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.

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