Saturday, October 14, 2006

Invitation to Debate



For the next state election in Virginia, we have an issue on which to vote. Here is the issue, as explained by the Virginia State Board of Elections:

[begin explanation]
Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to state:

“That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”?

EXPLANATION

Present Law

The Constitution does not define marriage. Under current statutory law in Virginia, persons who marry must have a license and be married by a licensed minister, judge, or other person authorized by law to perform marriages. Present law prohibits marriages between certain individuals. For example, the law prohibits a marriage between a brother and sister, between a couple where one of the parties is married to someone else, and between couples of the same sex.

In 1975, the General Assembly enacted a statute (present Code of Virginia § 20-45.2) that states "A marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited." In 1997, the General Assembly added a sentence to § 20-45.2 that states that:

Any marriage entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created by such marriage shall be void and unenforceable.

In 2004, the General Assembly passed a law to prohibit certain civil unions or other arrangements between persons of the same sex. That law (Code of Virginia § 20- 45.3) states that:

A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage is prohibited. Any such civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created thereby shall be void and unenforceable.

Thus, civil unions or other arrangements which purport “to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage” are prohibited by statute.

Proposed Amendment

If approved by the voters, this proposed amendment will become part of the Constitution of Virginia. The proposed amendment adds a definition of marriage as the “union between one man and one woman” to the Constitution's Bill of Rights and prohibits Virginia and its counties, cities, and towns from creating or recognizing any legal status by any name which is comparable to marriage.

Marriage in the Commonwealth creates specific legal rights, benefits, and obligations for a man and a woman. There are other legal rights, benefits, and obligations which will continue to be available to unmarried persons, including the naming of an agent to make end-of-life decisions by an Advance Medical Directive (Code of Virginia § 54.1-2981), protections afforded under Domestic Violence laws (Code of Virginia § 18.2- 57.2), ownership of real property as joint tenants with or without a right of survivorship (Code of Virginia § 55-20.1), or disposition of property by will (Code of Virginia § 64.1- 46).

A "yes" vote on the proposed amendment will result in the addition of the proposed Section 15-A to Article I, the Bill of Rights. A "no" vote will mean that there will be no change made in Article I, the Bill of Rights.

FULL TEXT OF AMENDMENT
...

Amend Article I of the Constitution of Virginia by adding a section numbered 15-A as follows:

ARTICLE I
BILL OF RIGHTS

Section 15-A. Marriage.

That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

Attorney General's Office

5/9/06

Explanation -- 473 words

Approved by House Committee on Privileges and Elections 5/10/06
Approved by Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections 5/12/06
[end explanation]

I'm assuming for the purposes of debate that sodomy is a sin, as evidenced by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and by Romans chapter 1. It is therefore a contradiction to speak of "homosexual marriage."

The question is, is this amendment expedient for the purposes of spreading the gospel? On the one hand, it is certainly correct for the government to acknowledge the truth. On the other hand, I do not believe marriage should be as under-the-purview of the government as it is. The government takes an interest in it, as it should. Marriage has things like name-changing and legal protection from testifying against spouses and that sort of thing. However, for example, to require a license to marry, to me, seems ridiculous. Finally, we must distinguish between what is and what ought to be. I believe there should be a balance between the two in terms of how we determine our actions. Not every course of action moving us toward our goal is necessarily wise.

And so, what think you?


 
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12 Comments:

At 10/14/2006 02:17:00 PM , Blogger Mr. Baggins said...

I'm gonna have to disagree with you on this one, bro. Marriage is an institution that belongs not only to the church but also to the state. Therefore, the state has the duty to uphold the institution of marriage. The state also has the duty to regulate marriage. Therefore, the State of Virginia has the right and the duty to pass this resolution.

 
At 10/14/2006 03:56:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Hmmm. How about, why can't we all just agree on the principle behind the law, so it's not even an issue?? . . . Oh right, we don't live in a perfect world.

I agee with Lane that marriage is an institution belonging to the state as well as the church. Otherwise certificates of divorce (which are legitimate in rare cases) would be useless, would they not? Churches don't give divorces, the state does.

But, I think the problem with focusing too much on changing something like the wording of the ammendment is the danger of resting in the law to save our society, rather than a change of hearts (something that often is a problem with theonomy). I think the state should restrict marriage to one woman and one man, without similar arrangments for others, but is it going to change anyone's heart? No. The law is not salvation, but it does have a purpose, and I think the jurisdiction of the law extends to marriage.

 
At 10/16/2006 04:36:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Ok, Susan and Lane, convince me that marriage should be something the state regulates. It's easy to see that the state regulates marriage now. I'm asking about the imperative, not the indicative. The divorce angle seems to me to be begging the question, because the state only controls divorce because it controls the marriage in the first place.

I agree that the law is not our savior. But it can help to limit evil, which is the purpose here.

In Christ.

