Let’s talk about marriage. Not specifically gay marriage, or non-gay marriage, or plural marriage, or interspecies marriage; just… marriage.
Let’s start with this, an idea I’ve given some thought to myself over the years: Get The State Out of Marriage. Relevant excerpt:
In Oklahoma this past Friday, State Representative Mike Turner boldly challenged, “whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all.” He floated a bill that would remove the state’s role of licensing matrimony. This was in response to a recent court order that strikes down Oklahoma’s definition of marriage as traditional one-man-one-woman.
Think about that for a moment. Take your time, I’ll wait right here.
Ready? Let’s move on.
Rather than defend the status quo, I’ll take a different tack; what good reasons are there for government to be involved in marriage? I can think of one; marriage has a legal component to it, in that it is a contract between competent, capable adults. (Normally a man and a woman, but that perception is somewhat in flux at the moment.) Now, contracts are written and agreed to between competent parties all the time without government involvement; government generally only becomes involved when one or more parties violates the term of the agreement in some way or another.
How is government involved in marriage? In one primary way: the issue of marriage licenses, usually at the county level. Why do we need a license – in essence, permission from the county government – to get married?
Many, many years ago, when I was a little tad, we lived on a farm near Fairbank, Iowa. Our neighbors were an older couple, Grace and Brownie, who formed a treasured extra pair of surrogate grandparents for me. I have a distinct memory of sitting with my mother in Grace and Brownie’s kitchen listening to Brownie, a stubborn, no-nonsense WW1 veteran and lifelong farmer, talk about his pursuit of a building permit to extend one of his farm buildings. Most of all I remember his lament that “these days you have to get a permit from the county to take a shit.”
That was in the late Sixties. Things have not improved since that time.
One could make an argument for building codes and the concomitant permits to make sure that those codes are adhered to, especially for commercial buildings. But marriage?
Removing government from the business of marriage makes a great deal of sense. It would make no inroads on the religious observation of marriage. Churches of all sorts could go right on conducting marriages exactly as they do now, with a little less paperwork. It would make no inroad on the secular observation of marriage. People who are not religious (like me) could conduct any type of ceremony or observation that suits them. Would some people forgo marriage altogether? Probably, yes; some people already do. The numerator may change some, but the denominator remains the same.
Here’s the real rub, though, and this is why advocacy of this could be a winner for the slowly-growing libertarian wing of the GOP: Removing government from the business of marriage removes the thorny issue of gay marriage from the debate.
“But Animal,” you might ask, “doesn’t that open the door for all sorts of domestic arrangements? Doesn’t that open the door to polygamy, polyandry, and all sorts of other polys?“
My reply: “Well, sure. But if government isn’t involved in the licensing of domestic arrangements at all, what changes? People all over are free to indulge in those kinds of domestic arrangements now, they just can’t get a license from the county to formalize it. And why should they?”
My take on social issues of this sort is based on one simple principle: I don’t give a damn what people do, as long as they leave me alone.
Now, I’m about as heterosexual as you can get, in case you hadn’t figured that out from my penchant for Rule Five cheesecake. I like women, and to my very good fortune women have always liked me. (Mrs. Animal most of all.) It’s beyond my capacity to understand why a man would be sexually attracted to another man. But then, it’s beyond my capacity to understand why people like watching football on television. And that’s OK; the fact that other people do those things doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t affect my marriage. It doesn’t affect my life. It doesn’t affect me if two men, or two women, or three men and five women, or two men and a rosebush want to live together and call it “marriage.”
I know there are religious objections to gay marriage; I’m not religious and I don’t share them, but I acknowledge the depth of conviction of people who do hold those views. This proposal can easily address that as well. Churches that object to gay marriage should be free to refuse to conduct them.
Removing the licensing requirement from the equation removes the controversy. It’s a good idea. This Oklahoma proposal should be taken on the road.