In response to Alan Levin’s Jan. 22 letter, I would like to clarify for him and many other confused U.S. citizens, the difference between civil and religious marriage. I had a religious marriage, performed by a rabbi, licensed to marry in New York state. In the United States, most clerics (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) have obtained certification from the state to perform legal marriages. Within each religion, there are limitations as to whom a cleric will agree to marry. They have that right.
There are many officials who have the legal right to marry couples under state law who have no connection with any religion, including clerks in the marriage license bureau. Couples may choose to have a legal marriage by going either to a licensed official or to a cleric. The licensed official has no choice but to officiate in marrying any couple who has filed the appropriate civil papers. Any religious cleric may refuse to marry a couple, based on his/her beliefs.
A civil union is not marriage. No matter how many rights it gives those who are “unionized,” it is still not marriage. I am not gay, but my son and his significant other of 24 years are. They are “unionized.” You try to explain to whoever is questioning your spousal relationship that your civil union is the same as marriage. Maybe you feel unsafe coming out at work, but want/need the offered health insurance. How do you apply for it, without revealing that you are gay?
Marriage is a civil right. Any couple who wants it is entitled to it.