Greg Koukl - Can Marriage Be Divided into Secular and Religious Institutions?

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason answers the question, "Can marriage be divided into religious and secular institutions as a solution to the same-sex marriage debate?"

Some have offered the suggestion that marriage can be divided into a secular institution and a religious institution in order to help broker the conflict between those who have different opinions regarding same-sex marriage. I think that that’s possible to do, but I think that it should have the opposite application than a lot of people who are suggesting it. 

They suggest that the government should be neutral and should provide licenses for both kinds of relationships and then, if people have religious concerns, then they don’t have to participate in that—they can do whatever they want and not provide that. I think it’s just the opposite.

Think about what the role of government is. The government uses power to accomplish a particular end. In this case, they are using their authority to privilege certain kinds of relationships and to regulate those relationships for a purpose that the state deems important to the state. 

So what is that? What is the policy concern as far as the state? Why do they give licenses to heterosexual unions? I promise you, if heterosexual unions, as a rule, as a group, and by nature did not produce the next generation, they wouldn’t care if children weren’t involved—in principle at least they wouldn’t care. 

Now in the case of same-sex unions, that isn’t a factor so that government should have a laissez faire attitude—they can be hands off. Which means, then, that the government should pass laws pertaining to specific policy concerns that relate to the proper functioning of the culture. That would mean, in this case, they would continue to license long-term, monogamous heterosexual unions for the reasons I just gave you. 

If it turns out that religious organizations, for whatever reason, want to solemnize a same-sex union, they should be free to do that if they like. In fact, they are doing that now. So why don’t we just keep the status quo? I’ll tell you why. This isn’t about equality. The groups aren’t equal in regard to policy concerns; that is, same-sex unions are different from heterosexual unions. This is an attempt, really, to get the state to declare, officially and legally, that there is no difference between same-sex unions and heterosexual unions. This is just false when it touches the policy issue. 

So, this is a fair strategy. I don’t mind us pursuing this particular strategy. In fact, that’s the policy we are facing right now: the government intervenes with policy concerns in areas that matter to the government; that is, stabilizing monogamous, long-term relationships because as a rule, as a group, and by nature, they produce the next generation—they are the foundation stones of society. ‘The rest of you do whatever you want. You want to walk down the aisle in your church and have that particular union, whatever it happens to be, celebrate it by your local community, fine.’ I think that’s a great idea but that means we don’t change anything we’re already doing.

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Greg Koukl