Sorry, But The State DOES Have An Interest in Marriage

by Steve MacDonald

The State has a very necessary role in marriage.  A task tied directly to the reason behind the existence of the state in the first place.

Let us begin with this.  Why do states, or more generally speaking, governments exist at all?  Government’s are created to tap into the benefit of mutual self-interest.  They exist to allow for a militia of like minded individuals to protect and defend natural rights.  The most important of these natural rights are the right to personal liberty and property and to act in defense of your person and property.

The American government, and that of its several states, exist to defend the shared interest in these (and other) individual rights.

So what about the state’s interest in marriage?

What is marriage?

Love?  Lust?  Cohabitation? Sharing stuff?

You can have any of those things without marriage so why have marriage?  Marriage exists to get men to commit to their children because that provides the best possible outcome for the children, which benefits society in general.   It actually serves no other purpose.  (The damage caused to society by single parent families is a burden for another day.)  Love certainly improves the odds of a successful marriage.  Lusting after your spouse–presuming it is not obsessive or counter-productive–can add layers of interest and fulfillment that secure and improve the relationship.  But any two or more people can cohabitate or share their stuff, partner for shared interest or emotional or sexual gratification–but that does not make it a marriage.

Whether you agree with that or not, marriage, like government,  involves a promise of shared interest in protection or persons and property.  That shared property is essential to the success of the family in raising well-developed children regardless of income level.  If a spouse dies, or both parents die, the protection of the surviving family members rights to that property is no different than the individual right for which government’s are formed in the first place.

The state exists to ensure that property rights are protected.  It, therefore, cannot be agnostic to marriage because marriage is also a recognized contract entered into for the mutual protection of persons and property and those property rights must be secured.

It is important to note that these arrangements can be formed without marriage in any “administrative unit,” corporation, organization, union, or through any contract entered into willingly.   Any two or more people can form a legal bond to secure shared interests in persons or property.  A dozen investors forming a legal compact, for example,  have a shared interest in persons and property (real or intellectual property) without anyone insisting we call it marriage.   One hundred families that incorporate to create a town are legally binding their shared interest in protecting individual people and property through a town charter.  The state, through elections and representative government maintains mutually agreed upon rules or laws for establishing and protecting contracts within their political boundaries to the extent of the tolerance for such things by its citizenry.

Marriage is a contract which includes rights to property and persons and the state cannot dismiss it’s obligation to protect those rights.

But that should be its only interest.

The state, as I pointed out here, should not be in the business of bureaucratizing love.

Love, as it turns out, is not a states interest.  There is no ministry of love.  No state department of love.  No state director of love.  And no one in their right mind would want the State organizing, defining, taxing or regulating it. Love is not a state’s interest.

The state, through its citizens, retains an obligation to define what contracts it will defend.  It can and should outline what religious and civil contracts are afforded protections to personal and property rights.  And it must maintain a means of ensuring that these protections can and will be defended.

Do not misunderstand.  Government mechanisms should be minimal.   The execution of these mechanisms and their management by the people appointed or elected to that purpose need to be as close to those affected by them as possible so that citizens feel both an obligation and the ability to make adjustments when needed.  But the state has an interest in Marriage from which it cannot be separated.  This is not a problem, it is–in fact–the defined purpose of government in the first place.

The problem begins when the state’s interest in marriage extends beyond the obligation of a government to defend the individual rights of persons and property and the right of free association.   Marriage, as noted above, exists to bind men and women to afford future generations the best possible outcome.   It does that better than any other social mechanism in recorded history.   While you can form an number of contractual unions for any number of purposes, none of them fulfill the purpose for which marriage actually exists.  Insisting that we call these other contracts  marriage can only have a purpose other than that for which marriage was originally intended, and states or legislators who obsess over such things should be considered a danger to the well-being of all future generations.

Leave a Comment

  • kervick

    well done.

  • Chris P. Bacon

    You crack me up Steve. You want big government just as much as the Lib’s, you just want it running the lives of people the way YOU WANT, not the way they do. You are two sides of the same coin no matter how much you try and convince yourself otherwise. To quote my Gramps….your either gay or your not gay….there in no such thing as a little gay”.
    cpb-all cracked up

    • nhsteve


      States (local governments) do not exist in any form to protect and defend property rights?

      Why did Marriage come about in the first place?

      Is marriage not also contract of property?

      Are these things not in the least bit related? if not why?

      • nhsteve

        By the way Bacon, and I had a similar debate two years ago. He had an obsession with the Libertarian Separation of state an Marriage meme as well. You can see it at the link in the middle of the post. He eventually agreed with me after I wrote this…

        [quote] Your position appears to be that the state has no business in Marriage of any kind. So let’s assume that is true and the people have no vested interest in ensuring the legal transfer of property from spouse to spouse. What guarantees do you suggest exist in that void to protect interlopers (including the state) from absconding any or all property at their leisure if the state has not (or does not) acknowledge and or somehow recognize the legal claims of the verbal contract of religious marriage for the purpose of property

        “Does everything just move from person to person without conflict or
        dispute? In the absence of some order or agreed upon authority (even at the most minimum) the process will never descend into anarchy?

