Marriages need

court sanction

The Rev. John Edgar misses the point entirely ("Can't divorce marriage, religion," letter, Monday). He bases his argument against gay marriage on the straw man issues of procreation and children's wishes. This has nothing to do with the civil and legal rights bestowed upon a couple by way of marriage.

The combination of marriage with religion is purely an option, as atheists can marry and have the same legal rights as a religious couple. And we don't refer to their marriage as an "atheist marriage," either.

Even with a church wedding, the minister acts as an agent of the state ("By the power vested in me by the State of Whichever..."), and the couple is not technically married until the signed marriage certificate is filed in the local courthouse.

The irrelevance of religion to marriage is also telling in how marriages are dissolved: no one returns to his or her church for a "divorce ceremony." Attorneys are hired, and the couple goes to the courts.

I also find it interesting that all three of the historic figures that Rev. Edgar invokes were leaders who were struggling for civil liberties and equal rights for all people. It is time that gay couples are afforded the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

Jay Holland

Marlton

U.S. should take

its own energy path

In trying to avoid a dystopian "New International Economic Order," Western democracies in general and Charles Krauthammer in particular energetically ignore an option that has always been open to the United States ("Today's reds are the greens," Monday). That option would be to undertake a program to replace carbon-based energy production with environmentally friendly, nonpolluting energy production.

There has never been any question that the United States could take the lead in this project, as our technology is second to none.

Despite very determined and energetic attempts to prove that global warming isn't real by hyping stolen e-mails from the East Anglia Climate Research Unit, opponents have failed to show that just continuing on as we are is a serious or practical option for the Western democracies.

Richmond L Gardner

Horsham

Put everyone

on Medicare

Health-care reform does not have to be so hard. It works like any other insurance. When you have a large enough pool of people, the risk is spread out between, in this case, those who consume a lot of health care and those who do not. It's the way all insurance works.

We have a public option already: Medicare. So just require everyone to sign up. We already require people to carry car insurance if they want to drive. We all pay Social Security insurance if we want to work. And we all pay for the uninsureds' health care now.

Dan Stein

Souderton

Prison increase

wrong for Pa.

This month the Department of Justice released its 2007-2008 statistics. The verdict? Pennsylvania leads the nation with a 9.1 percent increase in the number of people behind bars, as reported last week ("Pennsylvania has biggest rise in prisoners," Dec. 9).

This drastic increase in Pennsylvania's prison population was matched with a 10 percent increase in the state Department of Corrections budget, an increase that got no debate during our legislature's budget standstill, while health, education, and many state-funded programs were all on the chopping block.

The logic seems to make sense: more people behind bars means fewer people committing crimes in our communities. But in practice, the reverse can actually be true. Take New York as an example. From 2007-2008, it had 3.6 percent fewer people in prison, with an overall reduction in crime rate, saving the state a bundle.

Imagine if Pennsylvania had taken that 10 percent increase in the Department of Corrections budget and put it into reentry programs. Then, the 90 percent of inmates who will be released at some point might have the support they need to stay home.

Laura McTighe

Codirector

Institute for Community Justice

Philadelphia