Sever the bonds

by YES! Weekly staff

Nearly six months before North Carolina voters go the polls to decide whether to amend the state constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman, several Guilford County residents have filed suit against the state asking it to butt out of the issue, based on the establishment clause of the US Constitution, which decrees the separation of church and state.

The lawsuit is elegant and inclusive in its range of plaintiffs: a register of deeds, two Christian pastors who are willing to solemnize the marriages of same-sex couples, a Christian pastor who is willing solemnize marriages for those who do not want their unions licensed by the state but not the marriages of same-sex couples, a same-sex couple that wishes to have a religious ceremonial marriage and one that wishes to have a non-religious ceremonial marriage, a disabled couple that wishes to have a religious ceremonial marriage without licensing their union with the state considering that their Medicaid benefits would be cut off, and — got to love this — an unmarried heterosexual man “who may wish to enter into marriage in the future,” but who “finds it morally and constitutionally repugnant to be required to participate in any type of ceremony required by the state.”

The thrust of the lawsuit is fairly simple: “There must be a decoupling and disentanglement of the state from the personal and religious institution of marriage.”

This breakup would benefit not only the people and religious institutions that wish to pursue their happiness without state interference, but also the state itself, which doesn’t need to be trifling with a volatile and polarizing social issue while record numbers of our residents are unemployed, our roads are crumbling and our teachers are getting laid off.

Whether same-sex unions should be solemnized is a moral question, and clergy should be free to perform same-sex marriages or not according to the dictates of their personal conscience and church doctrine. The state has no business telling clergy that it is unlawful to perform a marriage, same sex or otherwise, until they obtain a license from the register of deeds.

Greensboro lawyers Daniel W. Koenig and Norman B. Smith write in a compelling treatise associated with the lawsuit: “Much of the controversy and anger relating to same-sex marriage stems from the traditional deeply religious character of marriage, and the belief that this ancient sacrament of the church is violated when the union of homosexuals is blessed in violation of Biblical commands.”

The state’s only legitimate interest in marriage is preventing pedophilia and abuse of one party due to fraud, duress, joke, mistake or insanity, in addition to maintaining records “for the sake of establishing property and support rights upon dissolution of marriage” and “establishing rights of inheritance and related entitlements on the death of a spouse,” to quote from the treatise.

A universal domestic union would resolve our difficulties. Koenig and Smith persuasively argue that bequeathing all cohabiting couples — regardless of orientation — with full spousal rights would satisfy the demand for equal treatment under the law while neutralizing opposition from those who believe that same-sex unions affront religious values, essentially creating a pressure valve.

Hopefully the courts will apply common sense and free us from this absurd entanglement.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.