Same-sex Marriage

MarriageI’ve been leading up to this with my History of Marriage and Keep Government out of Marriage columns and now I’m finally going to take the plunge and weigh in on the highly charged issue of same-sex marriage. Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows my Libertarian tendencies and it will come as no surprise that I don’t think the government; federal, state or local, should have more than a minimal opinion on marriage one way or the other.

Still, government cannot allow anyone to marry because there are legal situations that must be addressed. Certainly everyone acknowledges that children must be protected from ill-intentioned adults. Thus we don’t want twelve-year olds being duped into a disadvantageous marriage. There are mentally ill people who can likewise be fooled for a variety of reasons and I do see a need to protect such groups.

The main arguments against same-sex marriage seem to fall into three categories; Slippery slope, marriage as an institution, and religion. I’ll examine each one.

I’ve never been a big fan of slippery slope arguments. The idea is that to allow same-sex marriage is to open the gates to marriage of brothers to sisters and people to animals. I just don’t see it. Firstly, animals have protection in place already that supposedly prevents their abuse although much goes on anyway. As to incest I’m not really sure I care if first cousins get married and it’s certainly legal in a number of states already. These sorts of laws vary from state to state in any case but I don’t see it changing much if same-sex marriages are allowed.

The institution of marriage is the main argument you hear against same-sex marriage and I sort of see a point here. Marriage is ingrained into society and largely a convention for procreation. People get married to have children. With fewer people having children and marriage rates in general decline I’m just not convinced that allowing same-sex couples to marry is going to hurt an already fading institution. But, if this is the main issue for people it seems relatively simple to allow some sort of civil contract that conveys the legal benefits of marriage without calling it marriage. I completely understand that a spouse has rights to make decisions for a medically impaired partner and why same-sex couples would want similar rights. There are a number of issues of this nature that should be addressed. I would have no problem with granting some sort of civil contract that gave the benefits of marriage in this regard but was called something else.

Finally, there are religious arguments and I think these are the most reasonable. I’m sure that surprises people as I’m an Atheist. However, the Constitution of the United States guarantees religious freedom. Marriage has become, like it or not, a religious institution. While Polygyny remains quite common around the world there is little historical evidence for religiously sanctioned same-sex marriage anywhere. I’m not convinced that the federal government is correct to force a particular state to allow same-sex marriage or that even state government should dictate to each county. We have laws that prevent the purchase of alcohol in counties and I don’t really see why a particular county or state shouldn’t ban same-sex marriage because it is against the will of the majority. No state is required to recognize a marriage created in another state although largely they do. The Constitution is silent on the subject of marriage of any kind and should, as far as I’m concerned, remain so.

My conclusion is that if a state or county wants to ban same-sex marriage then it’s within their domain just as it is within their domain to refrain from placing such a ban. If polling is to be trusted this entire issue will fade away into nothingness within one generation as the vast majority of young people seem to not much care if same-sex marriage is legal.

Certainly we already see some states banning and others allowing and this is a good thing. This is one of the founding principles of the United States. Where the Constitution is silent the power belongs to the State and to the People.

Tell me what you think!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Marriage and Government

MarriageAs a moderate Libertarian I find the government’s role in marriage to be a big problem. It is social engineering of the most egregious kind. Sadly, the social engineering is largely promoted by Republicans who claim they hate this sort of thing. Marriage is supposedly “good” for society and thus the government feels the need to pass laws that promote it. With these laws in place it becomes financially, socially, and legally worthwhile to be married rather than to be single.

These legalities are one of the main reasons homosexuals desire the status of marriage in the first place. If the government got out of the marriage business things would improve on a number of fronts. First I’d like to list the ways that people are encouraged to get married rather than stay single.

What are the benefits of being married? Plenty. This article goes into many of them but I’ll try to summarize.

Military spouses get employment benefits, per diem moving expenses, immigration benefits, and property tax relief.

All spouses get increased government benefits from a variety of sources including Medicaid and tax relief from a variety of items including income tax. Spouses get bankruptcy filing benefits, rights to a deceased spouse’s social security, a $100,000 one time payment for spouse killed in line of duty.

Spouses gain rights over children that non-spouses do not have, they get access to hospitals for visiting rights and important medical decisions, alimony, domestic violence intervention, wrongful death claims, adoption benefits, funeral and bereavement leave. I could go on and on here but I think I’ve made my point. The government and the law make it highly beneficial to be married rather than to just shack up.

