Hey Christian Fundies, You Don’t Own “Marriage”

Reading eloriane’s recent great post on marriage and the interesting comments to it brought to mind something about this marriage issue that’s always pissed me off: the idea that marriage as a religious institution supersedes it as a social institution, or a legal one. That’s certainly not what the post or the comments say, but rather what Christian and other religious fundamentalists clearly believe. I’m going to point my rant-y mouth at Christianity though, because in the United States, it’s predominantly Christians who are blocking same-sex marriage (although this is likely simply because Christianity is the dominant religion in the U.S.)*. And it’s not just that Christians focus on the religious aspect of marriage, but that, arrogantly, they believe that they own marriage, as an idea, as an institution. And that marriage is a religious institution above and beyond what it is as a social or legal one. And as a non-Christian this is frankly appalling.

Heads up, my bigoted Christian neighbours: YOU DO NOT OWN THE CONCEPT OF MARRIAGE. You don’t. You did not invent it. Your god is not the author of that idea. People of no religion get married all the time. People of other religions also get married. Religiously. And have been doing so for longer than 2000 years. People have been doing it all over the world in all sorts of different cultures with all sorts of different religions (how commonly they are deeply patriarchal, of course, is another post altogether!). Does your own personal concept of what marriage means have to be shoved down everybody else’s throats? Is a Sikh woman and man not married if they do so in a temple? What about Hindus? Are Hindus not married because they don’t do so in a church? Oh that’s different, you say. “That’s still a man and a woman.” Well, WHO is to say that THAT is what the definition of marriage is? Why do YOU get to decide? Why not the Pagans? Why not the First Nations? Because, even if you don’t come right out and say it, you behave as if 1) the definition of marriage comes from your religion, and 2) your religion supersedes all others. Also, I think that basically homosexuality squicks you out and you hide your bigotry behind religion and tradition. The idea of marriage being between one man and one woman is mostly a religious one, and as such, you have no right to force me to follow that.

What ever happened to freedom of religion? Am I not free to not be a Christian and not follow Christian tenets? You cannot, you simply CANNOT argue that the rest of us must follow your religion. The arrogance.

And I’m speaking as someone who will never get married, not ever, for all the feminist reasons that make marriage as a social/legal institution problematic (see the comments to eloriane’s post). I simply cannot get over signing a legal contract to be in a romantic, sexual relationship with someone. I cannot get over the ownership/prostitutional flavour of that (interesting arguments about reforming social/legal institutions aside). However, I will fight endlessly, constantly, to ensure that marriage is open to everyone, because it’s not just about what I would choose, or my feminist arguments (though those are valid and need to be addressed concerning marriage as an institution), it’s also about acceptance in the larger social community. For me and my also-female loved one to stand together and declare our love in our community, and to have that recognized, officially, legally, is a statement of equality**. And I think that’s why homophobes hate it so much. Simply, it legitimizes same-sex romantic relationships.

And ultimately, that is my reason for fighting for it.


* yes I know that countries dominated by other religions are equally homophobic. I’m  yelling at my neighbours in particular, this time.
** yes this does mean that marriage is about equality in one situation and inequality in another. welcome to intersectionality – road maps are challenging to read!
***p.s. yes, I know. I fell in love with formatting in this post. Don’t judge us :-p

12 Responses to Hey Christian Fundies, You Don’t Own “Marriage”

  1. yinyang says:

    I haven’t read the whole post yet, but thank you! It frustrates me to no end to see marriage claimed by the religious, and for so many liberals to agree with that.

  2. The thing that always gets me all “ranty” (as you say – love it) about the whole marriage issue is the fact that existing contract law could more than cover the secular/non-religious aspect of it in America.

    The “gay marriage” issue would disappear entirely if the government would do the smart thing and get out of the business of blessing sexual or social unions in an official, religious capacity – which is the situation we find ourselves in today. It’s very odd, but local, government officials are faced with making the decision about which religions are ‘real”, and which ones are not, every day.

    Obviously this is a problem – one that goes contrary to our constitutional guarantees of liberty and civil rights. However, it’s been this way for a long, long time, so there is a certain amount of inertia there.

