General Question

aaronou's avatar

Is marriage a civil right?

Asked by aaronou (735points) August 1st, 2008

I am guessing most of the responses will be yes, but maybe I’ll be surprised. I am not necessarily asking if you think all people of all sexualities should be permitted to marry. I know that may tie in to some degree, but moreso I am simply saying is marriage, in and of itself, a civil right, or should we define it otherwise. I know that some people feel that marriage in no way should belong to the state. Perhaps many feel otherwise. I am just wanting to know arguments for and against marriage being a civil right. Also, we may need someone to give us a good definition of civil right.

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16 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

Marriage in the US had always been a civil matter. When it was set up that way centuries ago it was a unique concept. Before the church had possession over marriage rights. Without their blessing you couldn’t marry. By keeping the church out of state business, and vice versa, both are better off. This is why of all westernized, developed countries, religion is healthiest in America.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

Yeah, I pretty much agree with astrochuck, Especially in this country. (united states)

Poser's avatar

No, it’s a civil liberty.

Civil rights are defined by a government. Civil liberties are granted by our creator.

aaronou's avatar

Good distinction. I suppose then, those “certain inalienable rights” are not defined by the government as civil rights but rather as civil liberties.

Poser's avatar


tinyfaery's avatar

My parents gave me civil liberties? Cool.

Civil refers to the state or country; civil rights and liberties are defined differently in different cultures. Should everyone have the right to marry? Yes. I can’t imagine what it would be like to love someone so much and not have the ability to declare that love in front of family and friends, to not have it recognized as a legitimate union between two people who promise to love and care for each other, and to not be afforded the protections that a civil, legal document ensures. Wait. Oh yes I can.

lefteh's avatar

@tiny: And it’s not a good feeling.
To answer the question…is it? No. Should it be? Absolutely.

marinelife's avatar

I think this institution is trying to do two jobs and in these times it is not suited for it. Perhaps either or both aspects of it need to be renamed to help in separating them.

Our society affords certain benefits to people who marry. Those benefits are civil or legal. We should define precisely what is required of such a civil union. For example, could two friends form a civil and legal union? I think any citizen (or any two citizens) should be able to enter into this new arrangement, which I for the moment am calling a civil union. From that would accrue the benefits (more or less) of today: right of survivorship, legal next of kin status, right to “spousal” benefits from the partner’s employer, etc.

We should then separate and, preferably, rename religious sacraments around a couple bonding as a family. For the sake of this discussion, I will call that Pair Blessing. Various religions or whoever would be free to create their Pair Blessing sacraments and offer them to whoever their faith decreed.

All would-be couples would go through the process of civil union, which would be the primary event. Then, if they desired, they could also choose to have a Pair Blessing in their faith. The legal aspects of the current religious marriage ceremony would no longer be part of Pair Blessing. Pair Blessing would simply be a sacrament like, for example, confirmation or bar mitzah and have no legal status whatsoever.

I think these changes would go a long way to resolving the conflict and confusion and inequality of today.

tinyfaery's avatar

@marina I agree wholeheartedly. (Wow, imagine that.)

marinelife's avatar

@tf Yay! I knew we could find some common ground!

aaronou's avatar

Thoughtful answer Marina, thanks.

alive's avatar

well its not a human right. so i’d have to go with yes. marriage is a “civil right”

where civil right means something along the lines of a right that is granted and protected by the government in which one lives under. no government=no marriage certificate (just happy people!)

alive's avatar

p.s. many other countries, particularly Latin American countries, and some european ones, require that the civil union happen separatly and before the religious ceremony. The marriage is not recognized if it is only performed by the church. The U.S. is one of the few countries that allows these two ceremonies to happen simoultaneously.

(Funny how we still claim that we have “separation of church and state” in light of these little known facts!)

MollyMcGuire's avatar

The US Constitution guarantees the right to marry and raise a family.

SmartAZ's avatar

It is amazing how much ignorance there is on this subject. For starters, marriage is a natural condition. You don’t need a license for it, and the government does not have the power to refuse permission. However, there is a three way corporation between two people and the state which is also called marriage, and that is what people are concerned about.

Second, speaking of the three way corporation now, it is not gay marriage; it is same sex marriage. Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other. The law grants privileges to a union of man and woman, such as the man being presumed to be the father of all the woman’s babies. That makes for stable families and parental authority. If two people of the same sex are married and one makes a baby, what is the status of the other? Suddenly it is possible for a kid to have two, three, or four parents and there is no legal precedent to say who gets custody and who pays the bills in any situation.

Third, what is the definition of marriage? Traditionally the sex act is considered to be the defining moment, but there is no such distinctive ceremony between two of the same gender. There is precedent for cohabitation to define a marriage. Does that means room mates in college have to get a divorce at the end of every semester? Or that one room mate can be liable to support the other’s babies? What about marriage between corporations?

The answer to most or all of these questions is “The courts will decide.” That means some judge owns you, just because you thought you needed official permission. And there is no way to avoid it, once the legislation is passed. Same sex marriage means the courts own everybody.

SmartAZ's avatar

Right means straight up, square, correct, the strong arm, a legal privilege. The common meaning to all those things is strength. You have a right to life, but only if you are strong enough to cling to it. You have a right to the space you occupy, but only if you are strong enough to defend it. You have a right to own property, but only if you can guard it from all attackers. You may obtain the services of a champion to defend your rights, or create a government for that purpose, but of course the champion’s loyalty might become a concern, and governments always eventually renege on the contract.

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