I’ll start out by saying, unequivocally, that the US federal and state governments should not support gay marriage. I’ll even strengthen the statement by saying that those same governments should not support straight marriage either. Governments should not be in the business of supporting any kind of marriage. They should stay out of it.
You may have noticed that most arguments against same-sex marriage are of a religious nature, pseudo-citing sources like the Bible, the Qur’an, the Torah, Jesus, or God. This makes some sense because there is definitely a spiritual aspect to any marital relationship. But, the last time I checked, US governmental entities embraced the philosophy of the separation of the state from any church. Our democracy is based on the rule of law, not the rule of any supreme being.
So, the solution to the ongoing controversy is simple: the US federal and state governments should support civil unons between pairs of human beings. Period. Marriage should entirely belong to religious groups such as churches. And every such group should be free to marry whomever they want to. Some can marry only heterosexual couples, that’s OK, and some can marry only same-sex couples. That’s OK too. Based on denominational or independent beliefs, any religious authority can marry any kind of couple they choose and restrict themselves from marrying any kind of couple they choose as well. This approach not only supports the concept of separation of church and state, it also supports the concept of religious freedom, one of the major founding principles of this country.
This is not a new idea. The French government has long required that a civil ceremony that is presided over by a governmental official be performed before any optional religious ceremony can be performed. During the civil ceremony, the presiding authority confirms the identity and health of the marrying couple and that they understand their legal obligations to each other and to any children they should have. What more does the state need to do?
Indeed, what exactly is the purview of the government? There are many variations on the theme of answers to this question and not little debate on the finer points. I will suggest that the basic role of the government is to:
- protect the governed in terms of life, liberty, and property
- facilitate the economy with long-term policies and
- make sure that those who have nothing don’t suffer inhumanely
That’s it. So, until couples of any particular combination start committing crimes that threaten the rest of us, start destroying the economy, or start torturing poor people, I think the government can leave them alone.
President Obama almost got it right when he and Vice-president Biden came out in support of gay marriage. It is a step in the right direction of the government to eventually give legal rights of property sharing, inheritance, visitation, etc. to couples involved in legal civil unons and to otherwise separate from the whole religious and spiritual business of marriage.