It may be remembered that all marriages have been licensed by the state and solemnized by a clergyman, usually in a church, or a judge in his chamber. The state has a complete set of laws governing marriage.
The church has other interests in married couple. A Christian wedding is usually done in a church in the presence of God and before family and church members as witnesses. Every clergyman has the right to agree or to refuse to unite a couple in holy wedlock. His decision is based upon the faith (or lack thereof) of the couple and their readiness to form a home. So far in our history clergymen have not been forced to officiate at the weddings of couples who clearly are not ready for marriage or whose personal moral choices violate God’s laws. There are those in our society who want to force the church to solemnize their vows even though the teaching of the church has opposed (seen as sinful) their proposed homosexual unions.
In view of the fact that the USA cherishes the “separation of church and state,” and the interests of the state in regulating marriages is different from the interests of the church, I propose laws that allow the state to define marriage as it sees fit, but allows churches to have the freedom to choose to only bless or solemnize those unions that conform to their doctrines.
Thus a couple (by any definition) would apply to the state for the legal status of marriage. Upon receiving a marriage permit they would appear before a judge or other duly appointed person for a “civil” marriage. Later this couple may choose to arrange for a Christian wedding in a church of their choice assuming they have met the appropriate conditions set out by that church. There are several countries in the world that have such laws in effect.
The Rev. John Motter, retired