When Ron Paul was running for President, he spurred a lot of discussions over his controversial views and policies; one of these debates started at the June 13th Republican Presidential Debate, where in answer to a question about Gay Marriage, Candidate Paul said:
“The federal government shouldn’t be involved. I wouldn’t support an amendment. But let me suggest, get the government out of it. Why doesn’t it go to the church? And why doesn’t it to go to the individuals? I don’t think government should give us a license to get married. It should be in the church.” (1)
So Mr. Paul believes that the government should have nothing to do with Marriage, rather, it should go to the Church and the people. To be blunt Mr. Paul, you couldn’t be more wrong, the Federal government must have a role in marriage. Now before all the Libertarians accuse me of being for big government, let me tell you I’m not; I actually do believe in limited government, and I am as Conservative as they come, but I believe that Marriage is one of government’s limited duties, because without the government, Marriage is unenforceable.
Let me explain:
Simply put, if government were to be taken out of marriage, marriage would no longer have legal teeth; but what does this mean? What people who call for marriage to be left to the church overlook is that the reason government is involved, is to provide a legal protection within the marriage. This legal protection provides insurance for those individuals in the event of divorce or death (alimony, child support, property rights, outside interference etc.).
Churches do not have these legal teeth because they have no legal authority. Where the government succeeds in providing a legal document certifying the marriage of the two individuals, providing validity and protection, the Church fails to do so. Since Churches have no legal authority, a marriage license can (and will) be different from Church to Church, making marriages different from Church to Church. With both marriage certificates and marriages themselves differing between Churches, marriage becomes unenforceable. You cannot enforce a marriage without legal authority, and you cannot enforce a marriage if one church recognizes it, and another does not. But there are many other chaotic consequences to be found when you leave marriage solely to the Church.
The first consequence of leaving marriage to the Church is; because there is no legal teeth in the Church or their marriage certificates, a man (for all intents and purposes) can get married one day and then decide the next day that he is no longer married, and there would be nothing anybody can do about it (legal consequences are now gone).
The second chaotic consequence is a similar one to the first, assuming one does not claim not to be married anymore, one could get married and then very soon afterwards “divorce” their husband/wife; say that their marriage is over and leave their spouse high and dry with no legal consequence or protection afforded.
You see, if government is taken out of the picture for marriage and the legal protection removed, marriage would be reduced to nothing more than a symbolic promise; imagine for example one of these instances were to occur and after pledging themselves to their spouse in marriage, the husband decides to just up and leave his wife. Now let’s say the wife decided to take her “ex-husband” to court to get some sort of restitution for his betrayal; sad as it may seem, she would be denied by the court because she would have no legal case.
Since government has been removed, they no longer have the legal authority to handle such cases; it would be the same as if a girlfriend told the Judge that her boyfriend should be punished for breaking his promise of “I’ll never leave you baby.” The same situation applies to a marriage that has no governmental legal protection; a promise may have been broken, but the law would not, and thus, the offended party is for all intents and purposes screwed.
The third consequence of leaving marriage solely to the church is that under that system, one could marry someone in one church, and then go to another church and marry someone else without the permission or knowledge of their original spouse, due to the different unenforceable marriage licenses of each church. Now obviously this can happen with government having a hand in marriage as well, but under our current system if one is caught being married to multiple people, he/she will pay the legal consequences. But take government out of marriage, there is no longer a legal consequence to be had, and one could get away with being married to two people at once, without the permission of either of their spouses.
A fourth chaotic consequence is that if marriage is left to the church alone, incestuous marriage would be perfectly legal. Without government involvement in marriage, a father or mother could marry their daughter or son, a brother could marry his sister, an aunt her nephew and an uncle his niece. There would be no legal restrictions barring such abhorrent behavior, and society would only be negatively affected by it; the same as said before would go for polygamous marriage.
But it gets worse, for if government is taken out of marriage, the situation would dissolve into the obscene; for if marriage is left solely to the church, marriages of bestiality can and in some cases will take place. Don’t believe me? Well, if marriage and its definition is left solely to the church with no governmental involvement, all one has to do is find a church (or temple, mosque, church of Satan etc.) that will accommodate his or her beliefs, and is willing to perform the marriage. As disgusting as it sounds, if left only to the church, we may soon be hearing of marriages between a man/woman and their dog or cat.
