A long time ago a song was written that said “Love is a many splendid thing…” and indeed it is. Much has been written as to why we fall in love with the person we fall in love with. Studies have even been done to try and explain the aspects of love. Much debate still takes place in defining this thing called love. Though we still grope to try and get our minds around this most powerful emotion, this awesome attraction between humans we can all agree that it does happen, sometimes without explanation or even intent. Sometimes even with someone that we never were drawn to initially. But it happens. The tug, the pull. We become obsessed with that other someone. We want to spend all of our time with that someone. Always they are in our mind. And we often say they are in our heart. Some people do tend to be more pragmatic in their approach to choosing a partner. They think it through very seriously. Is this person lazy or what kind of house can they provide for me. Clearly for some it is a matter of money and convenience. For others it is simply that strong tug at the heart. That “I just cant live without them” feeling. That no matter what the circumstances I want to be with them. In a tent or in a mansion- simply being with them is what matters. And yet those that feel the latter can never put into words quite well why they feel drawn to that certain someone. It just is.
These unions between people often lead to co-habitation. And in some cases to a desire to legalize their union with the state. For others though it is simply the love and trust they have for that certain someone that is important. They are the ones who truly trust their feeling and are secure in the relationship. It matter not how much money is involved or where they live.
In the history of mankind these unions have taken various forms. The views of what is proper, acceptable or not change first one way then another. At times reverting back to the way it once was. So it is quite interesting to see where we are today and where we were just a few short years back.
Such unions in recent times were never sanctioned by the state. The state had no part of such unions. And only if a person were “churched” was a religion involved. People would meet, fall in love, decide they wanted to form a marriage and at best the man would visit the woman’s father and seek permission to co-inhabit with the daughter. A ceremony may or may not take place. It was a celebration of this union. No contract with a state or any other government. Common Law it was called. For those who were churched the church would sanction the marriage. The union. And the couple would not be allowed to live together until a formal ceremony took place. Taking hold of ancient pagan practices and customs white gowns, wedding rings, flower girls and the like would be part of the ceremony.
Not until the middle of the 19th century did the state become involved in marriages, unions. Each state had as part of their constitution that it was unconstitutional to marry someone of another race. A white could not legally marry or co-inhabit with a Chinese or African- American and so forth. But then in the middle part of the 1800’s a few states began to license such inter-racial unions. For a fee permission could be bought via the state to overcome the constitutional prohibition. Then by the 1920’s all who sought such a union were required to acquire such permission from the state. Until just the last few short decades most states recognized Common Law marriages. Now most states no longer recognize such unions.
So now we have a brief history of marriage and the bigotry that created the marriage license. How does religion come into the picture? The ban against inter-racial marriage was pushed by Christianity. And in previous centuries the church not only held power over such union but they also acted over matters of estate. Wills and the dividing of property when someone died or unions fell apart. And of course the church was a man’s club. Women were to remain silent and men dominated to the point that even through the first half of the 20th century women were not allowed to own property or vote. In subjection, according to the dictates of the Christian Bible.
As the United States became even more secular the states took this control away from the churches. Probate courts were used then and now to manage the affairs of estate and marriage. But yet the religious right still lobbies to maintain their hold on the subjects of this free land. Refusing to marry certain couples, lobbying to prevent the legal marriage of certain parties. Spending countless dollars lobbying government and on advertising to sway the thoughts of the voter they seemingly will stop at nothing to relent their hold on marriage and unions. Money and energy that could be much better used to feed the poor, clothe the poor and house the poor- spent instead on lobbying to legislate their Christian based views on the rest of us.
So it is with marriage. Restrictions placed by ancient superstitions. Restrictions placed by the very institution who promoted slavery, denial of women’s right and the progress of medical science.
Marriage is a union formed in the heart. We can not claim to follow a god of love while denying love to others who happened to fall in love with someone that we do not approve of. You cannot stop such unions and it is time that all these unions be allowed the same privileges and protections of the law that is afforded to others.