Secular or Sacramental?

Usually I don’t make a practice of traveling in the same paths as my fellow columnists, especially when it comes to one of those subjects that I think runs to the obvious side of things. Today I feel like breaking one of those rules: one, because I’m the old fart of the group who actually has some experience with the phenomenon they’re describing, and two, because I also possess some pretty strong opinions on the subject overall with an angle which hasn’t been articulated yet.

A couple of Fridays ago my comrades in word processing had some comments about the gay marriage court ruling and about marriage in general. It was interesting as far as it went…but it was also heavily biased on the side of the cynical younger end of adulthood, with little or no first-hand experience with marriage (and apparently heavily weighted toward negative exposures). Things look somewhat different from the point of view of someone who’s been involved personally with the institution for over twenty years (twenty-two years, to be precise, on my last day of class this term).

But then again, I’m somewhat opinionated about the subject of marriage. First of all, I like the concept which some states have of instituting separate modes of marriage-the secular, legal commitment and the sacramental commitment. In my not-so-humble opinion, I support the option of making a secular, legal commitment a separate issue from sacramental commitments. I think it is in the best interest of the State as a whole to encourage two adult persons of any gender or sexual orientation whatsoever to make long-term stable commitments to each other for the purpose of mutual support, property ownership, parenting of children and inheritance.

It’s only common sense. If two people love each other enough to make these sorts of commitments to each other, why shouldn’t we allow them to provide for each other and pool their resources to function as a single economic unit, no matter how their genitalia fit together? Let’s cut back on the complexity of contracts, promote stable unions between consenting adults, allow domestic partners to receive insurance and inheritance benefits and have the right to make decisions for their long term partners without tying everything up in piles of legalese. Let same-sex couples come out of the closet and make their contributions to community stability openly without fear of penalties. Reduce stress on those couples by allowing them to function lawfully and openly with a legal, secular commitment option. Give partners the right to follow their beloved one’s wishes at the deathbed, and after their demise have their inheritance.

Creating two categories of couple commitments also allows non-religious heterosexual couples more flexible options while satisfying those folks who want to go all the way with sacramental commitments to each other in their churches. The various options I’ve seen proposed for state regulation of sacramental commitments create a higher standard for a sacramental marriage with regard to ease of divorce, child custody and the like than the secular marriages.

Suits me.

Lastly, I’ve gotta say that marriage, while not ideal for everyone, ain’t as bad a thing as some folks seem to think -nor is it as idyllic as others believe. In early adulthood, it seems the reaction is either that of cynical disillusionment or starry-eyed dreaming when the marriage subject comes up. Marriage is a long-term relationship between two adult persons, and like any long-term relationship, depends on the participants keeping in touch with each other and remaining open and respectful toward the other’s needs, wants and desires.

Maintaining a strong and independent relationship is key, no matter what the gender of the participants. I learned this eleven years ago, when working with one person who had been in her relationship as long as I had been in mine. We compared notes, concerns, worries, joys. The main difference between us? Her partner was female, mine was male. Otherwise, we had the same issues and concerns.

So let’s just get some sanity into this discussion at last, shall we? Drop the stupidity and just plain show some common sense rather than ideology. Separate secular commitments from sacramental. It’s the rational thing to do.