Thoughts on marriage and gay marriage

The last statement presumably was on June 24, 2015

The last statement was on June  24, 2015 (not August)

Hat tip to Tiffany’s Non-Blog.

There are lessons in this chart for people who advocate social change, and that is to never think that electing a particular politician is enough, and especially to never settle for the lesser of two evils.

I respect the gay rights movement for pressing relentlessly for social change and especially for withholding support for politicians who do not support their agenda.

The labor movement can learn from this.  Of course the gay rights movement had an easier task because its goals do not threaten any powerful monied interests.

Incidentally, the Libertarian Party has supported gay marriage since 1976.  I don’t know how much this led to general acceptance of gay marriage, but surely it helped.   Voting for third parties can contribute to social change even when they don’t win.


I’m of two minds about the Supreme Court decision affirming gay marriage as a civil right.

As a matter of sentiment and personal feeling, I completely agree with Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion.  As a matter of Constitutional law, I don’t see it, although I accept the authority of the Supreme Court to make its decision.

I think that under Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution, all states are clearly obligated to respect the validity of gay marriage in any state.   Once gay marriage became law in any state, gay couples could go there, get married and have their marriage recognized in any state.

But gay marriage as a universal Constitutional right?  I have a problem with the Supreme Court creating new rights out of thin air because the world’s thinking has changed, because the same philosophy can lead to historic rights, such as due process of law, being wiped off the blackboard.

Maybe I should recognize that I am on the wrong side of history in this, abandon my belief that judges can or should interpret the law impartially and just acquiesce in the courts’ role as legislature of last resort.


Marriage is two different things that are called by the same name—a legal contract and a religious sacrament.   That is why gay marriage is such a contentious issue.

The marriage contract gives two people who bind themselves to live together certain rights and obligations toward each other, and certain rights under U.S. law.

It is a function of government to define contract law.

The marriage sacrament gives two people who bind themselves to live together certain rights and obligations to each other in the sight of God.

It is not a function of government under the U.S. Constitution to define God’s will.  That is a matter for the individual or for the religious communion to which the individual gives allegiance.

If a county clerk decides that it is contrary to their conscience to issue a marriage license, the clerk should look for a new job.

But if a minister, priest, rabbi or imam decides it is contrary to their religion to perform a marriage ceremony, that is their decision.   A clergy-person has no more obligation to marry a gay couple than a divorced couple or a couple of a different faith.

I would have thought this is so obvious as to be hardly worth saying, but then I came across this: Does your church ban gay marriage?  Then it should start paying taxes.

Of course no church has the power to “ban” gay marriage.  Its clergy have the right to refuse to perform gay marriage ceremonies, which is a different thing, and which I hope and believe is not in question.

Nobody “banned” gay marriage even when the federal government and most states refused to recognize gay marriage.   The minister of my church, First Universalist Church of Rochester, N.Y., married many same-sex couples when their marriage was not legally recognized.  The only thing the law prevented him from doing was using the worlds “by the authority of the state of New York.”

What the law did was to prevent same-sex couples from enjoying the same benefits as opposite-sex couples, and that is what has been changed by the recent Supreme Court decision.

The problem comes in which churches engage in activities in which they compete with or duplicate the activities of for-profit corporations or other secular organizations.

If you offer a service to the public, the laws of many states, including New York state, require you to offer it to gay individuals and couples on the same basis as straight individuals and couples.


I think the ultimate answer is for government to stop trying to define marriage.  Instead local governments should issue licenses for “civil unions” that would be open to couples whether they are married in a religious ceremony or whether they are in a sexual relationship or not.

Let the sacrament of marriage be something that exists in the sight of God, and let God and those who think they know God’s will decide who is married and who is not.

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3 Responses to “Thoughts on marriage and gay marriage”

  1. tiffany267 Says:

    Interesting thoughts and thank you as always for mentioning me! As someone who is completely secular, who sees no reason for there to be any religious ideas today including the religious institution of marriage, I can’t wrap my head around this point of view (“Let the sacrament of marriage be something that exists in the sight of God, and let God and those who think they know God’s will decide who is married and who is not”), because to me the social and legal ideas of marriage are one and the same – two mentally capacitated adults who decide to remain sexually faithful and make child-rearing and financial decisions together for each other’s mutual benefit for the indefinite future in their lives. By this definition, which I think most LGBT rights activists would agree on, same-sex marriage in the past certainly has been criminalized! But I totally respect where you are coming from, and I imagine a lot of people would probably agree with you.

    I also noticed that in your blog post you would about “creating new rights” which is something that Scalia and other Justices have expressed. But as someone who feel that one has a natural right to engage in any voluntary exchange or agreement with others that does not harm others or inhibits anyone’s autonomy present or future, the idea of the State “creating rights” doesn’t make sense. My point of view is that the State is supposed to uphold all natural rights, and that the unfortunate result has been the State limiting and denying those natural rights.

    By the way I did like your Huckabee cartoon lol.


    • philebersole Says:

      Yes, of course, you’re right. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when homosexual relationships were criminalized, and it would never have occurred to a liberal minister to perform a gay wedding.

      I can remember 30 and 40 years ago when I thought of myself as being very liberal-minded for thinking that not only should gay people not be prosecuted under law, they should not be shunned by heterosexuals.

      I certainly would not want to go back to those days, and the revolution in thinking that has taken place since then should not be taken for granted—as I did.

      Liked by 1 person

    • philebersole Says:

      Your point about natural law is a something I have thought about much of my adult life without coming up with a good answer.

      Are human rights created by statutory law? Do they exist in some nations or cultures and not others?

      Or are they something pre-existing, like Plato’s “forms”, which all human beings ought to be able to understand even if they are not written down?

      If human rights are something that ought to exist in law, how do we bring that about in a way that all citizens will accept as legitimate?

      I think that in general the Supreme Court should respect the decisions of Congress and state legislatures except in cases where they clearly overstep the Constitution. But what are these cases?

      I have my opinions, but I know from experience that my opinions are not necessarily convincing to others.

      Liked by 1 person

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