Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On marriage-making (again):

On marriage-making (again):

You can look up my previous blog posts if you're the curious type and you want to see where I've been on this subject so far, but that really isn't necessary to understand what I'm on about today. (Let's get into the marriage-making business Here's the poop on "outside the church" weddings)

Our state laws concerning "who is qualified" to conduct marriage ceremonies needs overhaul.

Currently, in my own state of Arkansas, the officiants of marriage ceremonies fall into one of two categories: ordained clergy or elected/appointed court official. The requirements and steps for becoming either are quite different. And there's no in-between.

Thanks to having a smart friend to call on for answers, I've discovered that ordination as clergy can be surprisingly simple... anyone can become an ordained minister almost instantly. So if you're interested in performing weddings for your friends and family... for amusement or for profit or (heaven help us) for religious reasons, this is a way to go. Contrast this no-brainer-path to becoming a judge or a Justice of the Peace by either the public election process or by political appointment and you'll easily see a world of difference.

For purposes of the state, making marriages legal amounts to little more than hearing an oath of agreement stated by each of the involved parties and then watching each sign the dotted line on of the license. That's it. The rest is merely a matter of recording keeping for the county court filing-clerk to deal with. 'Put it in the books. It's a done deal.' By all that's reasonable, recognizing how simple the legalities are, one can quickly imagine that our marriage-making system could be just as quickly streamlined into a process less complex than issuing fishing licenses; and, if anyone can think up a valid reason for requiring either a clergyman or a judge to get involved in the question of who may or may not take his chances dipping a hooked-worm into a pond, please speak now or forever hold your peace.

So what's up with all the inefficiency of the marriage processing game we currently practice? Why in the world do we do it the way we do?

Can you say, "appeasement"?

Our current system is designed to satisfy a commonly popular notion - a church notion held high on a pedestal - that there is "sanctity" in marriage. "Sanctity"...???? wtf...????

Omitting all considerations of common law marriage (a can of worms of its own) our present system for marriage-making is maintained as a multi-step process for no better reason than to make it possible for religion to put its nose in the pie. If marring were streamlined to the point of efficiency we've established for obtaining a fishing license, the church would be left on the dock - no fishing for you today. They'd have no way to get the preacher's signature on any line of officialdom to be filed by the state. And this brings me back to my opening statement... Our state laws concerning "who is qualified" to conduct marriage ceremonies needs overhaul.

Why not cut to the chase..? If we're going to continue the practice of "officiating" publicly over the saying of marriage vows, shouldn't the list of acceptably qualified officiants be appended to include yet another category of official... a non-clergy / non-judge officiant? Shouldn't we make room for some sort of secular level witness? I think, "Yes," and I recommend that society ought to open its eyes to an already existing and well established set of prospective individuals, perfectly situated, to do the job starting right now: Public Notaries.

And as far as preachers go for officiating marriages... do we really need to appease their need to have their signatures on state issued licenses? Wouldn't it do as well for churches and preachers to do their own "sanctifying thingy" after the fact? It's not like it makes a whole heep of difference to the success of a marriage anyhow, is it?

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