Hot topic in the news this week with the Supreme Court. Maybe this will be a moot point within a week but I wish there was a perfect solution! This is one of those issues where there’s lots of division, and it will NEVER be resolved, at least in our lifetime. Everybody can comment on why they think it ought to be allowed, or why traditional marriage is the anchor to our culture, but there’s not much of a consensus. Anyway, I’ve got to weigh in on this just to get it off my mind. I believe marriage, as we’ve practiced for thousands of years, should only be between a man and a woman. In Texas, that’s what it is and what I think we need to keep. That’s it.
That being said, marriage has been defined 50 different ways in all 50 states in regards to the legal contract it initiates. It’s even defined differently in foreign countries. Unfortunately, there are lots of divorces, and then every state is different when it comes to divorce. Some states are community property states, some are not. Some allow common law marriage (Texas calls it “informal”), and some are not. Some states will allow the existence of a common law marriage as long as you’re alive, but in the case of death, that “marriage” isn’t recognized anymore by the state. That certainly hurts the surviving ex non-spouse as there was no documentation. I believe marriage, in the United States, is a 10th Amendment issue, to be defined by each individual state, and not addressed by the federal government.
Restating, it’s different in every state on the details. It’s going to separate Texas from Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington — states that allow gay marriage. Different states have different laws. Imagine my chagrin when I was 18 and (legally) drinking beer in Texas when I found I could not do the same in Pennsylvania. Their age for drinking (legally) was 21. They weren’t obligated to honor Texas law much like we shouldn’t be forced to recognize other states laws when it applies to individuals living in Texas.
While the federal government wants states to honor other states’ laws (like driver’s licenses), it’s not expected to honor all of them (carrying and owning weapons most notably). Contracts between individuals, on the other hand, tend to be universally accepted.
A thought on contracts. My best male friend for over 28 years is “BW”. All of the contracts we have entered into have been on a handshake. If we wanted to enter into a more serious financial venture, we could sign a contract regarding a business, and it could cover life insurances, health insurance provisions, and division of properties when we end that relationship. Texas law allows that type of contract all day long. It’s not a marriage, but it is a contract. If we decide to split up our business, there would be a legal document that shows how everything is going to be dissolved. Contract law began developing well in the Middle Ages, and even in 1677 contracts were used as a part of marriages, and were probably the first written “pre-nuptial” contracts.
My solution? Realize that marriage is two part. First is the church ceremony, that publicly cements your relationship. The second part, and I still call this part “marriage” is in the courthouse. That is a contract between a man and woman and represents the meaning as we have accepted it for thousands of years. It has been built on hundreds of years of laws designed to protect a family, and the children in the case of separation or death. Sadly, the marriage contract can even have prenuptial agreements, but such is life. If you’re gay, I can’t stop a church from marrying you, but instead of coming up to a courthouse for a marriage certificate, just enter into a very detailed contract of how you plan on supporting each other, and then how you will dissolve your relationship, just like a business agreement.
Procreation is not the goal, but supporting each other is, so craft your contract appropriately. Look at the divorce laws and the volumes of paperwork that are necessary to dissolve a “marriage”. Look at the size of the judiciary and the number of lawyers handling family law. Keep it simple. Just a contract. Some would call it a civil union but all I want to have to deal with is a piece of paper. It would be very portable between states, and easily settled in a courtroom when there is a division.
Thanks for your time again.