Another problem is that a marriage isn’t considered legal unless proper protocols are established and certain groups of people are prevented from marrying. I’m not just talking about homosexuals here. Relatives face severe restrictions. Just as an example it is a criminal offense for first cousins to marry in Texas while it is perfectly legal right next door in New Mexico. In England you can’t marry your mother-in-law until your spouse is dead. And of course there are restrictions on the age of an individual who can marry.

I think it would be best if most or all of these laws benefiting a spouse were repealed and if marriage could simply return to a contract between individuals, as it was for most of history, without needing government or clergy approval. Once the majority of benefits for getting married are repealed I think we would see an increase in marriage of people who were more certain of the institution and a decrease in divorce, domestic abuse, and other issues. With such tangible benefits to getting married there is a huge impetus to get married even if the parties are uncertain if this is the best course of action.

Once the government gets out of promoting marriage then it seems to me that people who otherwise would get married when they are unready for such a committment would not get married. Of course, the argument goes that people who don’t marry but live together in essentially a married state without the license are more likely to split. There has always been strong social stigma against a divorced woman dating to ancient times as I discussed yesterday but the emancipation of women through birth control, education, and equal opportunity has really changed the dynamic. I don’t want my discussion to go too far astray here so I’ll come to a quick conclusion.

If government stops trying to promote marriage and if we can grant the same legal benefits to people who engage in some sort of simple marriage contract then I think the institution of marriage will flourish rather than head down its current path where approximately 40% to 60% of new marriages end in divorce. I’m not saying marriage rates will go up, they were around 80% of the population in the 1960’s compared to 45% now but I am suggesting that if we stop trying to socially engineer marriage that the only people who will get married are those who really want it. That has to be good for children, families, spouses, and basically, everyone.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The History of Marriage

MarriageMarriage is in the news a bit lately and I’m going to end my blog vacation with a few posts that I hope will clear up the debate for those of you willing to look at it from a critical perspective. I’m going to start with the origins, history, and general purpose of marriage.

A good start is this article on Wikipedia but I’ll try to summarize.

Marriage has been around for as long as recorded history and certainly seems to date from a time before that. The largest single factor in the concept seems to be that single, sexually active women wreak havoc on society. Sorry ladies. Of course, it’s not really the single, sexually active women wreaking all that havoc; it’s the testosterone fueled monkey-men going bat poop crazy for all those single, sexually active women that causes the trouble. The competition this engenders often turns violent, thus marriage.

There are three main types of marriage throughout history; a single man and a single woman called monogamy, a single man and multiple women called Polygyny, and a single woman and multiple men called Polyandry.

Ancient Israel was a Polygynous society and there are a number of rules set forth in something called the Covenant Code as to how a man is supposed to treat his multiple wives particularly in regard to not mistreating older wives when newer, presumably younger, wives are added. Adultery by a wife, as in most ancient cultures, was a capital punishment.

In Greece and Rome marriage was more of a mutual agreement between two parties rather than a religious or civic ceremony. It wasn’t until around the 300 CE that the Christian clergy took a stronger interest in the concept as an event before god rather than a simple mutual agreement. The state remained uninvolved until around 1545 with the church recording marriages for those who desired records and the state being completely removed from the issue. It wasn’t until the Council of Trent in 1563 that a marriage was not considered legal unless a priest had presided at the event.

In much of Asia and the Middle East marriage was largely an arranged event with Polygyny remaining the most common form until around the 20th century. In many countries it is still perfectly legal to have more than a single wife and the Mormon religion practiced polygyny, which they called Celestial Marriage, from 1830 until 1890. The banning came after a long battle with the U.S. Government which tried to eradicate the practice. When Utah next applied for statehood, in 1896, it was granted.

Biblically marriage is referenced in the Old Testament with Polygyny being the most common form mentioned. Jesus mentions marriage explicitly on several occasions referencing a man and a woman along with monogamy.

In the New Testament there are some restrictions against Polygyny in that particular people; Bishops, Deacons, and Elders must have only one wife. Other people are not instructed as to how many wives they may have and monogamy is never explicitly mentioned.

Biblically marriage seems to be promoted as a way to avoid the sin of sexual congress in an unmarried state. If you can’t maintain celibacy then marriage is required seems to be the message most often mentioned.

Anyway, that’s a quick history of marriage. Tomorrow I’m going to look at marriage from a Libertarian point of view and what I think would be an ideal arrangement.

Tell me what you think.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist