Resources Menu Links

Same Sex Marriage - Terminology by Mary

Note: This "letter to the editor" is in response to an article in the Kingston Whig-Standard, Kingston, ON, Canada suggesting that same-sex marriage have a different name such as "civil union". 

"Re Whig Article "Report calls for new terms to describe same-sex unions". . . . "This helps avoid potential confusion over whether the message is talking about marriage by the state versus religious marriage." 

I believe this speaks to the foundation of the controversy.  Terminology is of the essence, but equality is also our Canadian heritage, so perhaps a greater change is necessary to accommodate the differences between church and state. 

When I was married, almost 40 years ago, I had no faith but I did go to church, so the banns were read and that resulted in my marriage being legalized by the province. There has always been a crossover between church and state on this issue. 

As a person without a faith, the religious aspect of my marriage held no significance for me at the time, although I was married in a church. What was important to me was the legality of the marriage, and it was the "traditional thing to do". I wanted a big wedding with all the trappings, just as many people do today. 

I believe that many people get "Married" in a church now, not because it has anything to do with a religious experience, but because, up until now, there has not been a good alternative. The term "Civil Union" has not been part of our everyday vocabulary, and currently it does not carry the same recognition or respect as the term "Marriage". 

Now, as a person of faith, "Marriage" in the church is of utmost importance to me, so I suggest that we make the distinction for both homosexual AND heterosexual couples. I believe that instead of "Marriage" we should now require ALL partnerships to be performed as "Civil Unions" by the state/province, NOT by ministers/priests/rabbis! At this time, it would be possible to have all the trappings of the ceremony without the religious component, if the couple wishes. The "Civil Union" could be followed by a religious service, "Marriage" if they wish on another day. 

"Civil Unions" would be for the legalities, including all the benefits, which now accompany "current traditional marriage". "Marriage" or "Holy Union" would then be intentionally for the religious aspect for those who wish it, both gay and straight. 

Those who choose not to have a religious service should not have their relationship any less valued than any other legal union by society. 

This clearly separates church and state and should eliminate much of the controversy of how children will be regarded as they grow up. It would give ALL the legal benefits and respect of a committed relationship to ALL people regardless of gender, but it would allow all churches the option of "Marriage" within their own belief system. 

We are a changing society. Canada is known as a country which encourages diversity, and welcomes people of other cultures and faith traditions. Perhaps it is time to prepare for our ever-burgeoning population with open arms and with the reputation of love and acceptance for ALL.


by Mary Pearson
May 11, 2004
(Before Same-Sex Marriage Became Legal in Canada)