Why Oregon Needs a Civil Union
This essay appeared
in abbreviated form in the on-line version of the Portland
Oregonian in May, 2005
Author: Samuel Metz
Marriage is no place for
government. The religious ceremony of Marriage requires
respect totally separate from government.
Religious Marriage is a bond
between woman and man, endorsed by that religion,
providing permanence so children enjoy a stable home;
encouraging fidelity; and perpetuating religious values in
a new generation.
Government should not
But it does. Government
created a non-religious contract, misleadingly also called
marriage, entitling signatories to legal rights. It
compels participation in legal responsibilities
independent of the original religious purpose of marriage.
Government marriage does not assure permanence because it
permits divorce, does not compel fidelity if neither party
objects, does not encourage children, and does not require
religious commitment. In short, government marriages are
travesties of the original rite of Marriage.
If government assigns rights
to a non-religious contract, it is appropriate that they
be independent of religious endorsement. It is also
appropriate that government not interfere with the right
of every religion to recognize marriage in whatever form
that religion deems appropriate.
We need a Civil Union.
A Civil Union is not
Marriage. It is a legal relationship in which couples
voluntarily assume legal responsibilities currently
assigned by the government to Marriage. The contract
spells out specifically each member's obligations,
including matters of health insurance, life insurance,
power of attorney, inheritance, and other non-religious
Couples may terminate a Civil
Union only after addressing all contractual
responsibilities. The Civil Union contains no reference to
fidelity, bearing children, or religious obligations.
Partners desiring these commitments may seek out a
religion that will, perhaps, perform a Marriage ceremony.
Marriage should be returned
to religions. It is appropriate that government allow
religions to Marry two people only after a Civil Union.
This insures only those couples committed to all
responsibilities that marriage entails be eligible for
Each religion remains free to
conduct Marriage according to its tradition, as they do
now. Religions could refuse to marry couples for any
reason, including absence of lifetime commitment, refusal
to bear or raise children in the religion, previous
marriages, same sex couples, religious intermarriage, etc.
created by Civil Unions need not be honored by any
religion. No religion need marry anyone simply because
they entered a Civil Union. Civil Union partners would not
be regarded as Married unless they found a religion
willing to sanctify the Union with its ceremony.
Similarly, all legal
interactions would recognize Civil Unions and would, by
law, exclude any religious rights or interference in
How would we benefit? We
protect the institution of Marriage from government
interference. Religions remain free to grant or deny
Marriage to any couple for any reason without fear of
Civil Union partners who
cannot find a religion that will marry them, or do not
desire a religious marriage, are not denied legal rights.
They cannot claim discrimination. They suffer no legal
harm if denied a religious ceremony. Ergo, they cannot
create any legal pressure on any religion to perform a
A Civil Union takes
government out of the Marriage business, protects each
religion's right to define Marriage according to its
traditions; ensures that no one wishing a Civil Union is
denied it because of religious beliefs, or absence
thereof. Marriage is respected; legal rights become
independent of religious sanction; and religions enjoy
rights to practice without interference.
Government and Marriage: a