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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Marriage and the Government

There are more than one or two voices out there today suggesting that maybe the government ought to get out of the marriage business and leave it to the rest of us. The suggestion begs the question: Why is the government involved in marriage? What is the interest of government in the institution of marriage? It cannot -- is not allowed to be -- for religious reasons. So what is it?

Well, from the external, obvious answer given by so many the primary purpose of government involved in marriage is shared rights. Single people have no rights to other single people. Married people share rights. The State gives married people tax breaks and inheritance and health insurance benefits and such. Conversely, married people have State-enforced responsibilities. There is child support and spousal support and such possibly even including garnishing of wages by the State.

These, however, are barely sufficient to involve the government in marriage. These, in fact, are only the tip of the iceberg.

One primary concern of government is the function of family building with long term stability. Marriage provides the optimum environment for child-rearing (two parents, committed, opposite sexes). Sure, not all marriages result in children, but it is the general aim. And, sure, children can thrive in single-parent homes with distant mother or father or two adults of the same gender, but the question isn't survivability; the question is optimum. Common sense and scientific studies have demonstrated that a biological mother and biological father in a permanent, caring relationship provide the best possible environment for children.

Children, of course, are another primary concern of the government. Procreation -- the propogation of the species -- is an essential concern. It maintains any given society (and expands the tax base). And, while all children are capable of being loved, there is no doubt that there is a special, almost mystical bond of having offspring (versus adoption). A loving, biological mother experiences a connection to her child that even the most loving adoptive mother cannot, and so with fathers.

Not many will speak about it, but marriage provides an effect for males that I will call "the taming of the beast". Men are barbarians by nature, doing whatever seems right to them. Put into the environment of marriage, with its inherent lifelong commitment and the natural prospect of children, men settle down. They learn a new level of self-control, self-sacrifice, responsibility, and maturity. This only happens in the close contact of wife (versus "cohabitor") and offspring (versus no children or "someone else's children").

And, because it's considered "sexist" even if it is true, marriage provides a benefit for women that is tuned to their basic structure. Men, by nature, desire a sense of signficance. Women, on the other hand, want a sense of security. They want to be held, protected, nurtured. Only in a lifelong marriage relationship to a committed male is this effect optimized.

The alternative? Families are incoherent. They are without definition. Children are not given the optimum environment. Men are not provided with "taming" and women are not provided with security. The continuation of the society could be in question, and even if it isn't, families are not providing the best for their children. Responsibilities become vague. Costs rise in terms of caring for single parent families, abandoned mothers, and ignored or abused children.

Because it is in the interest of government to provide stable conditions for the two-gender marriage, the government, then, regulates marriage. It offers tax breaks, inheritance rights, family support, and shared rights to this fundamental building block of the society. Good, male-female marriages with children who are loved and nurtured stabilize and perpetuate society.

For some reason, no one seems to pay attention to the fact that none of this is accomplished in a same-sex union of any sort.


Dan said...

This raises a of couple question. Who is the state? And what is their purpose?

Mike said...

This raises the question: What interest would the state have then in supporting gay marriage? How is this beneficial to anyone long term other than the immediate gratification of a few people?

Stan said...

I would guess that the State is the authority instituted by God as the primary rulers of a society or nation (like in Romans 13). According to the Constitution, our government has six primary purposes: 1) To form a more perfect Union, 2) establish Justice, 3) insure domestic Tranquility, 4) provide for the common defense, 5) promote the general Welfare, and 6) secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

Mike's question is exactly the point of this post. Of what benefit is it to the State to support an institution called "gay marriage" since it provides none of the values that genuine marriage provides?

David said...

The purpose of government supporting gay marriage is to garner the votes of gay people. Sad, but true. They are the shouting minority, making them sound like an army rather than a squad.

Dan said...

This illuminates the difference between "the state" as defined by the constitution and "the state" as defined by liberal philosophy. The constitutional state is an extension of the people. It's very nature is preservation of the civil society... which is all the people.

It would appear that the opposing view is of an entity that is wholly separate from, and above, the people. Its responsibilities and purpose include ensuring that all have material blessings, and defining morality as derived from those within the society who are able to amass the power required to dictate it. Part of dictating morality is teaching it to children.

I have always maintained that "marriage" has never been the intent of the gay agenda. Indeed their heterosexual counterparts are increasingly dispensing with the notion as a "piece of paper". No, this "agenda" understands that the redefining of marriage from on high (government) removes the existing barriers between the homosexual agenda and the children they need to indoctrinate.

Stan said...

David, you're so cynical! (Of course, "cynical" does not necessarily equate to "wrong". I'm just sayin'.)

Stan said...


The whole "philosophy of government" question is huge. The American philosophy of government as laid out by the American Constitution is long gone. The Founders had in mind a strictly limited government with the vast majority of rights and responsibilities handed to the people first and then to the states. We've turned that on its ear decades ago and then built on it until there are sure things like "right to privacy" and "right to marry" that don't even exist in the Constitution.

Oddly enough, some of the very things that brought about the American Revolution are commonplace and accepted today. Theirs was a vision of small, limited government. Today government has risen to gargantuan proportions.

Interestingly, the Founders had no notion of "government and morality" in the same breath. They understood morality as a function of Natural Law, not government imposition. Morality determined law, not vice versa. The job of government wasn't to make things right, but to defend the rights of the people. (Note the inversion. The latter is exclusion and the former is intrusion.) The original view was that we have God-given rights; now we have government-given rights.

Oh, don't get me started.

Dan said...

I see it written often :"the state". That has always been a confusing term for me when it is spoken of as if it has interests and desires. This "person-hood" concept is much more similar to our modern-day notions of government it would appear. When I read those words any more I have to ask myself who is saying it? If it is a liberal I must associate the state with a deity like being. If it is a conservative I must translate "civil society at large".

I love your angle of discussing the purpose and role of government. Especially the "government and morality" statement. Even the Deist and atheist seemed to appeal to a higher order (natural law) as "self-evident". I think the founders truly underestimated the depravity of man; that man would eventually reject a higher order and the existence of absolute truth then call it self evident. In such a world the government is all that's left--using the will of the majority--for discerning morality. In the end might makes right. I don't think any of the people who are wishing this brave new world on us all realize what it is they are desiring.

Stan said...

Just for reference, when I read or speak of "the state" (not referencing "Arizona" or some such), I understand it to mean "government in general". I understand it to mean a (reasonably) sovereign, independent government. The Bill of Rights was written to insure that the States had that sovereign, independent role with mere oversight by the federal government. It's not "civil society", but that segment of society that legislates and mediates civil society.