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View Diary: Minnesota makes it a dozen: Gov. Mark Dayton signs marriage equality into law (88 comments)

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  •  I'm sorry but that still isn't correct (1+ / 0-)
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    One thing that gets people riled up unduly is that, in the United States, the term "marriage" is used to refer to a relationship recognized by civil law AS WELL as something that religious institutions perform when those are in fact two different things.

    Laws regarding marriage in the US cannot EVER regulate anything except CIVIL marriages. Just like in DC and in the other 49 states, laws pertaining to civil marriage regulate civil marriage only and don't address church services. Laws pertaining to civil unions and domestic partnerships exist only so that such statuses can legally exist separate and distinct from civil marriages otherwise there'd be no reason to ever use those terms. By updating their law, Minnesota's laws pertaining to civil marriage have now expanded the universe of couples eligible to enter into civil marriages. But the law is not about "civil unions" it is about "marriages."

    Some nations (even some relatively democratic ones), have lists which define what religious organizations are "officially" recognized and therefore (in some cases but not all) a religious ceremony is all that's required to have a legally recognized marriage. Because of the Establishment Clause, neither the US nor any political subdivision within the US has or can have anything like that. Weddings conducted in churches, synagogues or mosques are only symbolic unless there is also a civil component to them.

    Other than the business aspects, some zoning things, public safety and, of course, things like not violating rules for tax exempt status, churches can do pretty much what they please because, as churches, they are not regulated by civil law at any level due to the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.  This includes which relationships churches can sanctify or refuse to sanctify. A religious service without the officiant simultaneously acting in a civil capacity (a power "vested in me by the state of..." is the expression normally invoked and that power is vested only during the time the ceremony is being performed; the state grants clergy the right to solemnize marriages as a matter of courtesy and the clergy person is technically acting very temporarily in a civil capacity rather than in a religious one) doesn't mean squat as far as the law is concerned and therefore a church could sanctify a relationship that the law would not recognize; it could even sanctify a relationship that would be considered criminal under some circumstances. Without the weight of the law such sanctification is merely symbolic.  Many churches and other religious institutions in states with no marriage equality hold ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples but those ceremonies, even if they are otherwise indistinguishable from a heterosexual wedding, lack the "by the power vested in me" part and also lack the legal recognition. Again, unlike the case in some nations where members of the clergy are legally forbidden to conduct such ceremonies, that isn't the case here for the reason that those ceremonies hold no legal weight.

    I have probably gone a bit overboard here. I apologize for that, but I wanted to emphasize that there is a difference between a marriage and a civil union and to also emphasize that Minnesota has not passed a law which in any way addresses civil unions.

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