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Religion and money

By Charles "Trey" Wickwire
web posted March 1, 2004

It looks as though a major issue this election year will be over the institution of marriage. President Bush has decided to consider legislation that will finally define what the United States will allow to be called a marriage. This of course makes some people happy and others unhappy. Personally, I find the entire idea ludicrous.

First let's look at what marriage is. Most people will say that's easy. Marriage is when a man and a woman form a union in the eyes of God for the purpose of creating a family to continue the human race. This sounds reasonable enough, and I am sure that definition will work for the majority of Americans. But marriage is not an American institution; it is a global institution that is practiced by nearly every culture to walk the face of the earth. Will our "American" definition of marriage work for the rest of the world?

Many nations would have a problem with our insistence on considering marriage a religious institution that must be sanctioned by God. The Muslims believe that it is acceptable for a man to marry up to four wives and this is still practiced in many Islamic nations. When a Muslim travels to the US, will he suddenly be single because our laws do not accept his religious marriage? What of Buddhist or Hindu marriages? Are they considered annulled with the simple crossing of a border? Even in Christianity there is dissension over what a proper marriage is and what it is not. The Mormons believe they can take multiple wives while Protestant priests can marry but Catholic priests can not.

Why am I discussing the religious aspects of marriage you ask? The United States is a nation with religious freedom. Religion is separate from the state and has no bearing on the matter, so take religion out of the equation. Yet if you take religion out, then what is the reason behind defining marriage at all? Who benefits, besides the Religious Right, from strictly controlling how people live their lives and who they live them with?

It comes down to money. If same sex marriages are allowed, then the benefits of being married will have to be honored. Gay employees will be able to get health insurance for their spouses and claim them on their taxes. This is not something many large companies want to do; nor does the government want to give out tax breaks that it can avoid. This has nothing to do with people being gay. The money people could care less; they just don't want to part with anymore cash than they have to.

If you are against same sex marriages, you have to ask yourself why. Is it because it goes against your religious principles? Do you think it is unfair to have your insurance rates raised to compensate for the additional coverage demands? Do you think it is a way to cheat Uncle Sam out of taxes? But most of all you have to ask yourself, are any of these reasons worthy of a change in the Constitution?

If you disagree with same sex marriages for religious purposes, you are out of luck. Religion has no place in our government; therefore it cannot dictate any political issues. This is not debatable or negotiable. Separation of religion and state is one of the things that makes us free, and it cannot be revoked without changing the very essence of what the United States stands for.

So if you take away all the religious objections, what are you left with? The Money. Could it be that we are on the threshold of altering the Constitution of the United States to limit the freedom of its people for the purpose of saving corporations the added cost of health benefits and the government a few extra tax dollars? I certainly hope not, but the alternative is that the Religious Right has finally gained enough power to subject the nation to its own narrow view of a religiously acceptable form of marriage and somehow this doesn't sound as feasible. When looking for motivators, money usually wins out over religion.

The issue of marriage should be an easy one. In the eyes of the state, it is no more than a contract between individuals who are combining their efforts towards a successful life into a partnership. The state does not care what religion, if any, sanctified the contract. It only cares that the proper forms were filled out and filed with the state. Instead of amending the Constitution to define what marriage is, it would be more beneficial to create a marriage process that produced a real contract between the participants. In other words, make it mandatory to sign a pre-nuptial type agreement. This would at least make the divorce process less messy and would also make it easier to impose penalties on those who abuse the process with fake marriages for insurance, tax purposes or citizenship.

If we are really going to remain the land of the free and the home of the brave, we have to stop being afraid to let people be who they are. Being gay is not an aberration or some deviant life style. It is a lifestyle that is as old as humanity itself and, like it or not, will remain with us for as long as we exist. So don't try to change what you don't agree with. Leave that for the Taliban and other fascist regimes. We are Americans, free to be different and free to marry.

Charles Wickwire, aka Trey, is a Computer Specialist who likes to share his opinion with those who are interested and even those who are not. He can be contacted at Trey.Wickwire@Wickware.com.

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