Never did it occur to me that this would have to be pointed out, but I was arguing with someone about equal marriage rights on another blog, and an anti-gay commenter suggested that, were marriage equality to be the law of the land, the laws would have to be “rewritten” and that his/her marriage would now be simply a “civil marriage,” instead of a “marriage.”

Once I picked my jaw up off the ground, a question dawned on me: Do these people, these “traditional marriage” advocates, somehow think that the government is recognizing their religious marriage? Do they think that the government is granting over a thousand rights and responsibilities because of the ceremony they had in a church?

If so, civics education in the United States is far more of a failure than I previously thought.

A primer, for anyone who is unclear on what should be painfully obvious: As current federal law stands, any consenting man and woman may marry (even if they’re first cousins in some states!), and the government recognizes that based on the signed marriage license. If they choose to have a religious ceremony, it’s not the ceremony that makes the marriage official, it’s the signature on the license, and last time I checked, people’s various conceptions of God aren’t given the power to act as agents of the state! In five states, and soon in the District of Columbia, same-sex couples are included in this system, though not recognized at the federal level.

I truly hope that this is not a revelation and that the majority of anti-gay people understand this, but I suppose it’s always good to make sure. You really never know what set of “facts” or what mangled conception of reality people are working with.