Does the State Have an Interest in Marriage?

Some who are arguing for non-traditional marriage are simply arguing “if heterosexuals marry, homosexuals should have the same right.”  Its an equal rights issue to them, not so much a thoughtful definition of marriage.  Indeed, many in the “equal rights” movement don’t hold marriage in very high esteem at all.  Many in the feminist movement denigrate marriage as an “old patriarchal institution that out to be done away with.”  Some in the gay rights community deride heterosexual married people as “breeders”, and also see marriage as something antiquated, that the state has no business being involved with at all.  If marriage is about something other than procreation and the nurture of children, what other reason could there be for its existence?  Does it exist to provide benefits for partners?  Does it exist to ensure mutual care in old age?  Does the government have any interest in this?  If so, does the actuality of a very low marriage rate in both traditional and non-traditional camps pose a problem for the government?  Should the government be promoting all kinds of partnerships in hopes that most people have at least one other person to help them in time of need, disability or old age?  On the other hand, should any of this be the government’s concern at all or should the whole partnership issue be a strictly personal matter between the parties concerned?

It is interesting to look at societies where the government is indeed becoming concerned about the lack of procreating families.  In several countries of Europe, the population is actually decreasing, and as the current workforce retires, a massive economic crisis looms.  These governments are indeed concerned.  Either they will have to import a massive workforce of immigrants, certainly impacting what has been a fairly stable culture, (we are already seeing this in France) or it will have to embark on a huge crash program of “having children for the motherland” which will greatly burden the “sandwich generation.”  These are societies that are fading because of a loss of the younger generation.  These societies did not come anywhere near replacing themselves.  The ancient reason to settle down and marry–procreation to ensure continuation of the society–was forgotten.  The society didn’t ensure that women would be esteemed if they took time from their careers to have children, and it didn’t encourage men to be fathers.  They are paying a price.

Society has an obligation to procreating families if it wants to survive.  There has to be financial incentive, or at least lessening of the financial impact of children, if couples are to have enough children.  The society has to ensure these children will be raised well.  That includes, (excuse the writer for being politically incorrect but sociologically accurate), a stable family with a mother and a father.

If society is looking out for its own good and its own continuation, it will deny marriage to some.  For instance, if pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous to girls of 13 or 14, there should be an age limit for marriage.  Girls that age need to be protected so they aren’t getting pregnant, and laws could be enforced if the society had the will to do so. (Most of these young girls are getting pregnant by men over 18).  If first cousins produce an abundance of birth defects, first cousins shouldn’t marry.  If the marriage is an absurdity in relation to having children, there is simply no reason to legalize or promote it.  Does that mean infertile or older heterosexual couples should be denied marriage?  Some would argue this.  However, in view of the need for temporary or substitute parents, foster parents, adoptive parents and grandparents, such couples can provide a nurturing home environment with both husband and wife role models, filling a societal need.

What if the marriage is strictly meeting the needs of the adult couple?  Then one would ask what compelling interest the state would have in such a marriage.  Many friendship arrangements and other relationships between people suffice to meet bonding needs.  The state’s interest is family making and the sometimes necessary substitute family making.  Western culture, at this point in its history is concerned primarily with the happiness of individual adults, not the needs of children or the needs of the society.

A related question ought to be whether the state has an interest in the continuation of the marriage.  With mountains of evidence showing the damage of divorce to children, shouldn’t the state be doing everything in its power to ensure the continuation of marriages and not their dissolution?  The writer realizes none of this article’s questions are popular or politically correct at the present time.  However, questions which aren’t allowed to be asked, don’t allow for growth and improvement, evaluation or decision making.  The purpose of a democracy is to allow the free-flowing debate of all ideas in hopes the best will rise to the surface and be adopted.

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One Response to “Does the State Have an Interest in Marriage?”

  1. Charles Says:

    I agree –95% with this article. The only part I disagree with is that old infertile couples might be similar to gay people.

    That’s just not so from a long held standard in legal reasoning — the standard of the “reasonable” man.

    No “reasonable man” would grant a presumption that two people of the same sex can procreate. On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to give the presumption that a heterosexual couple can procreate.

    And this gets to a basic definition. If the state, as an instrument of society, wants to build a system of stable, procreative units that lead to healthy productive citizens, husband and wife families are the way to go. If husband and wife families are the way to go and if (as has been ruled by the supreme court) this ability to form the relationship of husband and wife is a basic fundamental right, then the presumption would apply to all heterosexual couples regardless of individual actual ability to procreate.

    This falls under the concept of a “public good”.

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