Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marriage Making News Again

This time, the state of New York is trying to pass a bill to legalize same-sex marriages.

I may have mentioned this before, but I think they’re approaching this issue in the wrong way.

For starters, the definition of marriage isn’t as universal as social conservatives would like you to think, which raises problems beyond just same-sex marriage. For instance, if we make the one-man/one-woman marriage the legal standard, what happens to immigrants from countries where plural marriage is legal? A man with two wives and six children (all done very legally in his country of origin) immigrates to the United States (also legally): is he still married to both of his wives? There are even religious sub-cultures in the US that aren’t opposed to plural marriage: at least in private; they may publicly disavow it because of the majority opinion.

There are also issues of free speech and freedom of religion to consider. If a same-sex couple goes to a church, synagogue, temple, or other religious institution and takes the appropriate vows, there’s nothing that the government can do to stop them from calling their relationship a “marriage,” no matter how many common legal privileges it chooses to deny them. The Constitution won’t allow the government to keep the church from performing the ceremony, and it also protects their right to describe the relationship as they choose.

So I think the government should get out of the “marriage” business entirely: they really have no interest in anything but “civil unions,” and I think there are valid reasons to limit those to simple contracts between just two people: the tax code, for instance, would get even messier if a union could consist of any number of husbands and wives.

So the solution is simple. The government should stop trying to define “marriage” and just define what rights and responsibilities are attached to a “civil union” contract, without restricting who can enter such a contract beyond “two consenting adults.”

1 comment:

Nena said...

I don't understand why the government has to be involved in civil unions of any kind. Why should they? I have heard from people in England that there is really no benefit tax-wise to being married there; it is simply a personal commitment. Now, I'm not sure how that factors in with issues like children and stay-at-home spouses, but it seems like that could be a matter of establishing proof of cohabitation and legal guardianship. Benefits like insurance and inheritance should be decided by individual providers and people being responsible enough to have a last will and testament. This isn't rocket science, and there is simply no need for government involvement.

If two (or more, for that matter) adults want to make a lifetime commitment to each other, that should be between the involved parties. No one else. If we eliminated the governmental benefits of marriage, the gay marriage issue would be eliminated. You would still have people crying about it being wrong because their god says so, but at least they would be powerless to do anything about it.

Not that I have a strong opinion on the subject or anything.