Most people live together before they're married. Friends will be aghast if a couple decides to marry without living together first. "What's the matter with you?! You should try it before you make the commitment!" A fuddy-duddy asks, "So then what's the point of marriage?" Finally Gary noticed that when his co-workers get married, it's often a signal that they're ready to have a baby. There's often a sense that they should marry before they begin raising a family.
So, what is marriage anyway?
No, I don't mean the marriage that everybody knew when I was a little girl. I don't mean the marriage that we saw in the Bible or in history books or in literature. I mean, what is marriage now, today, in America, after the Supreme Court ruling on "marriage equality"?
Recently, Americans see marriage as having to do with romance and companionship. For much of history, through most cultures, marriage has been (sociologically) more about children having a stable home with Mom and Dad. From a theological viewpoint, marriage reflected the image of God (Gen 1).
So now we have a legal status of marriage which provides financial and legal and social benefits. This marriage is currently available to any two people.
Christians who marry at the courthouse will probably still desire to have their union sanctified by the word of God and prayer. This is no different from having the pastor minister to a family when a baby is born, or when Grandma dies, or when Junior goes off to the military. When big events occur in life, we pray and we listen to God's word and we sing hymns and we seek the Lord's blessing. That will continue for Christians who marry, even if they can no longer marry in the church.
The thing I've been wondering is:
Is there a reason Christian couples should seek a legal-marriage in addition to ... uh ... well ... I don't know what to call it. Can they enter into matrimony without the legal contract that is offered by the State? Obviously, the State doesn't mind people living together apart from legal-marriage. It's the Church that has been objecting to people living together without legal-marriage, calling people to repentance for their adultery. But now that the definition of marriage is officially changed, will it still matter? Can there be marriage-before-God (and before family and society) without having the marriage legally sanctioned? Maybe not. Maybe so. I don't know.
My friend Cheryl pointed out an article by Kate Ashford that listed some advantages of being legally married instead of merely being in a domestic partnership. POA's and wills can arrange for partners to have many benefits that normally come to legally-married folks. But that can't cover everything:
~ No gift taxes on large monetary gifts to a spouse.
~ Upon death, an IRA can be rolled over to the spouse.
~ Spouses can receive survivor benefits from pensions or SocSec.
Also, the wife can change her name via marriage without petitioning the court for a name change.
So even if there are no theological reasons to be married by an agent of the State (although there may be! I'm still wondering about this ...) there are still some practical reasons to go to the courthouse for a wedding license.