Marriage rights versus rites

Marriage is a right and a rite. Some say it takes two wrights to make it work. Photo: AP

right

n. an entitlement to something real or personal. Rights include: various freedoms; protection against interference with enjoyment of life and property; civil rights enjoyed by citizens such as voting and access to the courts; and such U.S. constitutional guarantees as the right to freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition. 

civil liberties

n. rights or freedoms given to the people by the First Amendment to the Constitution, by Common Law, or legislation, allowing the individual to be free to speak, think, assemble, organize, worship, or petition without government (or even private) interference or restraints. These liberties are protective in nature, while civil rights form a broader concept and include positive elements such as the right to use facilities, the right to an equal education, or the right to participate in government. 

rite

n. a formal or ceremonial act or procedure prescribed or customary in religious or other solemn use: rites of baptism; sacrificial rites.

a. prescribed form or manner governing the words or actions for a ceremony

b : the ceremonial practices of a church or group of churches

c: a ceremonial act or action 

CHICAGO, MAY 8, 2012— Rights are legal principles of freedom or entitlement. Rights are rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people under legal or constitutional principles. 

Rites are established ceremonial acts, usually religious, celebratory or solemn in nature. 

Which brings us to marriage. Marriage is a right and a rite. That’s not too confusing is it? 

Rights are legal. Rites are ceremonial. 

Marriage is a legal, social, cultural and religious institution. It is a right and a rite or ritual. Some say it takes two wrights to make a marriage. 

In most states marriage is legally defined as the union of one man and one woman. There are civil unions, which give couples the same basic rights as marriage without being legally married. They have rights with no rites. 

Which brings us to the continuing saga of same sex marriage and all the hoopla, outrage, disgust, and controversy surrounding it. 

This issue has been a thorn in the side of politicians, especially during this election cycle. They are for it before they are against it; they are against it before they are for it; they are evolving, devolving, and resolving. 

They are merely revolving; spinning like Whirling Dervishes. 

Politicians are doing what they do best; trying to make everyone happy without getting everyone angry. It is the greatest parlor trick in the world. 

This whole issue could be simplified by separating the rite of marriage from the right to marriage. 

The legal question is do people of the same sex have an inherent constitutional right to marry? It is purely a legal and constitutional question. 

Hypothetically, if gays are given the legal right to marry, are religious institutions obliged to perform the rite of marriage or recognize the marriage as valid according to their tenets? 

Absolutely not. No president, court, or legislature can order any religion to perform a rite, ritual, or ceremony.  

When you join a particular religious sect or denomination you agree to abide by their tenets of faith and morality. Religions are part of society. They are not society as a whole. 

If the president finally evolves in his position to support gay marriage and/or state legislatures move to legalize it, religious entities could just say no. There is no legal right to marriage under the auspices of religion. No one is entitled to religious rites or rituals. 

There is no right to a rite. 

This is not a novel concept. Catholics in many dioceses are not allowed marriage rites unless they take pre-marriage classes. Divorcees are not allowed to remarry in the Church unless their marriage(s) were annulled, a very long and expensive proposition. 

It is up to religious denominations to perform or not perform the rite of marriage. 

The Catholic Church can and has refused to marry people on a host of grounds. They have also refused funeral and burial rites. They are not alone. Other religious entities have their own specific rules, laws, or tenets regarding marriage and other rituals. Some are strict. Others are lenient. This is as it should be. 

Most religions are not democratic in nature. They set the rules and laws. You agree to believe, follow, and practice them. If you openly and publicly refuse you are not entitled to participate in the rites and rituals of the faith. 

There is nothing the government can do about this. There are long established precedents, patterns, and practices regarding religious rules and laws. If the government interfered, such as refusing to certify clergy unless they perform all marriages, there would be a major uproar, hue, and cry. 

The war on and of religion would be on. The battles would be ugly. 

The federal government should stay out of the marriage game altogether. Let the states or even counties decide based upon community standards. If people in communities feel strongly about the issue one way or another, then it is their decision. 

Eventually the Supreme Court will get involved with this. Like other moral, cultural, or social issues, their decision will please no one. 

Then, the real battles will begin. 

Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur.  He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys.  His opinions are his and his alone. 

pvbella@gmail.com 

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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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