Here’s an idea: Get the government out of marriage all together

Gay marriage flag

With the recent challenge to the Alabama law defining marriage between a man and a woman, and judicial actions throughout the nation that threaten other states’ laws on marriage, there has been a lot of discussion about same-sex marriage in recent days.

This has me thinking there has to be a solution that doesn’t prolong this fight for years to come.

The question most talked about is “Can states constitutionally define marriage without denying due process to same-sex couples?” I’d like to pose another question: “Why is the government in the marriage business anyway?”

Two thoughts shape my ultimate conclusion that the current fight to redefine marriage is based on a dated concept that the government should even be involved in marriages.

First, I agree with the fundamental principle that marriage is a covenant based on one’s faith or religion.  Which is why I believe that if a same-sex couple can find a church, minister or clergyman to officiate a service and recognize their unions as a marriage, who is to say it’s not.  Christians from different denominations are split on the issue but since when is the government the arbitrator for matters of faith?

The government has no business in religious matters — either forcing mandates on them, such as requiring religious schools or hospitals to provide services they’re fundamentally opposed to — or defining them, such as in the case of marriage.

In the fight for marriage equality I think we need to establish what it is couples are really fighting over.  You can’t change the hearts and minds of those who don’t support your decision to make a lifelong commitment to one another by law.

Voters and legislatures throughout the nation have passed marriage laws.  I don’t believe these actions were fueled by hate or fear, as many proponents of same-sex marriage will tell you.

I believe that this subject is so complex the reasons that range from religious beliefs or tradition to personal preference.  In 2008, I supported and voted for the ban on same-sex marriages in the state of Florida based on religious beliefs.  The amendment passed with almost 62 percent of the vote.  Are 62 percent of Floridians full of hate? No. Am I? No.

Statistics are showing that time and social integration of what has, up until recent decades, been considered non-traditional lifestyles have changed public perception of same-sex relationships. Yet the laws continue to be pushed for a ban on marriages.  Taking the marriage debate off the table, I believe, would go even further to healing what is a fractured nation.

Acknowledging you can’t change hearts and minds by law, what can you change by law? We can determine what rights and obligations the government currently has related to marriage and transition from the use of the word marriage to calling these unions what they are — which is a very specific type of legal contract.  This particular contract has complicated implications on tax liability, assumed risks for decision making, emergency notifications and access, and much more, I realize.

But maybe in starting over we can even look at the basics of what is covered and why and have a fresh start.

Any two consenting adults can enter into a contract at any other time, so let’s remove the barriers to this particular contract and allow people to live their lives.

In summary: Have the government recognize legal contracts for all couples the same way and churches recognize marriages. Practice some good old-fashioned common sense and common courtesy and carry on.  Let’s focus on building stronger communities together regardless of sexual orientation.  Let us take one more thing from the government and return it to the people and the church.

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Apryl Marie Fogel is a new Alabama resident who works as a conservative political activist.