BY SHERRY SHEALY MARTSCHINK
Same-sex marriage isn’t for me.
But that’s my choice. I can’t make that decision for anyone else — not for my friends or my siblings or even my own children, even if I’d like to. And the government shouldn’t be making that decision for any of us.
One might argue that if a government mandates benefits for a spouse, then the government should be able to dictate more about who can or cannot be a spouse, as per the Defense of Marriage Act, popularly referred to as DOMA, the issue currently before the Supreme Court.
I disagree. The government shouldn’t care about the spouse’s gender, age, color, etc. There are two major issues: one has to do with the role of church as opposed to the role of government; the second has to do with government intrusion into our personal lives.
As to the first, the government shouldn’t legislate morals and values. Actually, it can’t make someone moral; it can’t make a person’s values different from whatever they happen to be. Churches and families can and should teach and instill values. And I strongly believe churches and families are lacking in their responsibilities. This does not mean, however, that government should usurp that role.
Do I think churches and synagogues ought to be required to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex marriages? Absolutely not, at least not by the government. Each religion or denomination must make such decisions within its own hierarchy or membership.
In many European countries, couples have a civil ceremony as well as a religious one. Thus their unions are authorized by a government and sanctified through a religious rite.
In the United States, where we believe in separation of church and state, no church should be required by the government to offer recognition to a specific kind of union unless it so chooses.
What about government intrusion? When the government decides who a person can marry, where is the line drawn? What else might the government decide?
Look at Germany. In that country, the government requires that the gender of the child be obvious from the first name. That eliminates Jamie, Ryan, Kendall and other cross-gender choices. Also, last names can’t be used as first names. (My grandsons, Harrison and Fisher, would be misnamed according to German law.)
Names of objects can’t be used either. Nor can names of products. That would eliminate many familiar monikers: Penny, Stone, Ford, Rivers, Brook, June, April, May, Summer, etc.
There are similar examples from other countries. In Denmark, for instance, parents must select from a list of 7,000 pre-approved names. If the name the parents want isn’t on the government’s pre-approved list, they may pay a fee to appeal — and then still might lose.
The intrusive line once extended even more in Australia. For many years, unwed mothers were forced to give up their children for adoption!
The conservative view is less government in our lives — period.
Finally, let’s just talk about the sanctity of marriage and sin.
As to sanctity of marriage, Misti Jones, writing in the Houstonian, noted: “It’s not same-sex marriage that the public should be worried about; it’s heterosexual marriage. People seem to think that gay and lesbian couples’ right to wed would ruin the sanctity of marriage, but isn’t it already being ruined by half the married couples in today’s America?”
Powerful words there. She is referring, of course, to the divorce rate and how it relates to the sanctity of marriage. Perhaps she is also including infidelity.
And that brings us to the second subject: sin. Is same-sex marriage a sin, i.e. is homosexuality a sin?
There are several Bible verses to which people refer when arguing that such a relationship is sinful. I guess only God knows for certain.
What I do know, though, is that I can find numerous scriptural references defining divorce as sinful.
One such verse is Matthew 19:9: “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Those of us who are divorced are allowed to remarry as we choose, even though we are sinners. What if our government told us we couldn’t remarry?
Whether we as individuals approve or disapprove of same-sex marriages and whether we as Christians or members of other faiths approve or disapprove are two different matters.
The question is whether the government dictates morals and values by making the decision for individuals.
I say not.
Sherry Shealy Martschink is a former Republican member of the S.C. House of Representatives and S.C. Senate.