The Marriage Dilemma

Mario Rizzo at ThinkMarket blogs provides a thorough defense of the (common) libertarian position that marriage, in the traditional sense, has no business being granted by the state.  Instead, he proposes that the government’s role is simply to enforce the terms of civil union contracts agreed upon by two parties, regardless of who those two parties are.  This would take care of the gay marriage dilemma and negate the state’s role in providing financial incentives to promote traditional, and often parochial conservative, family structure in one fell swoop.

But it is a good thing?  I buy that it would be good for allowing “gay marriage” (in the way that all civil union contracts would be the same for all consenting adults regardless of gender) but why should the state not incentivize the survival of family structure?  How would alimony and child support payments be enforced?  I’m no expert in contract law (or any law for that matter) but treatment of these issues seems problematic – and by that I mean overlooked.  One of the highest rates of single parenthood is in poor black communities, and that doesn’t seem to be working out too well for them (here is just one report)  Maybe we need stronger incentives to retain familial structure, rather than less.

Here’s one more statement of Rizzo’s I find misrepresents reality a bit:

For many centuries the State was not involved in restricting the nature of “marriage.” The terms of marriage were the domain of the Church.

Rizzo seems to forget or neglect the fact that, for a long time, the church was essentially the state.  And I’m not even talking about medieval europe here.  For good or ill, religious attitudes still affect policy makers decisions in the United States.

This points to a larger question (I’m not particularly interesting in debating the plausibility of a real change occurring in the public’s conception of marriage law).  Without a doubt, the role of the Church in people’s lives, from daily rituals to law and governence is waning.  Therefore, is the growth of a allegedly religious-neutral State a natural way for the morality of the majority to express itself?

If we’re replacing religious doctrine with some agreed upon, democratic form of secular humanism (influenced but not dictated by traditional religious tennants) maybe common law that  governs marriage isn’t a bad thing.  Maybe leaving marriage terms up to the individual parties would generate chaos?

On the other hand, tryanny of the majority is something we’re supposed to want to avoid, as well as the assumption that politicians know best.

Truly, this a tricky issue with many layers.  Isn’t it better to discuss them all before defaulting to the standard (though admittedly defensible) libertarian-anarchist position?

PS – Hello World!

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