Robert L. Sharp: Take the state out of marriage

11/01/2008 5:36 AM

01/12/2009 9:45 AM

I am against the state legalizing same-sex marriage.

I am also against the state legalizing heterosexual marriage.

I am against the state legalizing marriage altogether.

If that doesn't shock you enough, it seems to me that marriage, when performed by an ecclesiastic such as a priest, minister, rabbi or imam, who then takes on a civil role when forwarding notice of this act to the county recorder, is a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.

This is a vestige of medieval times, when the church kept records of births, deaths and marriages.

People who are into genealogical research know this from tracing their scalawag ancestors back to Europe. In my case, my 13x great-grandfather Til van Fishbach (b. ca. 1415, d. ca. 1487), was found in church records of the day.

No such confusion exists in Mexico, where my Canadian bride and I were married.

When arranging for a ceremony with a nondenominational Protestant minister, he explained that his incantations were not legally binding and that we would also have to visit the local government official empowered to perform that civil act.

We did so, rousing the fellow -- I hope it wasn't the janitor -- from his nap to read from a well-worn booklet. We said "sì" and signed the ledger, along with our witnesses, one of whom actually knew what we had agreed to.

For those worried about the procreational purpose of binding man and wife together, we subsequently had six children. I can't explain why exactly, but it had nothing to do with religious fervor.

And yes, we fed, clothed and sheltered them all through to college degrees. Now there is a gaggle of grandchildren.

The best way to support the separation of church and state, while giving consenting adults of all flavors access to all the civil rights of inheritance, adoption and medical decisions is to clean up the semantics and put the functions in their proper places.

Allow contracting and consenting adults these civil rights under the law, and let religions "marry" those they choose. That preserves different faiths their ideological rights, too.

Shocked enough? Many supporters of Proposition 8 believe the consenting (emphasis on consenting) adult requirement could be stretched to include polygamy, either polygyny or polyandry (look those up).

Not my taste, and it's a wonder how Brigham Young pulled it off -- but those were different times and different economic conditions.

So the solution is simple. Civil unions legitimatized by government, supporting civil rights for all, and marriage as practiced and blessed by the religion of your choice if you so wish.

Everybody happy?

I thought not.

Robert L. Sharp grew up in Linden and spent most of the following 30 years as an international banker in Asia, after four years as a Naval officer in that part of the world.

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