 
At 10/16/2006 08:49:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Okay, are we discussing whether marriage should be regulated, or whether unBiblical unions should be recognized legally? Two very different issues! (I've debated the latter before with others) I think you mean the former, so I'll go with it.

I don't have as strong a case for the former, but, at the risk of sounding like a Pharisee :), didn't God command Moses to issue certificates of divorce? This indicates that in Israel marriage was in someway state-regulated. Throughout scripture marriage is seen as legally binding (certificate of divorce is one example), not just binding before God. For example, my (admittedly uninspired) footnote in my Bible for Matthew 1:18, clarifies "betrothed" as "legally pledged to be married." Also, Boaz legally transacted for Ruth. There are Levitic examples as well, I'm pretty sure.

The problem here is that theocratic Israel was just that - theocratic. So the state was so intertwined with the "church" of the time, that it's hard to distinguish.

I will say this. I used to be very anti-government-business in marriage, how-about-not-applying-for-a-marriage-license, etc., but I think regardless of whether it is necessary, it is required by law, and when (Lord willing) I marry, I want to do things above board. I don't think I would be "wedding myself to the state" by registering my marriage, as many people think :).

I'm interested to hear your take, Lane.

 
At 10/17/2006 10:00:00 AM , Blogger zan said...

I know some Christians who do not get marriage licenses and get married. I think this is a really bad witness to non-believers. In the eyes of the state they are living in sin. I think you should definately obey the law of the land. There is nothing sinful about obtaining a license. People who snub their noses at government in this and other areas have some serious pride issues.

No marriage licenses is a very libertarian point of view. I think that society benefits from marriage between one man and one woman. It is the foundation of family and family is the foundation of society. Even non-Christian marriages benenfit society.

I think there would be some huge legal headaches with no licenses when it comes to death of spouses, life insurance, etc... I also think that marriage and divorce protects the woman. A woman in a legal marriage is better provided for if the husband dies or abandons her. The husband may have to provide alimony or child support (of course you have the issue of ead beat dads, etc...).

 
At 10/17/2006 10:31:00 AM , Blogger Mr. Baggins said...

It is very easy to say that the state has the duty to regulate marriage (it has the duty to regulate it in accordance with Scriptural principles, by the way). The simple proof of this is the fact that not all marriages are Christian. Who is going to regulate marriage in a place where Christianity does not exist? The church? No, the state. There are many people out there who would die rather than have their marriage in a church. How is the church going to regulate that marriage? Is the church going to say that it isn't a marriage? That would be absurd. If, therefore, the church cannot deny that a secular marriage is still a marriage, then it has no place to stand on if it claims that it alone can determine what marriage is. I am not denying that the Bible prescribes the definition of marriage. The state would do well to heed that. However, the state does have the duty to regulate marriage, simply because not all marriages are Christian, and yet they are true marriages.

Furthermore, however, (Biblically speaking), marriage is a creation ordinance, *not* an ordinance of the church. It falls into the same category as work, also a creation ordinance. As such, it belongs to all people, not just to the redeemed. It falls under the category of common grace, as a result, notwithstanding the fact that marriage points us to Christ and the church.

I think what you are feeling, Adrian, is the strong sense that this isn't the way it should be. That is correct. The world should equal the church. That is, the church should encompass all the world, such that marriage be a Christian thing. We have only ourselves to blame for this state of affairs.

 
At 10/17/2006 10:33:00 AM , Blogger Mr. Baggins said...

In response to Zan, you are correct up to a point. However, after a certain number of years of a couple being together, the state recognizes common-law marriage. I think it's 7 years. Then the headaches go away. But those 7 years could be quite interesting.

 
At 10/17/2006 11:18:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

I really appreciated your explanation, Lane. I think the key point is that all marriages are not Christian. Nice treatment.

 
At 10/17/2006 04:55:00 PM , Blogger zan said...

Yes, I forgot about common law marriages. However, there are the guys who bounce back and forth between two different girls and have children with both. The state doesn't recognize this as polygamy.

I loved how you made the point about marriage being a Creation ordinance. That explains everything.

 
At 10/18/2006 10:33:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Ja, the Moses argument is a little weak, because of the issue you brought up yourself: back then, the state practically equalled the then-church.

I agree with Zan, in that we as Christians should follow whatever the law is right now. It is not wise to fail to obtain a license.

Ok, Lane, you've convinced me that the state should regulate marriage. Very nice argument. The consequence of that argument is that I shall vote in favor of the amendment. Congratulations!

In Christ.

 
At 10/19/2006 08:05:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Yeah, my argument was rather weak, yes? But, I was feeling uninspired with proper thoughts, so I wrote what little I had in my defense. Lane did much better :). And Zan too. They both had excellent points. Is it all right to TIOC?

 
At 10/19/2006 09:50:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Well, Susan, yes; your argument was weak. But it was an argument! And it was at least to the point. As Dorothy Sayers wrote in The Lost Tools of Learning, "Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question,..."

Sure, we can TIOC.

In Christ.

 

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