Joined: 11 Mar 2009
Part III – Is there a Solution?
Marriage reflects Acceptance by the Community
Marriage is a social institution which in the past indicated society’s acceptance.
Typically and traditionally there are two parts to what is deemed as acceptance or
recognition in the community’s or society’s eyes of a “legal” or valid marriage.
The two parts are first some expression of acceptance or approval of the union by the
community or society and the second some form of ceremony.
The ceremony might be as simple as the bride being brought to the groom’s hut
accompanied by the village populace, or the groom merely leading the bride in a public
manner to his home and taking her inside (like Joseph and Mary). And of course there is
the huge array of large and small, formal, informal and quirky ceremonies that we see
today. The ceremony that qualifies as what will be deemed a valid marriage ceremony
usually depends upon the community or society.
The approval of the union also depends upon the community or society. In some lands it is
the blessing of the tribal elder. In others it is the village’s witness and expressions
and in many it is a piece of paper that is issued by a government.
After these two parts are fulfilled in whatever way that is customary; all persons in the
community treated the couple as legally wed. End of story. It used to be a local affair
and as people got more mobile it became necessary to carry that recognition to further
localities especially in countries like ours.
Tolerance versus Acceptance
There is a important difference between tolerance and acceptance. When we tolerate
something, we put up with it. We do not destroy it or seek to stop it. We live with it.
Acceptance of something is entirely different in meaning. When we accept something, we
make it part of ourselves. We literally take it in. Acceptance is also synonymous with
In the small village or town a couple might get shacked up together and that might be
tolerated. At least in most civilized societies, the couple is not stoned and to some
degree they might be treated like a couple by their close friends and so on. (But even
today in some countries some couples are stoned, beaten or even killed for taking
liberties that are reserved for married people.)
While a couple living together might be tolerated but wider acceptance within the
community is not usually granted or given unless the couple is married in the eyes of the
community. This is just how it has always been in most societies and it used to make sense
or at least be how things were. It is debatable in these modern times, again at least in
many western countries, whether unmarried couples enjoy social acceptance.
The major problem that Gays and Lesbians have in this issue of Gay Marriage and perhaps in
relating to others is that they are not satisfied with mere tolerance. They really want
acceptance too and they want it now. They want the label of “marriage” because of its
age-long reflection of the community’s blessing of the union. Gay Marriage opponents
understand this too and understandably it is a large factor that motivates their stand
It is hard to say whether same-sex couples will ever be accepted by most in society. One
might not think anytime soon, but in my own lifetime interracial dating and marriage has
gone from being largely socially unacceptable to being commonplace and accepted in most
areas. Homosexuality and bisexuality itself has also become more open and to an extent
accepted during my lifetime. And younger generations seem much more accepting of
homosexuality and bisexuality.
So long as both sides of this issue are concerned about being accepted and so long as
marriage as a social institution continues to reflect social acceptance so directly,
reaching a solution may be difficult. What needs to occur is that the fact that marriage
reflects social acceptance needs to be separated from the legal status and thus affording
that right and privilege to all people.
Currently, in every State, a valid marriage consists of the same ancient two-part
requirements: societal recognition/acceptance (reflected by the State government’s
issuance of a marriage license) and a ceremony of some sort.
The marriage license is the modern form of societal approval and it is portable to other
States which recognize its validity under the Full Faith and Credit clause of the
Constitution and in general honored by persons and institutions of all kinds.
Additional and especially communal approval and acceptance occurs as a result of the
ceremony, especially among the couple’s peers and associates.
It is my belief that the simple severing of these two parts would go a long way to dealing
with the issue of Gay Marriage, not too mention making life in general a lot better for
What I would propose would be this:
Any couple could file a one-page “Declaration of Union” that would be signed and
notarized by both of them with either a State agency or, perhaps a Federal agency,
overseeing the registration. In essence, the document would state simply that as of such
and such a date, the persons named and signing the Declaration are to be considered
legally married. This declaration would be registered with the government agency and a
Confirmation of Registration would serve as proof for any persons or institutions
conducting business with the couple or any other legal purpose. Additonally, an open and
searchable database would be accessible by anyone so that any business or agency or person
conducting business with the persons could check the marital status of the persons (but
without some private info like SSNs). Persons over 18, would simply be able to file a
Declaraton of Union on their own behalf. For persons under 18 (and probably 15 and older)
parental consent, signatures might be required or a special authorization by a court if
the situation called for it.
Ending the Union would be just as easy in most cases. At any time, the couple could
mutually file a new Declaration of Dissolution which would have the effect of dissolving
the legal status as of the date of registration with the government agency. In cases,
where one spouse is deceased, the surviving spouse could file separately and provide the
agency with a copy of the Death Certificate of the deceased spouse.
If the situation is that one of the spouses is uncooperative, or for whatever reason
refused to sign a mutual declaration then either of the two persons could file a different
form on their own behalf and then there would be a simple hearing before a judge or
possibly by the agency where the person could present evidence or the reasons why their
marriage should be dissolved and explain why the other spouse refuses to sign. In most
cases, the government or judge would issue a finding and the union would be dissolved.
In the cases where there is a dispute about property or child custody, then the couple
could go through a process similar to current divorce proceedings and those matters would
be settled out or adjudicated the way they are today.
This procedure would accomplish all of the requirements to grant two persons the legal
benefits of marriage and would be open to anyone who is eligible (e.g. citizens and
non-citizens marrying a citizen who are issued a valid marriage or fiancee visa, etc.)
regardless of their sexual orientation or whether the couple were same-sex or not.
The key and importance is that there would be no requirement of a license granted by the
Government thus the situation changes around from the public/State appearing to
“bless” the union or grant it acceptance, to the people dictating to the Government
how they wish to define their legal status as a couple. This right and privilege becomes
one which all persons would enjoy without calling for any acceptance of the union on the
part of anyone in the community. Only for legal purposes and to the extent of conducting
business would anyone else be required to recognize the registered union of the couple.
This situation would also be ideal because it does away with the whole part of a ceremony
of any kind being required in order for the union to constitute a valid marriage.
Instead of being a requirement, having a ceremony would be completely optional. The couple
could choose any form of ceremony or none at all. A couple could choose to have a wedding
ceremony as they like, conducted by whomever they choose, whether or not the person
conducting the ceremony has any special status or qualifications. It wouldn’t matter
because the ceremony would be a personal affair and wouldn’t have any legal consequence
at all. The whole issue of social acceptance then becomes a very localized one. Some might
choose to get married in their church others by a friend in the backyard. All that really
matters in terms of “social acceptance” to the couple are their friends and family
anyway and if gays and lesbians can’t be happy with that then they will have to wait for
society’s attitudes and beliefs to evolve further.