    Let legal, secular, non-religious unions be governed by existing contract law. Two people sign a contract and agree to love, honor, cherish, file joint tax returns, etc. Then, if they *also* wish to get married in a religious ceremony, that’s their choice. Go for it.

    What is the downside to that? (Aside from your aforementioned Christian fundamentalists freaking the hell out because they think they own the concept of marriage, that is.)

    • Crowfoot says:

      Let legal, secular, non-religious unions be governed by existing contract law. Two people sign a contract and agree to love, honor, cherish, file joint tax returns, etc. Then, if they *also* wish to get married in a religious ceremony, that’s their choice

      I agree! Although I would like people to use the term “marriage” when it they want to, regardless of whether they go the religious and secular or just secular route, you know what I mean? Because of what that would mean socially. In eloriane’s Dream Wedding comment thread, Keori has a good point which ties in to what you wrote:
      The law needs a new definition of “family” to allow for various and sundry ways of defining next of kin, legal kinship, and people who are interdependent.

      Can current contract law be adjusted to do this? I’m afraid I’m really reaching in the dark here, knowing next to nothing about contract law or even much of the legal stuff around marriage in Canada (where I’m living).

      and welcome 🙂 you have a very wonderfully Danish name (sez the ex-pat Dane, well, ex-pat since I was a baby. does that count?)

  3. Lemur says:

    Hell. Yeah.
    …Thank you for this post.

  4. […] Christian Fundies Listened To Me! Well! What interesting timing. Just when eloriane and I were both thinking about same-sex marriage (ok, I was mostly scrunching my eyes shut and spewing), Vermont […]

  5. Matt says:

    Fundamentalists infuriate me to no end.

  6. Brittany says:

    The church -does- own the idea of marriage. Marriage is a religious union between a man and a woman. What they DON’T own is CIVIL UNION, which is the right to claim the civil privileges of such a union, as married folks do. The US needs to do what Europe did: Any two people who wish to reap the benefits of unions must go to court and obtain a civil union. Church marriages don’t count; religious officials cannot grant such privileges. Only the state can. THAT is the separation of church and state in its truest form yet, and is the only fair way to do it. Christians may own “marriage” as a word, but they don’t own the right to reap the benefits of civil union, and all marriage is, is a religiously glorified civil union. Just some food for thought.

  7. Rose says:

    Actually, in most USA states, a legal marriage is still called a marriage, is not the same thing as a civil union, and it is still separate from a religious marriage. The trouble exists in the general public’s perception of marriage as being one whole concept when in fact, a legal marriage and a religious marriage are, by law, separate.

    The problem with suggesting that all marriage is, is a “religiously glorified civil union” is that, simply, it’s NOT. A legal marriage license, one that has nothing to do with a religious ceremony, still grants more benefits and civil rights than a legal civil union. Until civil unions come with the same guarantees and rights as a legal marriage, it’s simply not valid to say that marriage is a religiously glorified civil union.

    What needs to be done is to extend the reach of marriage licenses (again, this in no way involves a church ceremony, and anyone who DOES get married under a religion still has to buy a legal marriage license for it to be considered a marriage under LAW) to spouses beyond the current restrictions of “husband” and “wife.”

  8. Brittany says:

    That’s a problem with titles – the legal system used the religious term. A legal marriage SHOULD be called a legal UNION, but it is not, because separation of church and state has not yet been accomplished.

    I think the church should take their damn terminology and find somewhere to shove it, and the legal system should give out “civil union licenses” (renaming of “marriage licenses”) to anyone who wishes to get the civil benefits of union, whether male, female or alien. Then, if they want a religious CEREMONY to CELEBRATE their union (or any other ceremony, I don’t care) then they do that, entirely independent of the legal part. Voila.

  9. Rose says:

    I guess I just don’t object to the term “marriage” just because the church used it and the legal system picked it up. People already get their license separately, then have a religious ceremony (or not).

  10. Brittany says:

    The reason the religious people are freaking out is because homosexuality is against their religion, and thus they should not be able to be “married” because “marriage” is a religious thing. So while -I- don’t care what term people use, the only way to peacefully settle it is to separate church and state, give the church their word back, and use a different one for the legal union of two people, so nobody can bitch and everyone can have equal rights to union. 🙂

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