Marriage and Limited Government
Fifteen years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart. Since the topic of marriage is at the front of my mind, I thought I’d write about an issue of double standards that surrounds the whole marriage argument. The issue of marriage is, to say the least, a very sensitive topic, and this post might end up being one of my posts that steps on some toes. You’ve been warned.
My wife and I were married in a small church in Warner Robins, Georgia. Our wedding was a ceremony committing our lives to each other before God and our friends. We had a state-issued marriage license, but Georgia’s stance on our marital stance was (and is) inconsequential. If Georgia were to revoke our marriage license and declare us single, we would still be married in the eyes of our church because our union is a religious union.
As with most things, the problem with marriage comes when government gets too involved. Since marriage is a religious partnership, the government has no place defining – or redefining – what marriage is. That is the role of the religious institution that administers the wedding; it is not the role of government.
To take it a step further, government has no right to dictate to a church who it will or will not allow to be married. It’s very similar to the issue of a church’s qualifications for pastors or priests. Some churches forbid women pastors while some allow women to serve in that capacity. Some require celibacy, while that’s not an issue for other churches. Each church enforces the qualifications according to its own doctrine, and the government – state or federal – has absolutely no business dictating behavior to a church.
This would be fine if marriages were governed exclusively by the church, but we have allowed government to become involved in our marriages. Whether that’s for the tax and legal benefits, or whether it’s our efforts to have the state define morality, the problem is that it puts government in a position where it treats some people differently than it treats others.
The Declaration of Independence says very specifically that all men are created equal; it’s a principle upon which our nation was founded. I talked about this a little bit when I wrote about hate crimes earlier this year. We can’t treat one group of people better or worse than we treat another group of people. We have to insist on equal protection under the law for everyone.
So what’s the solution? Should we amend state or federal constitutions to allow for (or to ban) gay marriage? No, not at all. The governance of the marriage union should be returned to the church, where each church can be free to allow or deny marriage based on its own doctrinal teachings.
As for the government’s role in offering benefits or legal protection to married couples, everyone needs to be treated equally under the law. That might mean that when a church marries a gay couple, they get access to those benefits. Or it might mean that heterosexual couples lose that special treatment. Either way, conservatives need to back down from their demands that government become even more involved in this issue. We’re supposed to be calling for less government, not more of it.
The solution to the marriage issue, like the solution to many of our nation’s issues, is not an expansion in the scope and power of our government. The solution is to limit government’s involvement in the affairs of men, women, and churches so that liberty is upheld and so that everyone is treated equally under the law.