        I agree that black-robed pervs are the last recourse but the goals is
        as little government as can be managed to protect our rights of which property is one. Doesn’t removing the state (even just as a record keeper–and therefore agreed upon arbiter of the verbal or civil contract when necessary) open up a significant risk of fraud and abuse that would essentially deny people of their property rights? [end quote]

        • Chris P. Bacon

          Could be you’re right, and I am fine with that….but it sounds like you’re a little gay.
          Everyone wants people who think and look like them around them and in charge. People in, and involved in politics can dress it up anyway they want and put any kind of face they want on it, but in the end, it’s all about control.
          cpb- up control creek without a waddle

          • balencesto

            Game, set, match – CPB! You hit the nail on the head and exposed the giant hypocrisy of the Groksters on this point. Heck, just take a recent guest poster’s headline, “Free people get to decide – not the government for them” and think of that in terms of the marriage debate. If the Groksters were true to the headline they published from the guest poster, they’d be for gay marriage. And also for polygamy. heterosexual marriage, homosexual marriage and polygamy have one thing in common – they exist between consenting adults. As opposed to beastiality, pedophilia and pederasty – which do not exist between consenting adults. That’s why the first three should be legal and the last three shouldn’t and never will. The “slippery slope” stops with polygamy. It doesn’t “slide” any further.

          • nhsteve

            balencesto…you might want to change your Disqus name to something that means vacuum. You clearly live in one and have a bias and prejudice about me and Granite Grok which is both groundless and based on ignorance. Let me enlighten you, as I must so often enlighten others…

            1) I support civil unions for heterosexuals and homosexuals. This is well documented, in multiple posts on the subject, right here, on GraniteGrok.

            2) I have stated repeatedly that marriage is a rite not a right. The state can not define a religious ceremony and therein lies my objection to its efforts to do so; but it does need to decide that it will recognize (document) them–for the limited purpose of protecting and ensuring property rights as noted.

            3) With that in mind I have also stated on the record–repeatedly–that if any church, temple, etc, has a congregation that chooses to perform gay marriages, that the state is obligated to recognize them as such with all the same legal protections as for any other ‘marriage.’

            4) Not everyone here at GG agrees with me or I with them, on a varying number of issues

            5) The Free people get to decide post is not a blanket grant of permission that applies to all things in all circumstances.

            [Quote] The question should not be what the government allows people to do; it should be what the people allow their government to do.[End Quote]

            You take this to mean that unless we all embrace anarchy among consenting adults we are hypocrites. That doesn’t even make sense given the context of Spec’s point.

            So sorry, no set, game or match. Try again.

          • Chris P. Bacon

            I am not saying the Groksters are wrong, just saying they are not consistent, in fact, they are as big a story tellers and use the same tactics that those they decry use. Just like when i hear people talk about the right to arm bears and keeping the government small. How confusing. These same fine folks have not seen a military program that should not be enlarged or a new one that should not be approved. I served, i can say first hand, the billions and billions pissed away is unreal. We HAD to spend $$ on things we didn’t even need, or we would lose it next year, when maybe we would need it. It’s a big giant scam designed to keep contractors fat. Eisenhower tried to warn us.

            And who do these people think will be coming to take all our guns eventually? It will be people in uniform working for and as agents of the big government that they are a part of. And they will, because when you are in the military you follow orders, no matter what.

            cpb-heard you’re getting hammered with another storm?

            ps on this beastiality thing…have you been to New Zealand….where the men are men and the sheep are scared?

          • nhsteve

            A little gay. As in happy. Very, thanks for noticing. Giddy as a clam. Cheery as a lark. As for sexual orientation, none of my business, though if it matters, I like women, brunettes in particular, which works out great because my wife is both.

            as for the other thing the state should not decide what a marriage is but for the sake of protecting property rights someone needs to recognize them or any other contract of a similar nature and whether we like it or not, government’s are formed to protect that right, and very little else. And it is up to us to ensure they do not abused their power, a role we’ve been lousy at.

        • DNH

          Does the state really have an interest in treating “marriage” as
          something unique, a special case distinct from all other
          contracts? Should the state be in the marriage business at all?
          Rather than “Insisting that we call these other contracts marriage”,
          maybe it is time to insist that we call NO contracts “marriage”, and
          leave marriage to the realm of religion?

          I recognize the
          “state interest” in the well-being of children, but clearly it is
          possible to separate the issues of child support and custody from the
          word “marriage”; people and courts do this every day. We can take the word “marriage” out of the courts and off of
          tax returns and still retain the special cases of property control and
          inheritance and income tax and child custody for conforming contracts.

  • allen

    my problem with this is that, like all “state interests”, it will eventually be enforced at gunpoint.

    “we require that you be married to someone as of this date, under penalty of law, because the state has a compelling interest, or pay a single person tax”

    once you put the “weapon” of “it’s not a penalty it’s a tax” into the government holster, it just depends on who’s in charge as to what end that weapon will be used.

  • kervick

    I pulled the following words out of Steve’s excellent article above:
    state, mutual self-interest, like-minded individuals, militia, marriage, shared interests, shared property, family, society, love, mutual protection, corporation, organization, union, representative government, mutually agreed upon, free association, social mechanism, generations.
    These are words that conservatives seem to be more comfortable using than libertarians. They are the words of community. We believe in community. We want it to be as voluntary as possible but that does not preclude the existence of organizing units (states) that serve to advance shared interests, or to “tap into the benefit of mutual self-interest” as Steve writes above. Heterosexual marriage is one of those mutual self-interests that benefits society and it should thus be reinforced.

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