Dear Abby has been running some interesting discussion over the last few days about “marriage” – stemming from a couple getting “married” in a church, but not “really being married” because they had no marriage license from the government.
So here is a question: What is the interest of secular government in “marriage” at all?
In the Dark Ages, secular government was pretty much controlled by the Church, and was used to enforce church doctrine on the population. An extreme example was the crime of heresy. It was the secular authorities, not the church, that burned people.
It was a Church crime to have sex outside of church-sanctioned marriage. Thus, the government came into the business of recognizing and recording who was, and was not, “legally” married.
But in a modern society, the government
does should not meddle in the private affairs of who-sleeps-with-who. Still, some people see government sanctioned marriage as a license to have sex.
Thus, it affronts certain groups who feel government should enforce these groups views of who-should-sleep-with-who that government would sanction “marriage” between people that “shouldn’t have sex.”
But what is marriage from the viewpoint of the government?
In a secular society, “marriage” is a pro-forma contract (which can be amended by prior agreement from all concerned parties) which sets out obligations and responsibilities, rules for joint and separate property, and a set of rules to apply should, at a later date, this relationship dissolve. It sets out rules for joint ownership of various government and private-party benefits.
But if you really look at it, this contract structure is all it really does today.
As a Dear Abby reader put it so well:
Nowhere in the Bible does a servant of God ask permission from the government to marry.
So – let’s get government out of the business of deciding who is “married” or not. Restrict government’s role to providing a baseline contract for managing joint property and assets among consenting partners, and treat it like what it is – a partnership, just like a business partnership. Partners can enter or leave the partnership at will – from the viewpoint of the government – and if there are disputes, then the courts can settle them within the confines of the appropriate body of law.