Same-Sex Marriage is Not Enough: Separate Marriage and State

In a February 22 interview, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore discussed his reasons for nixing issuance of same-sex marriage licenses by probate judges in the state. “You’re taking any definition of a family away,” said Moore. He also expressed fear that bisexuals might “marry two persons, one of the same sex and one of the opposite sex.” While permitting group marriages of this sort isn’t currently under consideration at any level of government, there is no logical reason for a free society to forbid them. Nor is there reason why any of level of government should be involved in the marriage business at all.

Personal relationships should not be subject to arbitrary licensing requirements or the whims of puritanical politicians. Nor should they be defined, regulated or restricted by the state in any way. Consenting adults, subject to the consequences of their decisions, will pursue lifestyle choices that maximize their happiness. For some this will involve heterosexual monogamy, for others it may involve homosexuality or relationships with multiple partners. People who do not approve should be able to dissociate or express their disapproval as they please, but they should not able to use government coercion to restrict the choices of others.

Oklahoma has started the move in this direction with a bill (HB 1125) to end state issuance of marriage licenses. Under this bill clergy members would approve marriages, to be later recorded and certified by county clerks. While this could be a positive step, the bill’s wording places too much emphasis on Christian and Jewish clergy, to the exclusion of other religions and secular individuals. Those who do not wish to have clergy involved can instead file an affidavit for common law marriage. While the bill ends the state’s licensing regime, it unfortunately leaves the underlying system of state-granted benefits and recognition of married couples intact.

US law includes 1,138 statutory provisions in which marital status determines benefits, rights, and privileges. These include provisions on taxation, immigration, inheritance, Social Security and death benefits. Granting such a wide range of benefits to only to certain relationships is a form of discrimination and social engineering. While it is positive to see states discontinue their discrimination against same-sex couples, it is tragic to see those couples now subjected to the same social engineering schemes as heterosexuals.

It is often those who proclaim a love of freedom and “limited government” who most fervently support the state defining, licensing and bestowing benefits upon marriage. True lovers of freedom recognize that it is incompatible with coercive social engineering. If “traditional” marriage is as beneficial as proponents claim, it should have no trouble competing in a free market of lifestyles. Marriage is best kept between individuals, their friends and families, religious institutions, deities of choice or secular officiators. The same goes for the countless alternatives to marriage. It is unsurprising that increasing numbers of people are forgoing government recognized marriage. Why would anyone want their relationships recognized by an institution known for unambiguous corruption, spying on civilians, violent warfare and waste? We should strive to separate the state from all aspects of our lives, as it is a coercive violence-based institution. Separating marriage and state is a good place to start.

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