Should Government Get Out of the Marriage Business?
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
Conservative John Fund, writing in the National Review, says 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.
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