DEAR READERS: Since I printed the letter from "Deceived in Arizona" (Nov. 30), I have learned that not only individuals, but also some churches feel so strongly about separating the legal aspect of marriage from the religious that they have voted to only "bless unions," and their clergy no longer sign marriage licenses. Among them are member churches of the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian-Universalists and the Quakers. Instead, the model they follow is the one used in Europe, in which couples go to a courthouse to register their marriage, and then to a church or synagogue for a religious ceremony. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: In this day and age, especially with jobs so scarce, a lot of young couples are finding that by becoming legally married they disqualify themselves from things like prenatal care, health care for their children and government assistance programs. In order to survive, many couples now opt to have the ceremony without the paperwork.
Another idea gaining in popularity is that unless everyone in this country has equal rights for marriage, no one should be getting married. Several couples I know have married without the paperwork because they regard the alternative the same as sitting at a segregated lunch counter, and they are unwilling to support segregation.
Many people feel there is a blatant disregard for separation of church and state and that "legal" marriages are not at all legal, but an example of government recognizing those with faith while disregarding those who have a different point of view on what family is. -- REV. M.N.R. IN NEW YORK
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were married by a minister, but without a marriage license because his financial problems could have adversely affected me. Because we did want to commit to each other, we called it a "Ceremony of Commitment." We view ourselves as being married, and I have a ring.
When the ceremony was held, everyone knew what was going on. We requested no gifts, but many people still brought them. Because we were honest, some of the members of my church have turned against me and refuse to talk to me. They acknowledge my granddaughter and will talk to her while I am standing there watching, but will not say a word to me.
The way the couple in the letter you published handled it wasn't fair to their families and guests. They should have been upfront about it, which would have given everyone the right to make their own decision about whether to attend. I see nothing wrong with being married in the eyes of God. When the Bible was written, did they have marriage licenses then? -- REBECCA IN SUNNYVALE, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: Increasing numbers of us reject licenses from the state in favor of honoring God's word -- and it's not just old people who want to hang onto welfare benefits.
Nowhere in the Bible does a servant of God ask permission from the government to marry. The Father is more than good enough. And while there are references to "what God has joined together," there is no similar praise for what Caesar has blessed.
The state may want to control and even redefine marriage. But a covenant before God, and witnesses, has been more than good enough for His people throughout most of history, and it has worked for my house for more than 30 years. -- GOD IS OUR WITNESS IN COLORADO