Privatise marriage!

An excellent article in Slate making exactly the same sort of arguments the LDP makes regarding marriage, gay marriage, and the involvement of the state in both. The article’s conclusion puts it very well:

Marriage is an important institution. The modern mistake is to think that important things must be planned, sponsored, reviewed, or licensed by the government. The two sides in the debate over gay marriage share an assumption that is essentially collectivist. Instead of accepting either view, let’s get the government out of marriage and allow individuals to make their own marriage contracts, as befits a secular, individualist republic at the dawn of the information age.

Thanks to Skepticlawyer for bringing it to my attention.

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One Response to Privatise marriage!

  1. Christian Miller says:

    The real issue is to determine what the law should be. A first step is to question the
    roles of the Federal, State and Local governments in marriage/civil unions. My contention is that when one strips away the emotional and the irrelevant issues and holds to principles of the separation of church and state and fairness, then there is no benefit to society for government involvement in marriage or civil unions at all. Presently, all unmarried people in general are denied the special government privileges of marriage, not just gays and lesbians.

    Once government and its subsidies for marriage are withdrawn or made available to single people, then churches, organizations and individuals can deal with couples coming together, living together, raising families and doing what people have done forever. Couples are free to determine their relationships and characterize it with any words they choose.

    In this way, there is no Prop 8, no marriage laws; no “Healthy Marriage Initiative”; no government marriage licenses; no civil unions; no exclusive Federal subsidies or financial incentives to married people.

    The conservatives should welcome the reduction of government and getting government out of our intimate personal lives; the Christian Right should welcome that the church now has authority over the marriage of its members and rather than the government; the 100 million single people should applaud at no longer having to pay for benefits exclusively going to married people; gays will have finally have achieved true equality; the liberals and progressives should welcome the justice of the situation; and libertarians will rejoice at a small move in the direction of “live and let live.” Everyone should be satisfied except those who relish the fight itself.

    The problem is framing the issue. Proposition 8 was not about gay marriage, it was about government’s definition of marriage. Government’s role in marriage is actually very limited and very different than our idealized concept of marriage. In our idealized concept of marriage we imagine two people in love, committed to each other, living together, having a family, living happily ever after. A government marriage license/certificate has nothing to do with these images. The government has no tests, no requirements for affirmation of love. The couple need only be of age and different sex (in most states). Nothing else. Its complete universality makes it a hollow document. Its only value is as a voucher to get exclusive government benefits. Benefits subsidized by single people.

    Current Government Roles
    Local Government: Issues marriage licenses; conducts civil ceremonies; registers the marriage; authorizes people to conduct marriage ceremonies.

    State Government: Determines the regulations surrounding marriage

    Federal Government: Pays benefits and subsidies to married people; establishes social programs such as the “Healthy Marriage Initiative” granting visas to spouses of citizens. etc. The main benefits are military housing allowances; joint tax filing; Social Security payments to spouses; and spousal exemption from inheritance tax. These financial benefits can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a couple’s lifetime.

    Proposed Reasons for Government Involvement and Counter Arguments

    1. Prevent incest
    • Government denial of marriage licenses is not going to stop incest.
    2. Prevent spread of disease
    • People are going to have sex, with or without government’s approval
    3. Promote loving committed relationships
    • It is unimaginable that any government is going to influence people to be loving.
    • There is no way the government can have a “love and commitment” test as a condition of issuing a marriage license. In fact there is no marriage license requirement for a couple to say they intend to like each other. A marriage license is only a voucher to get more benefits than single people.
    4. Promote a healthy family environment for children
    • I submit that it is wishful thinking to believe that any government is going influence the family environment or reform deadbeat fathers.
    5. Encourage people to have children
    • Women are going to get pregnant without help from the government
    6. Prevent gayness from spreading
    • The government is not going to influence sexual preference
    7. Protect women
    • Mothers and expecting mothers may need special help, but not married women in general.
    8. Prevent Polygamy
    • The government is not going to prevent folks from having multiple partners.
    9. Prevent underage people from having sex
    • A adult having sex with an underage person is illegal.
    10. Provide a way for couples to feel married who do not want to get married in a church.
    • There can be organizations dedicated to serving this desire, but it should not be the concern of government.
    11. Right not to testify against a spouse
    • Each citizen, married or not, should have the right to designate one person that is exempt from having to testify about that citizen.
    12. Spousal hospital visitation rights
    • Each citizen, married or not, should have the right to designate one person who has visitation rights in the event the citizen is not able to communicate.
    13. Regulating the combining of a couple’s finances
    • Can be accomplished by contract under existing civil law. The document can be called anything: A “Nuptial Agreement” if the couple desires.
    14. Establishing state laws regarding community property
    • The community property issue would be determined by contract.
    15. Prevent sin
    • Separation of church and state. Sin definition and prevention is not an appropriate function of government.
    16. Married people need more financial help than single people.
    • There are plenty of rich married people and poor single people.
    17. It is unfair for the government not to allow gays to marry.
    • This would not be an issue if the government withdrew from the marriage business.
    • The argument about fairness is weak. It makes it appear that gays want on the government gravy train now, but do not want single people on that same gravy train. Single people are paying for these financial benefits through higher taxes. Hardly fair.

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