Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don't Mess With Texas

by Nathan Bergstedt

This state or political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

That statement is the actual language used in a 2005 Texas Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Of course, the language used prior to this sentence was a bit more gay marriage specific, and this clause itself was supposed to be designed to make sure there were no slippery loopholes in which people could join in civil unions or domestic partnerships. Whew! Good to know that the people of Texas are willing to go the extra mile in order to preserve the tradition of marriage. Well, mission accomplished.

Funny thing is, and you don’t need me to tell you this, that that particular clause is quite clear that the state of Texas will not recognize any marriage. Let me repeat: This state or political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage. So what does that mean? Texas has figured out a way to ban marriage altogether.

As we speak, state legislators are furiously working to overturn the clause in the amendment. After all, in the historical context of the United States, the institution of marriage isn’t something that the people are just going to want to give up.

But let’s consider what else this clause means for a moment.

Texas has very effectively, at least for the time being, created true marriage equality statewide. GLBT rights activists have been working hard to get such equality by letting everyone have the opportunity to get married. Texas, on the other hand, has thrown back the veils of concept and introduced as all to an alternative: if some of us can’t, then none of us can. Sure, for those in the GLBT community who wish to marry, Texas still isn’t the place to go. But if your primary concern is equality to your fellow man, regardless of your sexual orientation, it seems there’s one place you can go where personal rights are square across the board.

Marriage itself as an institution is a little confusing anyway. A primary tenet of the founding of this nation was the freedom of religion, and the only way to effectively do that was to separate church and state, since the influence of a particular faith in the government could conflict with the interest of another church wishing to exercise their rights. With marriage, though, religious clergy have been given the legal power to join people in lifelong partnerships recognized and enforced by the state.

But as it relates to Texas, have they not also found a way to create greater religious freedom as well? The amendment doesn’t say people can’t be joined in marriage recognized by god. It just says it won’t be recognized by the state. Therefore any and all conflicts of interest in the realm of marriage between faith-based institutions and the government are effectively severed. All of these churches can marry whoever they want now. I mean, we wouldn’t want something like the government to get their sticky, secular fingers in the way of such a sacred ritual as the bonding to two people and all their property in holy matrimony before god himself.

Maybe they should reconsider fixing this little glitch, and call it a social experiment. A world without marriage? Preposterous! Or is it? On the topic of GLBT rights, it most certainly creates a legal equality amongst all citizens, and that’s very positive, not to mention ironic due to the original intention of the amendment. But if we’re all willing to make the sacrifice of no longer creating unions between individuals, of allowing succeeding generations to have their own families recognized by state and given due rights in accordance of those familial positions, then this could be the start of a brave new world in which government has less power over its people, and has people with little legal power regarding their families, with Texas leading the way.

You can hear the recording of this essay here.

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