Friday, September 30, 2022

Should The State Stay Out of The Marriage Business?

I have never really understood why the state is involved with marriage. I totally get religious marriages and contracts between two people for whatever they want, but why do we have this odd institution of civil marriage? 

Historically only the rich were civilly married and that was generally because marriage was considered an alliance between families. Love had little to do with it. It was all about property rights. 

A Slate article from eight years ago is still relevant

If civil marriage were to be abolished, we could replace that moribund institution with a more personalized, a la carte menu of contractual rights and responsibilities. (Religious marriage would be left intact, of course. Houses of worship will always retain the freedom to perform traditional rites and to be as inclusive or exclusive about them as they choose—the free exercise of religion is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution.) Something like a standard civil union arrangement would still be available for traditional couples, but two roommates could share property in common and serve as health care proxies for one another without taking on any additional rights or responsibilities if they didn’t wish to. A tenant could have the right to continue living in the space she had long rented without being responsible for funeral rites or having any claim to her landlord’s property. A polyamorous triad could share legal rights and responsibility for any children that came of their relationship without our having to go through a protracted political fight over whether marriage should be allowed for more than two people.

Eliminating civil marriage would inject hundreds of billions of dollars into our economy because we would not be wasting all that money on litigation surrounding marriages, especially when they fall apart.  

Culturally, I would love to see the day when a person can call another person "wife' of "husband" simply as a a term of personal commitment rather than government decree. 

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