But wouldn’t the problem be solved if no church agreed to this kind of marriage (which you can’t guarantee)? No it wouldn’t Assuming all churches and religious houses of worship do the right thing and deny this kind of marriage, this does not solve for the fact that anyone can become a certified pastor/priest literally overnight. This means that if no one else is willing to do it, then anyone can become certified and marry themselves to whatever they want: “I now pronounce you man and lamp.” All these “marriages”; incestuous, polygamous, bestial, object-based etc. will all be perfectly legal if government were to be removed from the institution.
Now some have suggested that the (local) courts can have a hand in marriage, only in the sense that those who did not want to get married in a church or other religious setting (an Atheist or a Homosexual who do not agree with a Church’s doctrine for example) could get married there, and leave all other marriage up to the church. There are however, a few problems with this suggestion; first of all, if this were to occur, only half the problem would be dealt with: those who decided to get married in the court would effectively have some sort of legal protection since their marriage via the court would have a legal element, but those who get married through a church alone will still not have that protection.
Secondly, this suggestion allows for each person or couple to define marriage for themselves, which is wholly unacceptable. Marriage being between man and woman is Natural Law, it is included in what Jefferson termed “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” It doesn’t matter who you are; whether you are straight, bi-sexual, gay, or French, no one has the right to change a Natural or Moral Law that God has infused into our very being. To quote Dr. Michael Milton:
“No one has the right to take away freedom of thought or choice unless that freedom turns to licentiousness by hurting another OR BY DENYING THE INVIOLABLE LAWS of nature and nature’s God…To give in to libertarian or more accurately licentiate, muddle-headed notions and cries for ignoring what is encoded into the very laws of life is to not only go down with the ship, but share in the culpability of destroying it. Marriage is an inviolable law that cannot be tampered with by man. It is lunacy and suicidal to think and act otherwise…” (2)
Founding Father James Wilson cements the truth of Traditional Marriage being part of Natural Law, when he wrote in “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals”:
“The most important consequence of marriage is, that the husband and the wife become in law only one person…Upon this principle of union, almost all the other legal consequences of marriage depend. This principle, sublime and refined, deserves to be viewed and examined on every side.” (3)
Government should not be involved in “defining marriage”; they must however be in the business of defending the only true and legitimate definition of what marriage actually is. There are those who try to take morals out of the situation, but this is impossible, for without a moral society, freedom and limited government cannot last, for with the spread of societal immorality, comes the loss of respect for freedom, and the breeding of a bigger and more intrusive government; as one author said “Conservatives rightly uphold the institution of marriage between a man and a woman because marriage is the seedbed of society, the necessary precondition for limited self-government.” (4)
There are some who say that government being involved in marriage is itself big government, but this is simply not true; the government is there to protect our civil liberties and defending the definition of marriage and providing legal protection for those involved in marriages is nothing if not protecting our liberties. But what of those who disagree with the traditional view of marriage, do they not have the right to marry whoever they want? Well, it depends on what you mean by “right to marry”; there is no intrinsic “right to marry”, as you cannot petition that your right to marry has been violated because nobody will marry you.
That being said, the government cannot stop you from marrying the woman (if you are a man) or man (if you are a woman) of your choice (assuming the person you intend to marry consents to join you in matrimony). We do not have the “right” to marry, we do however have the freedom to marry; and at this present time, homosexuals and others have the exact same marital freedoms that any straight person does; in the same way that I as a straight man am free to marry any woman who will have me, any gay or lesbian person has the exact same freedom that I enjoy, as they can marry anyone of the opposite sex that will in turn have them. They may not like it, and it may sound amusing at first glance, but it’s true, there is no inequality within the freedom to marry, what people are calling for is an open definition to marriage, which is completely incompatible with a free society.
