I have told you before that I am somewhat (“diminished form”) Libertarian. Today you get an example of something Libertarian that would benefit society. The U.S. Constitution is overtly Libertarian regarding religion, so religious connections to marriage – such as those intended to preserve The Sanctity of Marriage – seem like fair game to me.
Equal-rights laws are typically applicable only for taxpayer-supported or public organizations. Fraternal organizations may restrict membership in ways that are not acceptable or legal outside that organization. The last time I checked, the KKK was not required to allow blacks, Jews, or Catholics to be members. They have not gained advantages from this ‘freedom’. It has served to define them and inform society of their true nature (as if, in this extreme case, it were not obvious).
Let churches have internal rules which are not ‘fair’. If they want to hire only members to work for the church, then those members must know to expect treatment according to the church’s standards. If they dislike that treatment, they can work for a secular employer. If a church chooses to be a place of public accomodation in offering employment, then the government has a legitimate role in protecting the rights of the public. That is ‘fair’.
A church-related organization that serves charitable or educational purposes should be treated exactly as the church itself. If it takes public money or provides publicly-accessible services, then it may expect its fair share of public influence.
In any case, there are limits to religious conduct. Human sacrifice is illegal, and it is the secular government which enforces this limit on any and all religions. Such limits are appropriate and will continue even if some restrictions on churches are loosened.
Religious organizations, associations, or societies may have exclusive control over their beliefs and practices about marriage.
Marriage has been, in many cultures and for eons, tied to traditions, superstitions, and other social strictures. The issue we are arguing about – gay marriage – is only a problem because marriage is confabulated with religion. Governments have maintained this strange (although understandable) combination with laws which give some emphasis in marriage to churches and clergy, while providing no legal distinction between a church marriage and a civil marriage. One aspect of this is that a religion or church has no unique legal control over its members’ marriages. For example, the Catholic Church (among others) maintains that divorce affects the standing of members – yet the Catholic Church cannot legally prevent members from divorcing.
It is time to remove the artifice of this combination of religious and civil marriage. We need marriage laws which serve secular governmental interests apart from religious (or other social group) interests. This can be accomplished by having a ‘civil union‘ secular marriage which establishes the marriage status required for income tax filing, joint property and inheritance, other legal, financial, and medical issues, et al. No, I do not know what this would be called; many folks have objections to the terms ‘civil union’ and ‘marriage’, for differing reasons. A separate ‘social union‘ religious marriage would have only one secular provision: that the members of the marriage could legally refer to themselves as married and use appropriate titles. Government-recognized religions (and possibly other social groups) would be free to conduct and regulate ‘marriage’ according to their specific rules and beliefs. For example, Denomination “X” might choose to require that marriages of their members cannot be dissolved without clergy-directed counselling. Or they might require members to have children, or live in a 1-story house, or keep pets. None of this would affect the secular standing of the married parties. A denomination might even require that members not have a civil union in addition to their social union. Hence, they would be married for their church but not for taxes, property, etc.
If a religion wishes to sanctify certain relationships, then let us place the burden for maintaining that sanctity on the religion. The public, and secular society, has enough to do with maintaining the public mechanisms (of those relationships) that serve public, secular interests.
I wish to be open with my motive for this proposal:
legal exceptions can be effective in isolating, confining, and diminishing
an organization which deserves less tolerance than it offers to others.