Here’s Tripp Fuller over at Homebrewed Christianity on why we need to a robust distinction between the religious sacrament of marriage and what happens when you sign a State marriage license.
Here’s the other thing—and this, you may say, “Tripp, this sounds like you’re a leftist, gay-loving, radical, progressive, hoopla.” No, no, no. Let’s say you are a fundamentalist, you take the Bible literally…So let’s imagine you’re a fundamentalist and you not only talk about the Bible, but read it. You’re really into it. And you’ve read what Jesus thinks about divorce…So let’s say a couple comes to you and they’re on their third or fourth marriage—I don’t know, Rush Limbaugh, five, I don’t know—people who stand up for family values…and they come to you and want you to do their marriage. You go, “Look, we’re a Bible-believing church, and so while you as a straight couple could have legal status, we don’t see the ability to perform your wedding until all your ex-spouses have sent in a letter of reconciliation, affirming that y’all have reconciled the brokenness of your covenant before God, that y’all’ve [this is a word only a true Southerner can use] mutually forgiven each other and that we can then celebrate this new family that is being formed. Until then we’re not comfortable doing it, because it would be compromising our commitment to the scriptures.”
Now, right now, right, you have this expectation that you have to equate what the Church can do with what the State can do. So you’re going to do a wedding even if it’s someone’s third…fourth…fifth wedding. But here I’m saying: let’s do the justice argument for the State, but then let’s let each congregation—denomination (depending on how y’all roll hierarchy-wise)—decide who can and can’t be married in their congregation, and then you follow your Christian/religious convictions in your congregation. It seems to me that’d be a good compromise. Because then you’d get everybody saying: “Look, maybe the [State] should get out of the marriage business, but maybe they need legal unions.” And the Church can say “we think everybody should have equal rights there.” But then each congregation has to be faithful to its real theology of marriage in the congregation. So the people who get married there are those who understand what that congregation or tradition sees of marriage, are willingly and consciously entering into it, and are planning on staying engaged in a faith community so that, not only their own relationship is nourished by the faith, but the members that are born into the family or are adopted into the family are grafted into the vine of Christ.
It seems like a rather obvious compromise…unless you’re just a bigot who really does want to wield the State’s power against a minority group.