally, grounded in morality is, I would assert, a categorical error.

    Would you agree that even your pragmatic law has something to do with morality? With the moral code/sense/intuition that we should operate in society with the greater good in mind? (That very stance is a moral stance. ;))

  15. jonolan Says:

    You’ll have to define morality for me then 😉

    I do not personally equate enlightened self interest with morality. I also accept that many people obey the law solely because of the costs potentially incurred by not doing so. To me such behavior does not have a moral component, so I look forward to your response.

  16. Christy Says:

    LOL. You cant turn the tables on me! Im the one asking YOU to define morality! And I will respondbut the whole point to my comments has been to extrapolate how you define morality.

  17. Christy Says:

    Yes, many people obey the law solely because of the costs potentially incurred by not doing so; obedience/adherence to the law is not a sign of inward morality. However, the reason those laws are in place are precisely because morality must be legislated; the question becomes how much and how far reaching? But all law is morality driven. Why? Because the minute you start to use the words should you have made a moral judgment. We should lower the speed limit to 70 miles per hour implicitly acknowledges that there is a moral judgment being made; we should do something. Why? For the good of all? Why must this be legislated? Because as a whole, left to ourselves, we will not operate according to the greater good. The law is in place for a reason. [Perhaps to keep a certain woman from speeding too much. 😉 I, I mean, she morally believes she should not speed that she is placing more undue risk at injuring herself or others by speeding, and yet, she doesnt always have the self-drive to be obedient to the law and not go over 80what helps her stay within a respectable speed limit? The threat of a ticket. (Side note: She has yet to be given a ticket, let alone pulled over.)]

    So what is morality? Its got something to do with the language of ought based upon the best for ourselves and for others with whom we live in community.

    To me such behavior does not have a moral component, so I look forward to your response.

    It seems here youre differentiating between intent and actions as an indicator of personal moral code? I wouldnt disagree. But even in acknowledging that people obey the law simply out of fear of the ramifications of not doing so seems to be support for the idea that the law is in place to say what people should or should not do. And when you get into the business of saying one ought or ought not you have entered the moral realm.

    Ill probably expand further as I have time. 😉 I also process out loudsoits a work in process. Hah.

  18. jonolan Says:

    I have to disagree, Christy. “Should” or “ought” may or may not cause you to step into the realms of morality and it’s definition. Why you should or ought is the key to my mind. A twist on your example:

    We should lower the speed limit to 70 MPH. Why?

    To save lives or for “the greater good” – Moral reasoning
    To reduce maintenance costs of the highways – Amoral reasoning

    Same legislation, same statement of something we should do – very different motives and rationale.

    To me any statement of morality must come from a motive that places the welfare of others into a primary role for no reason other than that they are perceived as having an intrinsic value beyond whatever impact they have on oneself.

  19. Christy Says:

    An objection to your objection if I may:

    Reducing maintenance costs of the highways is still a moral decision based upon the greater good, is it not? The line of logic being: the economy benefits from reduced costs, therefore, to lower the speed limit to 70 mph, even for that reasoning, with nothing to do with the question of life or death, still has in mind the greater good, placing others best interest before oneself (i.e. if one desires to drive fast).

    So, if I may paraphrase your definition of morality (and please correct or modify as you will): it is the behavior/actions of individuals with respect toward placing others well being before your own or equal to, but not greater than your own, because they have intrinsic worth?

    Side question: from where or what is derived this intrinsic worth?

  20. jonolan Says:

    If you extrapolate the consequences of any action far enough you can achieve a basis for value judgments and/or morality – so no points there 😛

    Your paraphrasing of my stance is pretty close! I’m not completely in agreement with the “but not greater than your own” part because that limitation is not intrinsic to my position, nor is it antithetical to it either.

    As for where this intrinsic worth comes from – I believe that has room for many answers based on each individual’s personal theology and/or philosophy.

  21. Christy Says:

    If you extrapolate the consequences of any action far enough you can achieve a basis for value judgments and/or morality – so no points there

    Precisely my point, Jonolan. 😉

    [I do believe that was Jonolan-ese for Christy, I concede; youre right; youre always right.]

    So why do you draw the line where you do? 😉

    As for where this intrinsic worth comes from – I believe that has room for many answers based on each individuals personal theology and/or philosophy.

    Two questions, then:

    1.) For you, from where does intrinsic worth come?

    2.) If there is room for many answers based upon each individuals personal theology and/or philosophy, is it appropriate to say one could (theoretically) be better than another?

  22. jonolan Says:

    I do not precisely concede the point because how people consider the ramifications of their actions beyond the immediate or near-term? If the consequence wasn’t considered how can we apply it as a touchstone for morality?

    And…Two answers, then:

    1) From the teachings of my faith. By that I mean the concept of other people’s intrinsic worth comes from my theology. If we start speaking of relative worth we start roaming into very hard to qualify terrain.

    2) Yes, one answer could be objectively better then another in my opinion. I do believe in capitalized Right and Wrong. I am unsure if the nature of the source of that answer matters. LOL If Jesus is a myth – or Morrighu – or Krishna – but a person still arrives at the “Right” answer, does it really matter how they got there? I am unsure and it is something I ponder.

  23. Christy Says:

    I do not precisely concede the point because how people consider the ramifications of their actions beyond the immediate or near-term? If the consequence wasnt considered how can we apply it as a touchstone for morality?

    LOL. I know you dont; I was teasing.

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