Saturday, February 28, 2004


The State Should Get Out of the Marriage Business :

Cheney stopped a little short. How about government simply getting out of the marriage-license-granting business? (Ditto for government licenses necessary to cut hair, drive a taxi, open a business or enter a profession.) Leave marriage to non-governmental institutions, like churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship or private institutions. Adultery, although legal, remains a sin subject to societal condemnation. It's tough to legislate away condemnation or legislate in approval. Those who view same-sex marriage as sinful will continue to do so, no matter what the government, the courts or their neighbors say.

The article by Larry Elder is nothing to write home about: there is no substantial argument made for this thesis, and no exploration of its consequences. But it is one of the few proposed resolutions that drives at the heart of the problem, the question of whether government should officiate over marriage in any form at all (the other question that needs to be answered is whether the government should legislate morality—we'll leave that for another time). As it stands, I assume there is a substantial body of law and codes that rest on the accepted definition of marriage, law and codes that will have to be reviewed and amended if the government is to withdraw from the governance of marriage. How will private institutions change their policies to cope with a more liberal and possibly arbitrary definition of marriage? Perhaps an international standards organization will offer to draw up "marriage contracts" that can hold up in court. If marriage loses its home in the framework of federal and state law, it will have to find it elsewhere.


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