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Case For Legal Recognition


There are some interesting parallels between state regulation of homosexuality and state regulation of marriages. In each case, a field that was once occupied by the Church came under the control of the state. However, in each case, principles that stemmed from traditional Christian thought continued to shape the law, and prevailing social attitudes, for centuries. State regulation of marriage began from a rigidly religiously intolerant stance that clearly espoused a state endorsed religious perspective to the exclusion of all others. Over time, there was increasing religious tolerance, and eventual legal recognition of relationships that were not blessed by any clergy, beginning with secular marriage, then unmarried heterosexuals and finally unmarried homosexuals. This latter development has marked the intersection of the modernization of our approach to legal recognition of relationships and the increasing legal protection of the human rights of gays and lesbians. Legal recognition of marriages will be the final act in this unfolding human drama.

Some say that the struggle for equal marriage amounts to seeking admittance to a discredited club. In truth, marriage is a very different institution today, and the fact that our traditional opponents are so anxious to exclude us from it speaks volumes about its continued importance in our society. For Christians like those who attend MCCT, marriage still has great religious significance. Others suggest that we should be content with registered domestic partnerships, or that we are pushing too hard or too fast. I would refer them to the words of that great Christian champion of human rights, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, who said “it is always time to do right”.

Christian churches, regrettably, have not generally shown the remarkable human rights leadership they demonstrated in ending the slave trade in the 19th century, or to a lesser extent in the struggle against racism in the 20th century. Too often, Christians have allied themselves with the forces of our oppression. It is a wonderful irony that an ancient Christian tradition, that of the publication of banns, may unlock the door to equal marriage.

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