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RUBIN: Marriage, Not a Federal Concern

Steph Rubin Contributing Writer

Disclaimer: This is not an article about the morality of homosexuality. This is an article about the limits of government power. I’m not claiming that posting pink and red equal signs or, alternatively, “marriage: one man, one woman” slogans on your Facebook makes you a saint or a sinner, just potentially misinformed about the purpose of government. What is the purpose of Government? To protect one’s life, liberty, and property in so far as it is capable of doing so. Thus, when enacting any government policy, we have to consider whether or not the policy actually falls within the government’s interests, responsibilities, and capabilities. Let’s apply this consideration to civil marriage. What is civil marriage? Civil marriage breaks down into three functioning parts: a financial contract, an assignment of parental responsibility, and the governmental recognition of a “marriage.” In my opinion, only two of these fall within the jurisdiction of the government. Any guesses? Civil marriage financially binds two people in a contract that the government promises to defend. It is one method by which the government ensures financial protection for the potentially vulnerable. Furthermore, the contract minimizes government costs in performing its responsibility (i.e. without the contract, a jobless ex-spouse becomes the financial responsibility of the government). This aspect of civil marriage is not reserved for civilly married couples. The government does and should protect all financial contracts. Thus, as a financial contract, civil marriage is a practical means of fulfilling the government’s responsibility to protect the vulnerable while minimizing its own costs. The assignment of parental responsibility implicit in a marriage contract is not a gift from the government, but a demand. Both parties enter into a contract with the government legally binding them to care for any children that may result from the marriage. It does not give you the right to procreate, it is simply one of many ways that the government ensures that children (society’s most vulnerable) are cared for. Just as the government legally binds you to care for a child that you adopt, so it legally binds married individuals to care for the children they create. By legally insisting that parents care for their kids, the government ensures that it won’t have to. Ergo, the government fulfills its responsibility through practical means while reducing its own costs. Now for the tricky part: civil marriage as “recognition.” First, let’s get one thing straight: the government doesn’t marry anyone, but recognizes marriages. It is not a license to association or permission to have sex, to date, or even to marry. It does not make couples any more married or less unmarried than they are already. Marriage exists outside the government as a sacramental and natural union. Thus, the government merely binds up financial and parental contracts into something it calls a marriage license and offers it to self-proclaimed married heterosexual couples as recognition of their marital union. Why is the government in the business of recognizing marriages? Your guess is as good as mine. It serves no governmental purpose to divide the unmarried from the married. As a marital blessing, civil marriage does not do anything to help the government fulfill its responsibility to protect one’s life, liberty, or property—it isn’t government’s responsibility to categorize your relationship. Thus, civil marriage as recognition of marriage does not fall within the responsibilities of the government. As a marital blessing, civil marriage adds to government costs. As our tax codes and entitlement programs are now, civilly married couples receive benefits that cost the government money. Of course, once provided to married couples, these benefits give the government an incentive to reduce the number of people that it considers “married.” Thus, in a certain sense, marital categorization is in the financial interest of the government. However, financial interest alone does not justify government action. If it did, the government could justifiably reduce the number of individuals it considered “people” in order to reduce its costs. So is the government even capable of separating marriages from non-marriages? NO. As a marital blessing, civil marriage is no more than an overvalued opinion. Why? Because the government is no better at recognizing meaningful unions than anyone else, as evidenced by the fact that half of civil marriages end in divorce. This federal blessing is thus a charade, tantamount to a marital blessing from a person that has never met you, isn’t related to you, and doesn’t care about you. Don’t get me wrong; there may be a blessing to be sought in considering marriage, but the government’s is not it. So if we are going to make a change to civil marriage, let’s end it. Lets stop asking for the government’s blessing where it is not needed and let the government stick to what the government is responsible for and capable of.


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