State should get out of 'matrimony' business

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, December 15, 2006

I happened across my decades-old Alaska marriage certificate the other day. It states my husband and I were "united by me (the state marriage commissioner) in holy matrimony." The state office in charge of marriage certificates confirmed that the certificates still include that language. Doesn't conducting religious ceremonies and issuing religious certificates seem an odd role for the state? Would our courts find the state has an interest in such religious conduct when merely facilitating domestic partnership contracts would suffice?

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The tiresome conflict between constitutional equal protection versus religion-based unequal protection in marriage matters would best be solved by the state getting out of the "holy matrimony" business altogether. The state has no legitimate interest in conducting religious processes. The state, however, does maintain a legitimate interest in recognizing and protecting the rights and investments of couples in domestic partnerships. So, rather than continuing to practice religion with courthouse ceremonies and issuance of certificates of "holy matrimony," the State of Alaska should instead offer domestic partnership contracts to all couples who want to commit themselves to such a legally recognized and binding relationship. To accommodate couples wanting a religious blessing on their contract, they may privately arrange for a supplemental religious ceremony and nonbinding certification by any religious entity willing to abide the couple's particular sexual arrangements.

Barbara McDaniel


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