Joe Carter  Why privatizing marriage is a terrible idea…

Joe Carter: Why privatizing marriage is a terrible idea.

It’s rooted in the flawed assumption that marriage is essentially a religious institution, and that it should therefore be left in the hands of religious organizations. The belief is that by keeping government out of what is religious by nature prevents it from being politicized. What this perspective fails to realize is that marriage belongs to neither religion or the state. Marriage is both a pre-political and pre-religious institution that was instituted by God before any formal government or religious institutions were created.

Because it is separate and distinct entity, marriage has an autonomy and existence apart from both the state and religious organizations. Because the three institutions stand apart from one another, they can each decide whether to recognize the legitimacy of the other but they cannot delineate each others boundaries. In this way, the relationship is similar to nation-states. The U.S. government, for example, can decide to “recognize” the state of Israel and how it will relate to that country but it cannot redefine the country in a way that contracts its border to exclude the Gaza Strip. The U.S. either recognizes Israel as it defines itself or it rejects its legitimacy altogether…

Instead of privatizing marriage, Dalmia proposes a minimalist option:

If libertarians want to expand marital freedom, they ought to try and spread the Las Vegas model where licenses are handed out to consenting adults on demand with minimal regulations and delay.

That plan may indeed be a preferable option for libertarians. But as a Christian and conservative I think the government should simply do a better job of recognizing what marriage is as an institution rather than broadening and redefining it in a way that is ahistorical and problematic. Dalmia’s solution would also sanction incestuous and polygamous marriages (assuming they are “consenting”) and leave open the question of what “minimal regulations” would be acceptable to a nation of 320 million people.

Perhaps, except historic institutions and customs are sustained by majorities, while the definition of marriage is being re-defined by a micro-minority (5 justices and 1-2% of the U.S. population). And what’s problematic is not who’s defining multiple definitions of marriage, but that you’ll be forced to agree with that the government’s definition, regardless of your Christian beliefs.

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