Ken Blanchard is right: he and I agree much more than we disagree on the issue of marriage. His critique of my effort to differentiate monogamous adult relationships from polygamy and incest is reasonable. I said that polygamy and incest are too often entangled with power issues, but as Blanchard points out, there are plenty of conventional marriages and homosexual unions tainted with inequality, if not abuse. If I could go around with my magic legislation wand banning all relationships in which partners fall short of loving, honoring, and cherishing each other as equal partners, well... how many marriages can you think of that would go poof? Yikes.
I recognize Ken's point that the Constitution doesn't lay out principles governing marriage, thus leaving decisions to the legislatures. I would suggest that the decision needs to be left even further down, at the church steps. (Maybe that's further up, depending on your perspective.) When I refer to contortions of law and Constitution, I refer to the effort to enshrine marriage in law—not civil unions, not insurance beneficiary designations, not visitation rights, but marriage, this institution that, as far as I can tell, is really distinguished only by its sacred component. Sacred means religious, and religious means hands off for secular authorities.
Remember, I'm married. Mrs. Madville Times and I said our I do's at First Lutheran in Brookings (yup, Touchdown Jesus). If Pastor Scott has looked at the two of us, shaken his head, and said, "Nope, I can't be marryin' off one of our precious Lutheran angels to a heathen like this guy," well, I'd have been disappointed, but I wouldn't have had a court case. I couldn't sue a pastor for not marrying me any more than I could sue Pastor Daryl here in Madison for denying me communion (don't worry, Daryl, I'm not coming to test that one).
If the state is going to get into the business of granting certain practical rights to partners in committed relationships (e.g., see above), it can't Constitutionally distinguish between relationships that are religiously sanctioned and those that aren't. That's why I view having to obtain a license from the courthouse to get married as an improper "contortion" of the law.
By the way, Ken mentions nookie. Rebutting my contention that the legal discussion of marriage need not be about sexual intercourse, Ken says, "We wouldn't be considering extending the relationship of marriage to couples of men who are just chums. Without the nookie, no one would be talking about marriage." A minor quibble: the law generally turns a blind eye to whom we choose to have sex with (as ought we all). Why the law would suddenly start paying attention to our genital activities after we buy a ring is beyond me. And to be honest, if two heterosexual male best friends decided marriage wasn't for them but wanted to be roommates for life, share the mortgage and insurance coverage, and be each other's go-to guy if the other was in the hospital, I'd say, "No problem." Give 'em a civil union and all the concomitant legal recognitions. Rights shouldn't depend on nookie.
(Ken also notes his virgin spellchecker doesn't recognize "nookie." Ken's spellchecker doesn't know what it's missing.)
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