Why not call it conjugality?

If there is one thing that sets the United States apart from most of the industrialized world, it is the dominance of religion in American life. So when there are conflictive issues between religious and secular views, we become center stage to those around the world who are both curious and, at times, also incredulous to the way we act.

Now that the Supreme Court has given its ruling on gay rights, and the issue of “gay marriages” is front and center, the country seems to have engaged not in discussion but in battle. Many religious people are taking up arms and building barricades. To such extremes that even the President is calling for congressional action to bring about a constitutional amendment to safeguard “marriage” from what many consider impure and profane.

Perhaps our executive and legislative leaders should take note that ours is a democratic, secular society… not a theocracy, like so many nations that we point the finger to, and repudiate. And in our secular, democratic nation there should be nothing illicit in unions between committed, consenting adults.

Just what is the argument, then? Simply put, whether the issue of a homosexual union is a question of morality, legality or both. Since we are a nation of laws, not of morals, the answer comes in plain view. Let us not for a moment confuse or intermingle politics, morals and religion.

Religious institutions and moralistic organizations have every right to pronounce themselves on any issue which has moral or political implications. However, they cannot impose a moral view over a legal one. Nor should they exhort followers, no matter how large their numbers, to help create legislation which would de-facto help abolish or diminish our basic democratic rights, be them expressed or implied in our sacred Bill of Rights.

It might help us all to tone down the discussion, and see the legalization of a union between homosexual couples for what it really is. It should not be viewed as a platform from which to demand any expressed moral right, or some form of societal approval for consensual behavior of a non-traditional sort. It is a convenient way for society to deal with the granting and distribution of equitable benefits and privileges, as determined by the consent of the people via established laws. Sociological and economic reasons should be the pillars to this union, nothing else.

But having accepted the legality of the union between consenting adult homosexuals, government, as society’s representative, should not reach any farther and grant something that it is not theirs to grant. To call this union marriage, matrimony or wedlock is taking this issue a step which too many people would consider too far reaching and totally unnecessary.

Institutionally, or traditionally, those terms have been reserved or oriented for the act or union which leads to the reproduction of the human species, and also the passing of knowledge and values to the progenies. An anthropological, not a religious issue. Although we could call any grouping of people, a family, if we so desire, it warrants consideration that we reserve the words of marriage and matrimony for a relationship oriented to procreation, even if such procreation is not monogamous, or is communal in nature.

Moral or amoral, relationships between homosexuals should receive complete and unequivocal societal protection, even with an overwhelming majority denying behavioral support. That is our democratic, secular system of government. At the same time society, through government, should not be allowed to grant in an impromptu fashion what only mores and traditions can truly grant. Marriage, matrimony and wedlock have all been well defined, not just in religious, but in secular circles. To redefine their meaning is confusing under the best of conditions, and an imposition of the few over the many in the worst of cases.

Why not call a union between homosexuals just that, a homosexual union? Or, if we want to keep the term bureaucratically and otherwise simple, why not call it conjugality? It defines the relationship well; it is not a pejorative noun, and most important of all… it does not usurp the words that belong to other established unions; not better unions or worse unions, just other unions. (I have discarded the use of connubiality as an option, guessing it to be more prone to misunderstanding.)

Gay people contemplating a legal union could feel more pride on entering the state of conjugality, instead of marriage… while finding less resentment among those who now condemn their conduct, within or outside a homosexual loving and committed union.

Note: This is a reprint of the column dated 08-03-03. The article which appeared after the ruling of the Supreme Court in late July 2003 is just as timely today given the current events taking place in San Francisco and New Mexico.