I’m an unmarried man in the state of Ohio.  Regardless of my religious beliefs or affiliation, if I want to get married, I have no choice but to rely on the government to make it happen.  In Ohio, as in most states, marriage is a designation granted by the government after paying the appropriate amount of money, NOT a religious arrangement.

If marriage was ever considered a partnership between one man and one woman and the Church had control over such an arrangement, then I would simply find a woman (with her consent), walk into a church, find a priest, minister, preacher, and, after they agreed that our relationship was worthy of their blessing, get married.  If marriage was solely grounded in religion, then that simple act would result in the official marriage of me and my wife by anyone and everyone around the world.

Of course, nothing could be further from reality.

Marriage in 2013 is regulated by the government, not the church, so traditional religious conventions about marriage are irrelevant regardless of your personal religious beliefs about the “true” definition of the term.

If you want to get married these days it’s all about buying permission from the government.

First, any individual who wishes to be officially recognized to perform a marriage must get licensed by the government.  In Ohio, the law reads as such:

Only an ordained or licensed officiant who is registered with the Secretary of the State of Ohio, a judge, a mayor, or the Superintendent of the State School for the Deaf may solemnize a marriage.

To become a licensed officiant (i.e., minister), you must complete the application and pay the Secretary of State a fee of $10.  Others who are representatives of the government (e.g., mayors, judges) don’t have to pay that fee.

Next, you must complete the application for the county in which you live.  Since I live in Franklin County, I would be required to apply to and pay the Franklin County Probate Court $50 in “cash only”.  In addition, my future spouse and I would need to appear in person, providing valid photo identification and provide our social security numbers (both government-issued forms of identification).

If either of us has been married previously, we must also provide the court with:

“…a certified copy of the most recent divorce/annulment/dissolution decree along with case numbers/dates/locations (county/state/country) of all previous marriages, names of previous spouses and all current minor children.”

Copies of separation documents cost additional fees and must be certified by the respective governmental entities where the divorce/dissolution occurred.  Just as official American marriages are the property of the government, so are the official separations a matter that are handled by the court (at no small price, I might add).

Finally, after our state-controlled marriage occurs, we will need to pay the Franklin County Probate Court an additional $2.00 for each government-certified copy that proves that our marriage is legitimate – the documentation we will need to provide our respective employers and that allows us to jointly file our taxes with the IRS – another governmental organization.

If my future wife and I agreed, we could simply avoid setting foot in a church completely and have a judge unite us in a traditional, governmentally-recognized union. Face the facts: marriage in America is a designation granted by the government, not bestowed upon us by a church.

The process of being married by the government is the true case for every marriage that occurs in our country.  If you’re “married” in a union that your minister ordained, but you don’t have the official government papers that certify your “marriage”, then you’re NOT MARRIED in America.  Try to get workplace benefits, hospital visitation rights, tax breaks, any type of official court decision, etc., without your official state papers and you’ll get summarily dismissed and reminded that you’re not married until the government says so.

Here in Ohio, our government controls marriage through Article IV of the State Constitution, an article titled “Miscellaneous”, which declares:

Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.

It may be true that such language was adopted by a majority vote, but haven’t all laws that ignore minority populations been adopted in such a fashion only to be overturned later by a more informed majority population?  Our history is littered with laws that restricted the rights of minority groups that were later discarded when we recognized that no American has “more rights” than their neighbor.

Quite simply, denying Marriage Equality isn‘t about protecting a religious institution.  Granting Marriage Equality is about recognizing the rights of taxpaying American citizens by correcting uncivil laws that are keeping the rights to marriage unjust and unequal.

At a time when so many Americans want to scream about violations of 1st amendment and 2nd amendment rights, why are those same individuals so eager to ignore the 14th amendment rights that serve ALL Americans?

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It’s time.

Evangelize!
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  • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

    Nice summary, Greg. The government regulates marriage. People are free to have a church ceremony but it is the license that matters. I was a minister for 25 years and married a lot of couples. I signed every license before the marriage. These couples were married before they ever said I do. My marrying power came not from the church but the state. At the end of the ceremony I said, by the power vested in me by the state of Ohio I pronounce you husband and wife. Pretty well sums up what marriage entails in the state of Ohio.

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