Getting Government Out Of The Marriage Business

That’s what one New York Assemblywoman is proposing in the wake of yesterday’s Court of Appeals decision:

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-125th District, who announced her plan to run for re-election a few hours after the court decision was made public, said this about the court ruling:

“Let’s get government out of the wedding business and have everyone, equally, have a civil arrangement,” she said.

The proposal Lifton supports would replace the word “marriage” with “civil commitment” in state laws, creating a legal contract she said would be accessible to everyone, while leaving the religious aspect of the union to religious institutions.

“Why should state government become a religious institution?” she asked.

I’ve argued before that the government should get out of the marriage business entirely.

If two people, or more for that matter, want to call themselves married, that is their right. The state should not be in the business of defining what is and and is not a marriage, nor should it grant preferntial benefits to one form of marriage over another. Barring that, if the state is going to recognize and grant benefits to married persons, then it should not discriminate in favor of one type of marriage over another.

Kim Preistap doesn’t think its a good idea at all:

Ms. Lifton makes her idea sound so simple: it’s just replacing one word with another, that’s all. But it’s much more than that. It fundamentally turns the institution of marriage, the union of a man and a woman before God and man, into nothing but an impersonal and emotionless legal contract akin to a business transaction. In other words, if gays can’t marry, then no one can.

If that’s what you believe a marriage is, the union of a man and woman before God and man, then what does the state have to do with so fundamentally a religious institution ? Why does the state need to recognize it at all and why does it need to grant that religious institution preferntial benefits in the form of tax breaks and a protected legal status that is not available to unmarried persons ?

Kellie and I were married in the Roman Catholic Church, which has requirements for marriage that exceed, and are different from, those of civil marriage. That wedding ceremony is what made the marriage official in the eyes of God, not the little piece of paper we got from Cuyahoga County, Ohio the day before.

Here’s my proposal. Get rid of civil marriage licenses entirely. Let people decide for themselves what they believe about marriage and let them, if they wish solemnize that union in a church of their choice. We are hundreds of years past the day where the state was involved in religious affairs, it doesn’t need to be involved in this matter either.

Previous Posts:

Gay Marriage, Polygamy, And Individual Liberty

  • Ryan

    I actually have to agree with Lifton on this. We need some sort of civil recognition of the union of two partners for financial reasons, but I totally agree with the whole marriage being a religious issue. For once we have a good proposal coming from a person in government. Props to you Barbara Lifton!

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  • Robert Aitchison

    I’ve been saying this for years, marriage is a fundamentally religious institution and should be none of the governments business. It should be between you, your spouse and your clergy whom you marry.

    I don’t need a license from the state for my son to have his Bar Mitzvah and I shouldn’t have needed one to get married.

    To eliminate the institution of civil marriage would require changes to our legal structure to cover issues like inheritance (currently spouses inherit property tax free) joint proprty (already largely covery by incorporation), next of kin, etc.