New and Classic MarriageBy Keith Riler
The clash of seemingly irreconcilable worldviews concerning single-sex marriage has resulted in a win-lose situation in California where, on the heels of the rulings by the Supreme Court, state government is racing to force the modern concept on all Californians. This is unnecessary, particularly with a massive change like the redefinition of marriage.
Until now a truly democratic solution in states like California has not been devised; despite that fact that the Court's majority opinions encourage something other than an imposed, one size fits all, top down approach.
In California and other states, gay marriage has been implemented either without a popular vote or over the objection of many voters. Whereas the many states reaffirming traditional marriage have done so by hurdling high legislative and electoral supermajorities (which supermajorities are also required for future change), the few states that have changed to gay marriage by way of a popular vote have just barely eked out simple majorities. In these states, where millions of voters have been deprived of traditional marriage, a win-win modification may be available so that all citizens might marry and have the ability to choose for themselves between modern and traditional marriage.
This solution is as simple as a modified form at the department of records and could be instituted in any number of ways, including as a modest proposition on the next ballot.
Unless a modern is seeking the elimination of Christianity altogether (which would be bigoted), this seems very reasonable and a good place for both moderns and traditionalists to start. Lewis is on to something; and, in fact, no other than President Obama channeled Lewis, when he promised that he wouldn't force religious institutions to conduct gay marriages. He said that the Supreme Court decision "applies only to civil marriages."
Although it was just sixty years ago, Lewis' concept needs work. Because certain mainline Protestant churches have modernized their marriage concepts far beyond Lewis' idea of Christian marriage, Lewis' (and Obama's) civil/religious distinction no longer provides the clarity necessary for compromise. Specifically, some marriages that were once religious are really now just civil (see the Episcopal National Cathedral ringing its bells in celebration of gay marriage).
Fortunately, Coca-Cola comes to our rescue with very applicable precedent. Recall New Coke was the reformulation of Coke, designed to replace the original formula. But reformulation was a problem because so many good people liked old Coke. Coca Cola wisely switched from a win-lose reformulation to a win-win complementing of New Coke with Coke Classic.
Likewise, New Marriage and Classic Marriage provide an answer that can accommodate everyone (in updated, non-judgmental terms and delinked from any particular creed). New and Classic are inclusive and represent the vote many residents of gay marriage states either never did cast or that was disregarded in a close contest. Like with New and Classic Coke, no one must change and every human being can choose either one. Alternative names for New Marriage might include Modern, Amended or Man-Made Marriage. Likewise, Classic Marriage might also be known as Traditional, Original or Old School Marriage.
Before considering the benefits of New and Classic Marriage, some definitions are in order.
New Marriage would be available to any modern, whether heterosexual or homosexual, and resembles an increasingly common marital form. New marriage (i) is a contract, (ii) between two consenting adults, (iii) that may be terminated without fault, (iv) and may or may not welcome children; (v) may view birth control as a useful tool and see abortion as a choice; (vi) is an arrangement that is exclusive, "open," or exclusive then "open;" (vii) and may or may not be further amended as the two consenting adults may later decide, which adults believe they are in the position to know best.
Classic Marriage is (i) a covenanted union between a man, woman and God; (ii) that is exclusive and for life; (iii) that unconditionally and lovingly accepts children as gift; (iv) that involves a pledge of fidelity in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, (v) a free and unreserved gift of self and (vi) an irrevocable pledge of love and honor until death.
When applying for a marriage license, the engaged parties need only check the box that best applies to their situation and desires. For instance, modern post-Lambeth Episcopalians would choose New Marriage and traditional pre-Lambeth Episcopalians would select Classic Marriage. (Pre-Lambeth Episcopalians seeking to marry Post-Lambeth Episcopalians should talk amongst themselves.)
Now, the benefits.
First, the Classic and New designations reflect the reality that there is a traditional, ages-old version of marriage and, now in some states, a version that is much more recent. It is good that laws in these states not paint a false picture of marriage by white-washing tradition.
Second, this modest proposition respects both sides and requires that neither abandons its vision of marriage. As a result, New and Classic Marriage conform to the view that Justice Kennedy espoused in the two recent court cases. The justice observed that the Constitution protects an individual's "moral and sexual choices." New and Classic Marriage protect all the betrothed and their sexual choices, not just moderns and theirs.
Likewise, Kennedy was concerned that those who would deprive individuals of their concept of marriage were "motivated by an 'improper animus' against a 'politically unpopular group' they wished to 'disparage,' 'demean,' and 'humiliate' as 'unworthy.'" Classic and New Marriage neither disparage, demean nor humiliate anyone; whether they favor traditional marriage or modern marriage (although traditionalists are more often the ones maligned).
Third, New and Classic better comply with the Bill of Rights in terms of the freedom of religion. Marrying parties do not lose the ability to designate their marriages as traditional/CS Lewis-style religious marriages, something the gay one-size-fits-all approach flippantly disregards. Additionally, the problem of the religious city clerk is likely solved. Recall that this is the problem whereby a deeply religious clerk in the marriage license office is forced to choose between her religious beliefs and the granting of a marriage license. With New and Classic Marriage, that clerk is less likely to feel threatened or compromised, due to the existence of different marital choices.
Fourth, New and Classic are a sociologist's dream. After a decade of bright line New/Classic choices, sociologists will see whether one or the other is superior in terms of family stability, religiosity, bad behaviors, etc... from which conclusions good social policies might be made.
Finally, New and Classic offer flexibility for when we evolve further. Should traditionalists' dire predictions about "throuples" and incest materialize (which any right-minded modern finds ridiculous); this framework can add those new marital iterations to the definition of New Marriage; or, if objectionable, create an even newer category. For instance, one day we may have Classic Marriage, New Marriage and Newer/Post-Modern/Second Amended and Restated Marriage (but only if a state has further evolved to embrace Second Amended and Restated Marriage). Of course, no state need recognize any other state's New or Newer categories.
So California is on the wrong path. Moderns are racing to impose change on all, not all of whom welcome that change. That's un-American. If we really live in a tolerant and pluralistic country, things like this shouldn't happen.
New and Classic Marriage, like New and Classic Coke, accommodate all and are the answer in states where millions of voters have not had their say on monolithic change like gay marriage. CS Lewis had it right and Justice Kennedy guides us to a similar level of tolerance and non-animus, a tolerance achieved only by letting these thirteen states' marrying voters choose the path that best suits them.
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