So having established that government must be involved in marriage for all the reasons stated above, the question must be asked: “why can’t we just leave this up to the state governments?” The simple answer is that if marriage is left up to the states, you would experience all the same problems (minus the legal issue) listed above. If left to the 50 different states, we would have 50 different marital laws, and the possibility of many different definitions of marriage, only this time, they would have legal protection. Every single non legal problem with leaving marriage up to the church alone is carried over to having the states define it, and thus, nothing is actually solved; it is sadly the same fate as taking government completely out of marriage.
But there is also the fact that taking government out of marriage will lead to a mass violation of religious liberty; I mention this now rather than earlier due to the example I am about to cite taking place at the state level. In this present day we see gay marriage being legalized in certain states, and already people’s (in this case Christian’s) rights of religious conscious are being trampled on; in the state of Washington a homosexual couple went to a flower shop in order to purchase flowers for their “wedding.” The owner, being a Christian and being against gay marriage refused to provide the flowers for religious reasons, and now she is being sued:
“A Washington florist is being sued by the state’s attorney general for refusing to provide flowers for a gay wedding. Barronelle Stutzman owns Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash. She objected to selling a gay customer flowers for his same-sex wedding because of her Christian faith. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection suit against Stutzman. He says Stutzman discriminated against the customer based on his sexual orientation.” (5)
A second example takes place in the State of Oregon, a state where gay marriage isn’t even legal yet:
“A Christian baker is under a state investigation in Oregon after he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Oregon Attorney General is investigating Aaron Klein, the owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Klein reportedly refused to make a wedding cake for two lesbians. Klein, who is a Christian, told the couple that he would not sell them a cake based on his religious beliefs that marriage should be between one man and one woman.“I believe marriage is a religious institution between a man and woman as stated in the Bible,” Klein told the Portland Oregonian. “When someone tells me that their definition is something different, I strongly disagree. I don’t think I should be penalized for that.”One of the women filed a complaint alleging that his actions violated the Oregon Equality Act. If the baker is found guilty, he could face $50,000 in fines. Religious beliefs don’t outweigh state law, attorney Matthew Ellis told the Portland Tribune.” (6)
People are already being sued over what amounts to their personal religious choice not to provide services to gay “weddings”; if this is happening where gay marriage is both legal and not, can you image just how much this will happen if marriage was solely left up to states or the church? I can guarantee you that especially if marriage is left solely to the church, there will be an outbreak of lawsuits against people of faith who refuse to provide services to gay, polyamorous, polygamous, incestuous, bestiality, pedophilia, etcetera “marriages.”
If the true natural definition of marriage is not protected by the government, all kinds of marriages will by default become legal/normal and occur without punishment; and when this happens, as we have already seen, religious rights to disagree and refuse service get thrown out of the window. When this happens, people’s rights are demolished and the Constitution is undermined. Do we really want to risk/allow an assault on religious liberty by taking the government out of marriage? It is already under assault at the state level and it would only get worse if the church(s) were allowed to define marriage however they want and the government had no role in protecting the Natural Law and defintion of marriage. Anyone who truly believes in religious liberty should for this reason alone (among the many others mentioned) be against the proposition of leaving marriages to the church (as well as the states).
But this is not to say that the state governments have no role in marriage; the federal government, state governments, and churches must work together on the issue of marriage. It is up to the federal government to protect the only true definition of marriage as they are the only entity with the power to actually do so; from there, the state governments can be in charge of the legal aspect of marriage (licenses and court issues), while the church handles the spiritual aspect of the institution.
Marriage is much more than just a spiritual or emotional commitment, it is also a social and legal contract for the protection of society and the individual; those seeking to remove the government’s role from the institution of marriage are no doubt well-intentioned, but the consequences of this action would do more harm than good, and sadly bring about some of the problems that they themselves are worried about. This is why marriage should not be left solely to the Church, and if we want to protect freedom and limited government, government’s role in marriage should not be rescinded.
1. Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsZfSJ3V4bc
3. James Wilson, Collected Works of James Wilson: http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=2074&chapter=166652&layout=html&Itemid=27
4. Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/11/28/the-future-of-marriage-and-the-wisdom-of-tradition/