Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Government Marriage and Civil Marriage

Opponents of gay marriage like Robert George have argued that if gay marriage is licensed by the government, real marriage--the marriage of a man and a woman--will be abolished.  I disagree, because I think that since real marriage satisfies some of the deepest desires of our evolved human nature, it will endure as a matter of natural law, regardless of marriage licensing law.  We are going to see which of us is correct, because gay marriage will soon be legalized throughout the United States.

In a liberal regime, marriage should be a creation not of government but of civil society.  It should be part of the social order shaped by the natural and voluntary associations of civil life, including families and religious organizations.  Religious believers will want to sanction marriage as a matter not just of natural law but also of divine law.

As R. R. Reno, the editor of First Things, has indicated in some recent articles, some Christians have now reached the conclusion that the proper response to the legalization of gay marriage is for priests and pastors to refuse to participate in the governmental licensing of marriage.  Ministers should no longer act as agents of the state in signing marriage certificates.  They should distinguish between government marriage and civil marriage, and they should agree to preside only over those weddings that conform to the Christian standards of real marriage.

This would be a good step towards the best resolution of the debate over gay marriage--the complete privatization of marriage.  I have elaborated some of my reasoning for this in some posts on George's arguments here, here, here, and here.


W. Bond said...

But can you separate marriage from the law?

All type of legal matters, including next-of-kin, property, taxes, inheritance, children, legal testimony, etc., would be affected. What of the religiously, but not legally married couples. States still need definitions of common-law marriage if the fundamental relationship of husband/wife is to be recognized as prior to relationships such as brother/sister in legal matters.

Doesn’t legal marriage exist because marriage exists prior to the positive law? Can the positive law cannot ignore such a basic and natural arrangement without distorting it?

See e.g. http://www.wbonds.blogspot.com/2013/11/on-tying-and-cutting-knots.html

Mobius Trip said...

What about Nominalism in Law? Shouldn’t naturalism represent how we view the laws of nature? In all seriousness, the logic that follows is akin to that of referring to the phenomenon of ‘gravity’ as ‘ether’? It is less specific, more folkish, and not realistic by current standards. Is humanity so depraved that we have to abuse language to get some people up to date on how other human beings should be treated ethically?