Coming to terms with being human.


The State Should Never Have Let Me Marry

The government needs to get out of the marriage game. I keep reading articles about gay marriage. There’'s the it'’s about rights side and the it’'s going to destroy civilization angle. Meanwhile, the State is caught in the middle. So here comes my crazy solution. The government should throw everyone a curve ball and stop handing out marriage licenses to anyone.
I am not talking about shoving the problem down a level to state governments. I mean drop the whole concept. The State doesn’t need marriage. The term is a historical accident. Back when the State and the Church were buddies they tended to share terminology. But as any good semanticist knows, just because you use the same word it doesn'’t follow that you mean the same thing.
When the Church says marriage, it'’s speaking of the sacred. It'’s a God thing. In Christianity, particularly, marriage symbolizes Jesus’ union with the Church. Potent symbolism to be sure!
The State, however, just needs a legal category that makes division of rights and property clear. Marriage fit that bill and was culturally acceptable; so marriage became the term of shared property rights. Over time, non-marriage property issues sprouted up. Two brothers living together wanted to be sure they could make legal decisions for each other. What to do? Civil-union contracts uncomplicated this potential mess. All the precedents that come with the marriage contract are also bound into the civil-union.

The State could give a damn about its citizen’s social beliefs about marriage. It just requires clear cut laws for property, medical decisions, child custody, and the like. The gay rights crowd mainly wants just that, equal rights. The wish for marriage licenses over civil-union contracts rests in the social perception of the term. The pro-family people don'’t care at all about rights. Their position is purely about society. By ditching the power to decide who is married, the government will solve the legal concerns of citizenship and leave the social stuff to cultural institutions.
It could work like this. Any two individuals that want to join their lives legally would apply for a civil-union contract. Maybe it’'s a one size fits all contract. Or the State could provide various types. One covers property rights only. Another solves child custody issues, etc… Check all boxes that apply. Meanwhile, marriages are held by churches, mosques, temples, the P.T.A., whoever wants too. These marriages would mean nothing legally. They would only have the social value given them by the married couple and the people they care about. Do societal disagreements suddenly dissolve? No. They do move into the cultural arena, leaving the government out of it.
The United States government is self-defined as separate from religion. Unfortunately, key religious terms came along for the ride. It is past time to divest church terms from the church-free zone that is the State.
Feel free to pass this idea along. Usually I argue just to feel the adrenaline. I think this idea is a workable solution to a problem that isn't going away.


  • At 3:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'd say you're in good company, C.S. Lewis argues similarly in Mere Christianity (about 2/3 into the book) that there should be "marriage" governed by the state and marriage governed by the church.

  • At 3:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


    (heh heh... maybe I should just get a blog too)


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