With President Obama and Vice President Biden’s public support of same-sex marriage equality and David Cathy’s (president of Chik-Fil-A) and Michael Huckabee’s public condemnation of same-sex marriage equality, the media is a’buzzin with this divisive issue on an hourly basis.
Did it ever occur to you that it is a little absurd that the United States government is so intricately involved in the private relationships of its citizens?
Give it a minute to sink in.
Yep. There it is. “Hey! Why is the government reviewing, approving, collecting payment on, and regulating the private relationships of its citizens!?”
Now unlike most of those in my general age group, I actually like government. In fact, sometimes I enthusiastically love government.
I love the potential that government has to protect and better the lives of its citizens. I love the potential that government has to encourage citizens of its own society and the societies of others to be better people because without that encouragement (ie: the threat of a tiny cage on cell block D) we would all be shooting each other in the back of the head to get…ahead.
Unfortunately, government can often go too far with the idea that its citizens are sheep to be herded and occasionally sheared and/or slaughtered to keep the farm running smoothly.
When it comes to our own private relationships within our own private homes we are sheep.
Here is a very brief history of the United States of America's Marriage Laws:
- In England we see western culture really tying together government and private marriages with the Clandestine Marriage Act of 1753, which sought to end secret marriages that were entered into without a parents’ design or consent. These secret marriages were seen as having a negative effect on the stability of society.
- The North American colonies took their cue from England and began installing their own marriage laws immediately. For example, in 1691 the Virginia colony makes a lethal law banishing any interracial couple that dares to marry. You did not want to live solo in the woods in 1691.
- If you were white and living in the colonies, common law marriages were typically upheld by state Supreme Courts until the mid-1800s, showing some restraint on the government’s part from getting overly involved in the private lives of its citizens. Increased regulation of marriages coincides with the freeing of the slaves. Coincidence? Probably not.
- It is not until 1948 that California becomes the first state to declare laws forbidding interracial marriages unconstitutional.
- It is not until 1981 (1981!) that the federal Supreme Court declares all laws making the male member “head and master” of the couple’s individual and joint property unconstitutional.
- In 1998, Florida enacts the Florida Marriage Preservation and Preparation Act, mandating that all high school students must take a marriage and relationship skills course. This is absurd but true. What is next? Mandated doses of happiness in order to avoid future relationship conflict? Soon we will all be living at the edge of the galaxy, wearing each other’s faces. (If you don’t get the reference, just ignore).
- In 1997-98, Covenant Marriage laws are accepted in states like Louisiana and Arizona which offer limited opportunities for divorce and force premarital counseling, marital counseling, etc.
- 2004-2006, Federal Marriage Amendment is defeated. This Amendment would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman in the Constitution.
There is a very definite trend of increased government intervention in the private relationships of its citizens. It is interesting that the standard Republican is typically against government regulation of business, but are all for regulation in social lives (aka marriage). This is perhaps a negative effect of the polarization of social issues.
While the rest of us are busy squabbling over whether or not gay couples should have the same rights as straight couples, others have been proposing an alternative solution in the privatization of marriage.
The most interesting and detailed plan for the privatization of marriage is presented by Colin P.A. Jones (an American lawyer and professor of law in Kyoto, Japan) in his article “Marriage Proposal: Why not Privatize?”
In this article, Jones explains that government regulated marriage laws do not fit the needs of individual couples. This is not only true for same-sex couples, but for any couple that is looking to define their marriage differently than the conventionally accepted definition.
Jones presents the idea of individually tailored contracts that are designed by a type of “marriage corporation." If the federal and/or state government still wanted to allow certain government benefits for what they deemed to be a traditional marriage, there could be a government contract available for purchase and/or particular criteria included in the individually tailored contracts that would meet this criteria.
The individually tailored contracts allow for couples to more clearly and definitively state what they are agreeing to in the partnership, thus reducing divorce rates and court costs.
Jones sees the privatization of marriage as having great potential for national and state economies with the creation of new jobs and businesses. Though he recognizes that not everyone will love this idea, he sees it as a “partially satisfying” solution for all that gets the government out of the business of dictating what is and is not a marriage.
Personally, I have found this solution to not only be interesting, but worth a lot of research and time. Though discrimination has been consistently a part of government marriage law, the larger issue is the fact that government is involved in our private relationships at all.
If the government would like to reward its citizens for being married, great!
Offer incentives to citizens to play by a set of rules, but do not ever punish a citizen for not wanting to define their private lives by a government determined set of socially acceptable standards.
I encourage everyone to read Jones’s article (linked above) and to at least consider the irrational concept of the government, or anyone else, dictating to its citizens who they can be married to and under what conditions that marriage will exist.
After you have considered the concept of privatizing marriage, let me know what you think in the comments below! This is a topic of constant study for me, so I would appreciate reading anyone’s input.