Why Is Government Even Talking About Marriage?   4 comments

Yes, this is germane to what I’ve been talking about because it touches on the administrative state.


I’m a Great Commission Baptist Sunday School teacher. Most people call us Southern Baptist. I describe myself as a nonpartisan conservative with libertarian leanings. Today I will be playing the part of a social conservative with libertarian leanings.

I believe marriage involves a man, a woman and God. It does not involve two men, two women, groups of men and women, or humans and animals. It also doesn’t involve a man and a woman without God. I base that belief on the Bible’s teaching. No, you won’t change my mind. Homosexuals can live together, have sex, raise kids, and jointly own property and their civil union is still not a marriage, because marriage is a sacred relationship instituted before and under God before the community. You will never convince me that the government deeming sin to be equal to a sacred relationship is good for society.

So far, I’m playing the role of a social conservative to a T, right? Now for the controversial – libertarian – leanings.

First, history records that we would probably not have an establishment clause if not for the Baptists of Rhode Island, who were tired of being pushed around by other, more politically connected denominations. They demanded the Constitution protect their right not to be Episcopalians. The Southern Baptist Convention has been politically supportive of socially conservative issues, but many of its members oppose theocracy in all its shades, harkening back to our forebears. We introduced separation of church and state to these shores. While we don’t accept that religion has not place in the public square, we know that imposed morality is tyranny.

I am not going to either defend or oppose homosexual marriages because the government being involved in marriage is against the founding principles of the United States. There are proposed constitutional amendments that would put morality under control of government and effectively violate the principles of separation of church and state. Social conservatives who want to make Christianity the official religion of the United States might want to think long and hard on what exactly that means. Government has no role in defining religious values.

A constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman would put the government, not God, in charge of marriage. It would undermine the separation of church and state and de-sacralize marriage.

The purpose of good government is to create a rule of law that protects people and allows them to live together peacefully. There is an unfortunate desire among some of my friends to see government as a means to force others to believe or pay for something we want. The founders were worried something like this would happen.

Traditionally marriages were blessed by religious officials or elders of a community in public ceremonies that created community recognition of the union. In the U.S., the states did not get involved in marriages until after the Civil War. If a couple did not seek a religious ceremony or blessing by God, a ceremony would be performed by a local justice of the peace. Such justices were local community officials. If couples cohabited for more than seven years, their marriage was often considered a “common law” marriage. States were not involved in marriage.

States became involved in issuing marriage licenses in extreme cases after the Civil War when white and black couples could not get a local religious official or magistrate to perform the ceremony. That problem no longer exists, so why is the government still involved in marriage?

State power grows. It’s rare for it to retreat. No matter how unconstitutional a state power may be, no matter that its purpose has long become invalid, it is rare for it to be eliminated. The Founding Fathers created the Supreme Court to strike down unconstitutional legal practices. The courts have been derelict in this duty, usually succumbing to social fads and seldom striking down unconstitutional legislation or legal practices.

In 1921, the US government became involved in the recognition of marriage when a dispute over miscegenation laws was appealed to the Supreme Court, opening the door for the U.S. to begin suing estates for inheritance taxes. The encroachment on marriage by the states and the Federal government parallels the encroachment on personal property with the passage of the 16th Amendment a few years earlier. These laws represent the process in which a bottom-up flow of power from people to government became replaced by a top-down flow of power where the people were effectively changed from citizens to subjects of the state.

Marriage is a cultural institution based on the love and fidelity of people for one another. It is properly blessed by religious and cultural institutions. The government was brought into marriage originally to provide a vehicle for the expression of this love when no social institution could be found to bless a marriage, or when lower governments sought to deny people rights based on interracial marriage. This was the result of the failure of cultural institutions to exercise responsibilities appropriate for the cultural sphere.

Today there are plenty of cultural groups that are willing to bless interracial and homosexual marriages. If a church won’t do it, you can easily find someone else. In Alaska, we allow pretty much anyone to perform a legally binding marriage ceremony. The need for government involvement to force this issue no longer exists. State and federal governments should withdraw from definitions of marriage and allow people the freedom of marriage and assembly as they choose.

Yes, that will complicate family law for a while. We’ll need to set up new ways of dealing with inheritance, for example. Some lawyers will no doubt make some money until that is settled. Government getting out of marriage will not end the social and religious debate over homosexual activity. It simply removes government from the debate and allows marriage to remain a sacred tradition that does not force Bible believers to violate their conscience.

4 responses to “Why Is Government Even Talking About Marriage?

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  1. Why are your thoughts so cohesive, and I come across as the looney Lutheran? I very much agree with your perspective. I will say that my brother-in-law, who is a southern Baptist, would probably have an apoplectic fit upon reading this. 😉


    • I’m an Alaskan Southern Baptist — which is somewhat of a geographical oxymoron, I think. Which is why our church jumped at the Southern Baptist Convention’s suggestion that we start calling ourselves Great Commission Baptists. As my pastor said “I’m just tired of trying to explain an Alaskan Southern Baptist church.”

      And, really, Kells, this has been a journey for me. I worked for several years in the social work field. Over that time, there were staff members there who were gay. I personally have never met a gay man who wasn’t a creeper … maybe I’ve just been unlucky, but everyone of them eventually turned out having sexual relations with a pre-teen boy. However, I became and still am friends with a couple of the lesbians. They’re wonderful women. They know I think their chosen lifestyle is a sin, but they also know that I care about them deeply and that I am no less judgmental toward heterosexuals involved in sexual sins and no less judgmental toward my own sins.

      It’s been through my conversations with them that I’ve come to the recognition that social conservatives aren’t going to be able to stop the current gay agenda. More often than not, we discredit our faith through the ways in which we try to legislate morality. But I absolutely do not accept the belief that a gay union is equal to a marriage before God. So, what to do?

      I’ve got libertarian leanings, so the leap to “Let’s get government out of marriage” was a short one. The problem doesn’t go away if government gets out of the marriage business, but it prevents the coming confrontation where my pastor is going to be ordered, as a state-licensed marriage commissioner, to perform ceremonies for gays against his (and our church’s) will.


  2. Lots of wisdom in this post, as usual. The IRS needs marriage defined as well. Govt needs a piece.


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