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April 6, 2009

Get Government Out of All Marriage


Last week saw yet another instance of judges choosing to supersede the will of the American people, this time by deciding that the 152-year old constitution of Iowa suddenly guaranteed a right to gay marriage that was unimaginable even a few decades ago.


According to the Des Moines Register, the gay rights group that financed the court battle “had hoped to use a court victory to demonstrate acceptance of same-sex marriage in heartland America.”


How ironic that a “court victory” is now being used to show that “heartland America” is in agreement with the gay agenda, particularly when gay marriage was pursued in the judicial branch precisely because heartland America refused to accept it.


The fact is that a significant majority of Americans is opposed to gay marriage. Even Californians recently voted to overturn another judicial decision to force gay marriage upon the state.


With that said, although the popular will appears to be reflected in the dominant status quo, the role of government in marriage is not one that America should continue to embrace. It does and will inevitably result in arbitrary value judgments by government in marriage-related debates, a practice that is simply unsustainable. Why should government have the function of operating a private institution called “marriage,” and deal with its accompanying controversies, including its very definition, which some religions can’t even sort out?


The necessary alternative is evident: Government has no business being in the marriage business at all, straight or gay, monogamous or polygamous. Government should only enforce contracts, but should not and cannot otherwise give value to the most private and sacred of ceremonies and relationships.


In other words, I don’t need some bureaucrat’s stamp to tell me that I’m married. As a religious Catholic, all I need is my priest. And although, say, gay couples can have their own relationships and call them marriages, I don’t have to recognize them as such, just as they don’t have to recognize, say, Catholic marriages. The same goes for polygamy. And not even marriages between (adult) relatives are excepted – they might make you sick, but under the free-will and small-government traditions that have served America so well, disapproval does not necessarily translate into an authorization to ban.


Many fellow Christians might disagree with the proposition, but at the end of the day, isn’t it insulting to Christianity that we feel the need for a government worker to stamp some papers in order to legitimize our marriages? For this reason, getting government out of the institution is the true small-government, conservative solution to the marriage issue.


What about long-standing marital benefits? Well, almost all of these benefits could be contracted for. For example, any group of people – whether they be cousins, friends or romantically involved – should be able to contract for hospital visitation rights. The contracts would be enforced by the government, as other contracts are, but they would be written by individuals into whose relationship the government has no business intruding.


Likewise, the arbitrary differences in the tax treatment of married and unmarried individuals would cease. There is no good reason for government to determine the desirability of whatever it thinks qualifies as marriage.


Of course, this alternative would not be the magic solution for everyone. Calling for the government’s exit from marriage assumes individual responsibility on behalf of adults who enter relationships, label them as they wish and sign whatever contractual agreements they desire. The government, however, does have a limited role of protecting children, who largely lack the capacity of calculated decision-making. It would remain, therefore, within the purview of government to make value judgments regarding the structure of potential adoptive families. Thus, if most Americans believe that only established, heterosexual couples should be able to adopt children, then government must adopt such a policy.


The “Domestic Partnership Initiative” currently on the table in California takes a step toward this proposed alternative by eliminating government recognition of marriage. It is a positive shift by a California gay movement that until now has been, at least in part, terribly misguided in promoting its agenda first through the courts and then through spiteful activities and intimidation.


Small-government proponents and gay activists might be in disagreement regarding the rationale for this initiative. This reality does not, however, dispute the fact that removing government from a private institution is the conservative solution to a conflict otherwise being fought on the wrong battlefield.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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