Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Case for Equality & Justice

We were fortunate to attend a religious ceremony between our “Swiss daughter” (foreign exchange student who lived with us) and her husband. Yes, that’s right - her husband. In Switzerland the performance of marriage is exclusively a function of the Swiss civil authorities, i.e. the civil registrar. Only a civil marriage has legal status in Switzerland. A religious ceremony may be held after the civil marriage but has no legal authority.  Barbara and her husband, Michael, made a choice to follow their official civil union with a religious ceremony a week later.

If our sons were living in Switzerland they could have their relationship with their partner recognized by registering their partnership.  Switzerland was the first nation to pass a same-sex union law by referendum (58%). Their neighbor, France, will allow homosexual couples to marry and adopt children starting in 2013.

This could be the answer to the United States when marrying two people who want to make a lifetime commitment to one another. Many people in the United States cannot separate church and state in their thinking of what is equal and just for committed couples. United States marriages derive their legality from civil law; after all, you can’t get a divorce from a church as divorce is a function of our legal system.  This would remove the debate about what the Bible says or doesn’t say.  Churches could still make their own decision if they would perform a religious ceremony as a follow-up to the official civil ceremony.

Right now there is no equality or justice in the majority of our states regarding marriage and the rights under law that couples receive. Justice is defined as
"the quality of being just; fairness. It is the principle of moral rightness in action or attitude; equity. It is upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law."
Civil Unions that meet the government requirements allow benefits and a defined status from our government. Marriage is a legal contract between a couple entitling that couple to rights and protections under the law such as of next of kin status, taxation, pensions, social security, insurance and shared possession of a dwelling.

For 39 years our religion has been our guide on many an issue in our married life but in this case, we feel that the organized church should not persuade the ongoing marriage debate.  We are allowing a non-legal entity (organized religion) to interject their interpretation of marriage and the rights that come with marriage rather than ensuring we are just to all of the people all of the time.  If the United States could follow the procedures of Switzerland in its legal status of marriage, we could then be on our way toward a just system for all couples who desire to make a lifetime commitment to one another.