Wednesday, April 21, 2004

weddings are a civil union

Some talk in New Zealand about a civil union legislation, to give same sex marriages full legal equality. I did a radio rant on the top; arguing weddings are a civil union anyhow, under 3 headings.

great theatre
a civil process of love
a wedding is good ritual

Civil union Bill proposes a new type of relationship model for New Zealand. According to their promotional website, for the first time ever, it will enable same-sex couples access to full legal equality.

Apparently there are thousands of different-sex and same-sex couples are waiting for an alternative to marriage, needing legal protection and security.

Proposed Civil union Bill will do this by granting registered civil union couples recognition and relationship rights which are equal to marriage.

I am sure there is going top be a lot of discussion about this Civil Union Bill. I am sure discussion will include the need for justice, to protect the rights of people. I am sure there will be a lot of talk about morals, the need to uphold marriage.

Alongside the talk of justice and morality, there needs to be talk about the societal implications of marriage.

You see, I spoke at a friends wedding on Saturday.
A lovely occasion. A very Christian wedding, wonderfully planned.
Great fun.

And I have concluded that weddings, the marriage ceremony, is in fact a civil union.

Firstly, weddings are a civil union because they are great theatre.

The hush as the wedding party arrives.
(The Saturday wedding came in old VW Kombi vans)

Everyone standing,
the entrance music,
the first look at the bridesmaids,
and finally the entry of the beautiful bride.

This is not a slop in and sit down with feet up on the café table.

This is high drama.
This parade reminds us how important this occasion is.

The parade that starts the wedding ceremony reminds the gathered audience, the civil society, that something important is about to happen.

Secondly, weddings are a civil process of love.
We live in a world of bad news. Every night we see it on TV.

And then you get those vows.
I, the groom, take you to be my wife, to love for ever.
The idealism. The commitment.

No one in their right mind makes such vows to a stranger.

And so our civil society has a process in which love can grow. Its called dating and engagement.

As a society we have a number of stages through which commitments can process.

The wedding is the end of a well-worked societal or civil process.

Thirdly, a wedding is good ritual.

By “good ritual” I mean that a wedding service reminds our society of a change of relationship.

Because of a wedding, two people will suddenly move in.
They will become one, one address, one phone number, one life.

And so a whole lot of relationships must change.
Separate friends suddenly have to treat two people as one,
suddenly parents have to surrender their main parenting task.

And so a wedding ceremony demands a major negotiation of civil relationships.

How does a society negotiate these changes?
Well, you throw a wedding.
You gather all your friends and family together.
Together as a society, witness this change of relationship.

After a wedding, if the parents come to take bride or groom home at the end of the evening, we all go, No, no, no.

Why? Because we as a society have witnessed a major change of relationship.

So a wedding is a civil union.
It acts in society to notify a change of relationships.

The Civil Union bill is before Parliament.
It will attract a lot of attention in the media.

It will focus on moral issues – the historical and theological influence of marriage in our society.

It will focus on justice issues – how to protect and safeguard the rights of those in relationships?

It will focus on family issues – what is the best place to raise children?

Alongside moral, justice and family issues, we must face the societal issues.
That a wedding ceremony is a civil union.

It allows us as a society to participate in high drama.
It allows us to engage in a process of building commitment.
It allows us as a society to change relationships

Supporters of civil union and
Applauders of tradition marriage
need to get their heads not only around moral and legal issues.
They must consider that weddings are a civil union.

Posted by steve at 07:57 AM


  1. spot on, Steve. The privatisation of marriage has been its downfall. Here’s to civil, and societal unions. And then let’s pronounce GOd’s blessing upon them.

    Comment by maggi — April 21, 2004 @ 6:11 pm

  2. What’s the difference betwen a wedding and a marriage – and how does civil unions fit into that?

    Why can’t you protect the rights of unmarried couples without civil unions – ie: the Omnibus bill.

    You talk about a bride and a groom. Does a wedding need a bride and a groom?

    Finally, weddings may be civil unions, but are all civil unions weddings? Do you think any two people should marry?

    Interested in your thoughts..

    Comment by dave — April 21, 2004 @ 8:56 pm

  3. This is great stuff Steve! Food for thought!

    Comment by Conrad — April 22, 2004 @ 3:52 pm

  4. dave,
    the blog post emerged out of a particular context and the words bride and
    groom reflect that context.

    as for the rest of these questions they feel a bit like a “wrestlers” hold –
    an attempt to pin someone in a particular position. Or am I misreading

    Comment by steve — April 22, 2004 @ 8:36 pm

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