Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A modest (marriage) proposal

Mike Huckabee (see earlier post with Jon Stewart) got me to thinking about the gay marriage thing again, and I think I see a way to accommodate all parties. It's very simple, really.

Get government out of the business of marriage. If the state doesn't recognize gay marriage, it shouldn't recognize any marriage.

Instead, let civil government only regulate civil unions, available to all, regardless of sexual orientation. Civil unions are currently legal arrangements that sets guidelines for the legal aspects of a registered relationship: controling inheritance rights, sharing of job and healthcare benefits and the like. Property rights: the purview of the government.

Churches or other religious bodies would be the gatekeeper of the religious ceremony that celebrates the spiritual side of relationships. And any church could do it: First Baptist of Dallas or the Cathedral of Hope. Since it is not a civil ceremony, the government would have no interest in who and why, or for that matter, what the ceremony is even called. It becomes a matter of religious freedom.

People getting "married" would still have to register a civil union. And there would be no requirement for a civil union to have a "marriage" ceremony to be legally binding, since "marriage" would be a strictly ornamental capstone to the civil union.

Because when push comes to shove, the civil union would be the only legally sanctioned element.

Happy now, Mike?

I just noticed Newsweek has an interesting debate on this topic as well.


Christian MIller said...


The gay marriage debate is emotionally charged and multifaceted. It has, at times, degenerated to bitter disrespectful name-calling: bigots vs. sinners. This debate is not about to persuade bigots or sinners to change their ways by chastising one another. The real issue is to determine what the law should be. A first step is to question the
roles of the Federal, State and Local governments in marriage/civil unions. My contention is that when one strips away the emotional and the irrelevant issues and holds to principles of the separation of church and state and fairness, then there is no benefit to society for government involvement in marriage or civil unions at all.

Once government and its subsidies for marriage are withdrawn or made available to single people, then churches, organizations and individuals can deal with couples coming together, living together, raising families and doing what people have done forever. Couples are free to determine their relationships and characterize it with any words they choose.

In this way, there is no Prop 8, no marriage laws; no “Healthy Marriage Initiative”; no government marriage licenses; no civil unions; no exclusive Federal subsidies or financial incentives to married people.

The conservatives should welcome the reduction of government and getting government out of our intimate personal lives; the Christian Right should welcome that the church now has authority over the marriage of its members and rather than the government; the 100 million single people should applaud at no longer having to pay for benefits exclusively going to married people; gays will have finally have achieved true equality; the liberals and progressives should welcome the justice of the situation; and libertarians will rejoice at a small move in the direction of “live and let live.” Everyone should be satisfied except those who relish the fight itself.

Current Government Roles
Local Government: Issues marriage licenses; conducts civil ceremonies; registers the marriage; authorizes people to conduct marriage ceremonies.

State Government: Determines the regulations surrounding marriage

Federal Government: Pays benefits and subsidies to married people; establishes social programs such as the “Healthy Marriage Initiative” granting visas to spouses of citizens. etc. The main benefits are military housing allowances; joint tax filing; Social Security payments to spouses; and spousal exemption from inheritance tax. These financial benefits can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a couple’s lifetime.

Proposed Reasons for Government Involvement and Counter Arguments

1. Prevent incest
a. Government denial of marriage licenses is not going to stop incest.
2. Prevent spread of disease
a. People are going to have sex, with or without government’s approval
3. Promote loving committed relationships
a. It is unimaginable that any government is going to influence people to be loving.
b. There is no way the government can have a “love and commitment” test as a condition of issuing a marriage license. In fact there is no marriage license requirement for a couple to say they intend to like each other A marriage license is only a voucher to get more benefits than single people.
4. Promote a healthy family environment for children
a. I submit that it is wishful thinking to believe that any government is going influence the family environment.
5. Encourage people to have children
a. Women are going to get pregnant without help from the government
6. Prevent gayness from spreading
a. The government is not going to influence sexual preference
7. Protect women
a. Mothers and expecting mothers may need special help, but not married women in general.
8. Prevent Polygamy
a. The government is not going to prevent folks from having multiple partners.
9. Prevent underage people from having sex
a. A adult having sex with an underage person is illegal.
10. Provide a way for couples to feel married who do not want to get married in a church.
a. There can be organizations dedicated to serving this desire, but it should not be the concern of government.
11. Right not to testify against a spouse
a. Each citizen, married or not, should have the right to designate one person that is exempt from having to testify about that citizen.
12. Spousal hospital visitation rights
a. Each citizen, married or not, should have the right to designate one person who has visitation rights in the event the citizen is not able to communicate.
13. Regulating the combining of a couple’s finances
a. Can be accomplished by contract under existing civil law. The document can be called anything: A “Nuptial Agreement” if the couple desires.
14. Establishing state laws regarding community property
a. The community property issue would be determined by contract.
15. Prevent sin
a. Separation of church and state. Sin prevention is not an appropriate function of government.
16. Married people need more financial help than single people.
a. There are plenty of rich married people and poor single people.
17. It is unfair for the government not to allow gays to marry.
a. This would not be an issue if the government withdrew from the marriage business.
b. The argument about fairness is weak. Gays want on the government gravy train now, but do not want single people on that same gravy train. Single people are paying for these financial benefits through higher taxes. Hardly fair.

Dan Brekke said...

Well, this is getting out of the marriage business by taking it over once and for all and calling it something else. So no, I don't imagine Mike or his brothers and sisters would be happy. After all, they think our civic institutions should bear -- do bear -- the mark of their religious beliefs and want to make their creed, as they preach it, more central to our daily lives, not less.

Dr Ralph said...

The more I think about it, the more I think Christian MIller's comment makes more sense than my rather chickenshit suggestion. Get government out of the business of endorsing any sort of "union" altogether. Thanks, Christian.

Dan - you're correct: Brother Mike and his kin are going to want to crap all over anything that looks like marriage, no matter what it's called. Let them find another toilet.