If I could ask the Republican Party one question it would be this: What is marriage? This is the most important question surrounding the marriage debate, and it's the one that rarely gets asked.
We have two, competing views of marriage in our society today. Unfortunately, these views are almost totally incompatible. This is why the debate rages so fiercely.
Generally, those who lean Left on the issue believe that marriage is:
- romantic feelings that the government incentivizes with federal benefits and tax breaks.
- a private agreement between two people, without any public ramifications involving the natural rights of children and their parents, or the natural rights of the spouses to one another.
- not objective, but subjective and open to change by society.
- temporary; dissolvable at any time by either person, which means that the divorce can be enforced by the government against the will of one party and the will of their children.
- not a way to attach children to their mothers and fathers, and their parents to one another.
Generally, those who lean Right on the issue believe that marriage is:
- a pre-political institution that arose because of the needs of children and serves as the foundation for a free society.
- a public institution, since it has an impact on those who were not privy to the marital vows (namely, the children who are born into the marriage, which must include the children's relatives and descendants as well).
- objective, not open to change by society. Marriage policy must draw lines excluding certain types of relationships. The lines should be based in fact, based in reason, and be objective.
- presumptively procreative. This is why we have the legal doctrine called the "marital presumption of paternity." This acknowledges that children born during a marriage are the husband's children.
- presumptively permanent; potentially annullable and dissolvable only for cause. (Aside: This side of the debate has lost credibility by not fighting the "no fault divorce" changes that swept the country in the 1970s and 80s, nor working to reform such laws currently.)
- the only "limited government" way to ensure the well-being of children. Other family structures require various levels of government intrusion into the family.
- based on the fact that sex between a man and a woman creates children. Marriage is society's way to encourage men and women to commit to each other and to take responsibility for their children.
Old and New Redefinitions, or, "No Fault Divorce" and "Gay Marriage"
We "redefined" marriage in the 70s and 80s. Prior to that time, we defined marriage as something permanent. The "no fault divorce" changes of the 70s and 80s made it so that marriage policy no longer respected people's vows.
Marriage can now be ended by one spouse for no reason at all. States are now divorce-enforcers. That might sound dramatic, but it is true. The state now takes sides with one spouse, against the wishes of the other spouse and the children, to enforce the divorce. This granted them unheard of powers over the family, powers that all Republicans and Libertarians should be very concerned about, such as:
- dictating child visitation schedules, sometimes down to the hour.
- enforcing child support orders in the form of humiliating wage garnishments even when the non custodial parent has excellent credit.
- scrutiny of family finances.
- many other examples of micromanaging the family in humiliating and unjust ways.
- a record, available for public inspection, is kept of all this.
The new redefinition, gay marriage, removes gender from the definition of marriage. In so doing, it also does these:
- it allows marriage to become whatever emotional bond the government says it is.
- it delinks childbearing from marriage, which will create confusion for children that the state (aka taxpayers) will be responsible for. Did you notice the list of state powers granted by "no fault divorce" above? Delinking childbearing from marriage will undoubtedly grow this list in unknowable ways.
- changes the "presumption of paternity" to the "presumption of parentage," which strikes fathers from the legal code. If marriage is not procreative, this legal doctrine makes no sense regardless of how it's worded
- it codifies the idea that children are not entitled to a mother and a father. It removes children from the central focus of marriage.
- it creates a very serious threat to the first freedom in the Bill of Rights.
- it creates a few disturbing parallels with slavery.
Regardless of victories by gay marriage supporters, I am proud to be on the record for defending children as part of marriage policy. In 30 years they will judge the outcome of redefining marriage to exclude them. We'll wait for their verdict. I predict they will eventually realize that removing the gender requirement from marriage set aside their interests for the benefit of adults.
My question to Republicans is this: what is marriage? I believe that one man, one woman for life, will prove to be the right side of history.