Every now and then I will tell the story of my experience getting a marriage license. Me and my soon to be wife sit at the clerks desk filling out the paperwork and showing ID like any other perspective couple. I looked down at this piece of paper and start looking forward to attending the Temple for sealing. Like so many others before me, I am excited and nervous about the big day. I love my wife and she loves me. Then it hits me while putting signature to paper. My marriage is between me and my wife, my God, and my Church. Why do I need permission from the State? Its none of their business.
Yes, there are some tax related issues and a few other laws associated with State acceptance. Because I consider myself a law abiding citizen and it is a traditional requirement, the papers are put in order. Aside from that, my bride might have taken it the wrong way and the LDS Church would not allow the sealing to take place. From that time on my views of State and Marriage would be out of the ordinary.
If it is true as some say that traditional marriage defenders are “on the wrong side of history,” then perhaps a new approach should be considered. Most of the arguments for traditional marriage are based on religious belief that a man and a woman is the only legitimate definition of marriage. It is not simply signing papers for creating a small business transaction. It is a Holy Sacrament ordained by God. With that in mind, there really isn’t a reason religious conservative Christians should get married in the usually expected manner.
Living together isn’t what it used to be. To be more accurate, it isn’t looked down on like it used to be. All the social reasons for avoiding such an arrangement has been reduced in many communities. The major reason people get married by the State is tradition and taxation. Even getting married for taxation purposes has both up and down sides that depend on who earns what and how much. Separate filing might end up costing less than joint filing. A good legal document can take care of other issues, such as visitation or power of attorney. Joint banking doesn’t even require State marriage.
Another reason to get married is for creating a family with children. There doesn’t have to be a marriage for this to happen. State law recognizes the parentage of mother and father regardless of a State marriage certificate. The father only has to prove they are providing for the offspring. It might even be possible, but perhaps not advisable, to claim single parent benefits. Of course, only one parent should be chosen for that position to avoid tax fraud. Common law marriage laws might also come into play.
The reason conservative Christians should consider opting out of State marriage recognition is they are giving the State too much defining power. Since many religious people do not and cannot accept anything more than one man and one woman unions as marriage, and the State is quickly going another direction, then the State needs to be treated as illegitimate. Opponents of this and supporters for redefining marriage might ask, you lose and so picking up the ball and going home? Yes, indeed. That is the American way of protest. In fact, not getting State married as a sign of protest is actually legal compared to the old draft dodging days for those who didn’t want to participate in war. All they need is a religious authority to proclaim the nuptials, with them signing a piece of paper for community (if not legal) recognition.
Married people are currentlyless than a majority in the United States. Those who do get married are often more educated and well to do or the conservative religious. Drop the latter and it might drop to less than a quarter of households. The point is that those who can only support same-sex couples as marriage will have the power to do just that. Who really other than the government is going to question how you got married if you put a ring on it? Any other kind of win for State recognition will be a Pyrrhic victory. Since the State will no longer accept the traditional definition of marriage, then State marriage will no longer be the definition of marriage among conservative Christians (and any others who agree with them). It might not have the power of the State, but it does have the power of conviction.
Of course, this isn’t that easy with Mormonism. Like was stated at the top, the LDS Church authorities are very careful to do everything within a legal framework. Going to the Temple without a State certificate isn’t going to be allowed. Too much history of persecution by the federal government makes it skittish to protests. What it does have going for it is the very private and nonpublic Temple activities. With New York not passing the religious exemption and Christian cake makers getting sued as examples, there might come a day when Churches are forced to perform other than same-sex marriages. As with the examples, a person might sue using the anti-discrimination for public place laws. It might sound far fetched, but in today’s legal world who knows the outcome? Since Temples are unambiguously private (not even visitors welcome) then there will be no way other than the unlikely decisions of LDS Leadership that other than same-sex couple weddings will take place. Other churches might have to follow that example. Marriage could some day for Christians become completely private.