Should Government Get Out of the Marriage Business?

Conservative John Fund, writing in the National Reviewsays government should get out of the marriage business.


Expect this position to take off.

For one, I've been predicting for a decade that EVANGELICALS might combine with LIBERTARIANS to reach this conclusion.  It's the way believers won't have to fight to their death or at least their ostracism resisting a public definition of marriage that's contrary to what they really, really believe. 

Our increasingly libertarian young both don't care about gay marriage and are increasingly indifferent to the institution of marriage itself.

This position squares with what Kennedy actually says in the Court's opinion in Lawrence v. Texas about government not privileging one kind of autonomous relationship over another.

It squares with what many gay rights activists say:  Same-sex marriage will privilege one kind of gay sexual relationship over another.  It will create the expectation that the only legitimate gay relationship is a marital one.  So many gays will be more marginalized than ever.  Marriage equality ought to be relationship or sexual equality.

One argument for "marriage equality" having become a right—one that has great power—is that in our individualistic world we've detached marriage from the expectation of children and having children from the expectation of marriage.

If that's so, many of the "entitlements" connected with marriage now make little sense.  Why should one able-bodied person be "on" the insurance of another if there aren't any children that need raising?  They should both be at work!  Shouldn't entitlements be directed toward parents, married or not, toward those who, for whatever reason, are actually caring for kids (as even John Locke sort of suggests)? 

And given the pervasiveness of this disconnection of marriage and parenthood, why should adoption and similar issues be resolved in favor of those who happen to be legally married?

Many Republicans, of course, wish no longer to be saddled with what appears to be a losing political issue.  They don't want the so-called "culture war" to turn on the legal definition of marriage.  Even Rush Limbaugh has lost interest in defending "traditional marriage."

Libertarians, due, in part, to the effective leadership of Rand Paul, are coming to dominate the Republican party.  On the cultural front, they have already completely captured the Democrats.

Despite the best efforts of conservatives Robert George and the media-savvy Ryan Anderson, Americans aren't going to reach rational agreement in figuring out what marriage is.  If it's recogniton of a loving commitment and nothing more, as many say, then why should government be in that business?  After all, the real problem hasn't been government recognizing some loving commitments, but, as our Court says, government dissing other loving commitments as a result of its arbitrary selectivity.

I've shamelessly given a "lawyer's argument" here. Divide up into small groups and discuss.

Related Articles

Why the world needs death to prosper

Scientists have developed new ways of understanding how the biological forces of death drive important life processes.

Surprising Science
  • Researchers have found new ways on how decomposing plants and animals contribute to the life cycle.
  • After a freak mass herd death of 300 reindeer, scientists were able to study a wide range of the decomposition processes.
  • Promoting the necrobiome research will open up new areas of inquiry and even commerce.
Keep reading Show less

Why birds fly south for the winter—and more about bird migration

What do we see from watching birds move across the country?

E. Fleischer
Surprising Science
  • A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
  • The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
  • Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
Keep reading Show less

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less