Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2017-09-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Open To Thinking: Marriage (gay or other): What is it?
A recurring column
by Nick Patricca
2013-09-04

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


Our way of doing marriage today is seriously flawed. It is based on an unnecessary confusion of the civil and religious jurisdictions and on an unhealthy misunderstanding of the act of marriage itself.

Historically, in our Western civilization, marriage has been understood and practiced as a contract between two persons. The two persons must each have the capacity to make a contract, must have the explicit intention to marry, and must freely make that promise public in some manner. The spouses legally accomplish their marriage without the mediation or intervention of any outside authority whether civil or religious. The spouses marry each other: they are the ministers of the 'sacrament' in the religious ceremony; they are the agents of the marriage in the civil ceremony. The presence of outside authorities is solely for the purpose of witnessing the marriage. This historical understanding of marriage persisted until the modern era. Remnants of this understanding can be seen in the several forms of 'common-law' marriage recognized by various civil authorities today.

So, how did it come about that we find ourselves having to ask either a civil magistrate or a religious official or both for permission to marry.

Our ceremonies and legal forms for marriage come from ancient Rome. Marriage contracts were arranged by negotiations between families or between representatives of the persons to be married. Up until the time of Caesar Augustus (reigned: 27 B.C.E. to 14 C.E.) neither religious nor civil authorities were required for validation of the marriage. By custom and by law, the two persons (the spouses) married each other by their intention and by their public promise to each other.

In his revisions of the legal codes, the leges Iuliae, Augustus introduced the legal requirement that Roman citizens must marry in the presence of a representative of the emperor. This requirement was introduced to give the state a say in: 1) the disposition of property and other forms of wealth on the death of a spouse or the dissolution of a marriage, 2) who could marry whom (thus controlling who could or could not be a Roman citizen), 3) how a marriage could be dissolved (rarely), and 4) population control (the Empire desperately needed more babies: bachelors and childless couples were fined).

The Christian communities of the Roman Empire followed the traditions of their families or clans. There was no established or official form of Christian marriage. No church authority was required for a Christian marriage; and only Christians who were Roman citizens were required to have a civil authority present.

When the Roman Empire in the West started to fall apart, the Roman Church took over many of the functions of the state. In the case of marriage, the church supplied the civil representative required by Roman law. The Catholic Church did not employ its own rituals for marriage until the 12th century and did not establish as doctrine the sacramental character of marriage until the 16th century.

This confounding of church and state jurisdictions concerning marriage dominated Western polities until Napoleon promulgated his reform of the civil code which drew a sharp line between civil and religious authority. In the Napoleonic Code, the only type of marriage recognized by the state is a civil marriage, a contract conducted by the two spouses in the presence of a civil magistrate. Religious marriages are not recognized as valid for state or civil purposes.

The Napoleonic civil code, of course, was not implemented in the English-speaking world. In Great Britain, the confusion of civil and religious authority regarding marriage was greatly compounded by Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1753 which was the very first statutory legislation requiring a marriage ceremony. It required that every marriage must be performed in a church by an Anglican priest. (This legislation was introduced to counter the Scottish practice of 'private marriage' which required no banns and no official witnesses.)

After independence, many states of the USA required licenses primarily to prevent types of marriage judged to be inimical to the body politic, such as, bigamy, polygamy, interracial marriage, et alia.

Nonetheless, in all instances, whether civil or religious, the ancient principle has always been consistently maintained: that the two persons marry each other and that the civil and/or religious officials are merely witnesses to it. To this very day, the Canon Law of the Catholic Church declares the spouses to be the ministers of the sacrament of marriage and the priest or deacon to be the witness to the act.

It is time for us to enshrine this principle in our marriage laws and to separate the religious witness from the civil witness. It is time to get both the state and the church out of marriage as a business and as a contract they control and into their appropriate, supportive roles as trustworthy witnesses.

© nicholas.patricca@gmail.com

Nick Patricca is professor emeritus at Loyola University Chicago, president of Chicago Network and playwright emeritus at Victory Gardens Theater.


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

GUEST COLUMN Missing Millett: Her role in a coming-out 2017-09-13 - I never read Sexual Politics. That's the most famous work of Kate Millett, who died earlier this week. This text, feminist scholars say, ...


Gay News

VIEWS Hurricane Harvey's gay problem? 2017-09-13 - Since the intentional misreading of the Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis 19 in the Bible where the twin cities were supposedly destroyed ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN What can happen when a state goes to pot? 2017-09-06 - In recent years, many states, including Colorado, have legalized marijuana for medical purposes without much fanfare or controversy. However, when the citizens of ...


Gay News

VIEWPOINTS Illinois takes a big step forward with new vital records law 2017-09-06 - I am a proud transgender woman born and raised in Illinois. But that does not define me completely. I am also a runner, ...


Gay News

LETTERS Trump attacks marginalized communities 2017-09-06 - Dear Editor: President Trump recently made two announcements—and, as in the past, both are direct attacks on our communities. First, the ...


Gay News

VIEWPOINT Was the Resist March the 'All Lives Matter' movement of 2017? 2017-09-05 - WIn the age of social media and hashtags, sometimes it feels like we are all connected, or a part of one big group. ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN Expanding our definition of Pride? 2017-08-30 - In the city of Philadelphia, black and brown stripes were added to a rainbow flag, which was the catalyst to the debate of ...


Gay News

MOMBIAN Back-to-school time in the Trump era 2017-08-30 - My son is starting high school this fall, which I find hard to believe—it seems like just yesterday that I was driving him ...


Gay News

LETTERS Banning the ban 2017-08-30 - Dear editor: We will not tolerate the transgender military ban. What message does it send to our armed forces and our country ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN Standing Up 2017-08-23 - "Stand up for yourself, but not against others." My loving and talented girlfriend quoted that the other night in response to me writing ...


 



Copyright © 2017 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.