While Republicans long have decried the "nanny state" of liberal social safety nets, some House Democrats now complain about the GOP meddling into highly personal decisions they say are best left to individuals.
Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said that when he married a woman who's Catholic, he readily agreed to participate in the church's "engaged encounter" class and parenting classes tied to his children's baptisms.
"I just don't think that's something the government ought to coerce," Coleman said. "It's truly getting into someone's marriage bed. It's the state going beyond what I think its role is and intervening or coercing or penalizing someone who's seeking to get married."
And that's as it should be. The Catholic Church has a vested interest in seeing the marriages it sanctions succeed. Marriage isn't just a celebration to the Church, it's a sacrament, and it is not to be undertaken lightly. If you want to get married in the Catholic Church, or in any other faith, you have to agree to and abide by their rules.
Whether you agree to those rules or not, there is a second aspect to one's marriage, and that's the civil aspect. At its heart, that's a legal arrangement between two people in which certain default benefits are conferred; for example, Tiffany is now defined as my next of kin, in any situation where that question might arise and in which we haven't explicitly set it by other means. That little piece of paper we got from the Harris County Clerk's office brought with it rights and responsibilities for each of us. But it had no bearing on the church part of the equation.
I'm sure if I did a thorough search on everything that was said and done as Texas debated and then passed the Double Secret Illegal Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment of 2005, I'd find plenty of examples of politicians like Warren Chisum waxing poetically on the sanctity of marriage (this one is amusing if not on point). When they did, it was always apparent that they were conflating the ecumenical rite of marriage, for which any church has always had the right to choose who it does and does not bless, regardless of what the laws of the State of Texas may be, and the civil arrangement, which is just a contract between two consenting adults. I guess the lesson we take away from yesterday's House vote is that some people still haven't figured out the distinction. In doing so, it's heartening to see that they have aroused the ire of some actual conservatives, who, like me, don't understand why the state needs to duplicate the role of the church. I didn't understand it back in 2005 either, and would have appreciated a little more support from folks like them back then (there were some honorable exceptions), but I'll take what I can get. I should also note that arguments made yesterday about no-fault divorce and "protecting" children were also made by the proponents of the Double Secret Illegal Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment. In other words, we were warned.
One hopes that the Senate will have better things to do than play along with this nonsense (though with David Dewhurst's gubernatorial pandering, you never know). One also wonders what will be next for Chisum and his band of merry marriage meddlers. I do not look forward to finding out.Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 12, 2007 to That's our Lege