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Friday, June 28, 2013

Marriage...

that bwessid arrangement... That dweam wiffin a dweam...
I could keep going all day with 'Princess Bride' quotes, but what I originally wanted to say...


The Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the days leading up to it, had me thinking about the institution of marriage as a whole.

First, while I was happy with it, I have to admit that I was not as excited about the decision as some of my friends or, obviously, those featured in the media. As a straight male, the ruling did not directly affect me, but this is not the reason for my lack of enthusiasm.


To me, the decision was inevitable. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution clearly states that all people are equal and protected equally in the eyes of the government and of the law. What was actually most surprising to me was the 5-4 majority that rejected DOMA. How can Justices, among the best and brightest in the country, consider any other outcome? I will admit that I have not read the response of the dissenting Justices (Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas), but how do you write a response that refuses a group of people the right to marry and justify it around the unambiguous intentions of the 14th Amendment?

Obviously you cannot. So, despite it being their primary objective, the four dissenting Justices allowed personal beliefs and politics to enter in their decisions. While disappointing, this is not surprising.

Until the recent tide of outward public support for gay marriage, even liberal politicians in liberal states were still supporting "civil unions" that would see the same rights as heterosexual "marriages". They did this to avoid the perceived political stigma of supporting anything less than the definition of marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. However, this was nothing more than "separate but equal" targeting a different group of people.


It is here that I find my biggest gripe in the definition of marriage:
Why does the government have a say at all in setting this definition?

Marriage is an agreement (or contract) between two people (we’ll come back to that number in a bit). The purpose of government is to protect its people; thus, its only involvement in marriage should be the protection of rights of the married regardless of whom the contract is between. These rights include: visitation, medical decisions, and child care & support.

I believe there are two primary reasons for the extreme division of beliefs on gay marriage.

1. Religion
I am no biblical scholar, but from what I've read and heard, there are no passages in the Bible denouncing gay marriage. There are passages condemning homosexuality, so this is a slight misdirection; but to those who claim “the Bible does not approve of gay marriage”, you can now respond “it doesn't disapprove of it either”.

Additionally, my favorite counter to those who prefer to take the Bible literally, word-for-word, is citing out-of-date references such as: stoning of children, stating men are worth more than women, the prohibition of shaving beards, and... polygamy.

Often opponents of gay marriage will ask, "What's next? Can I marry a goat?" While they may want to, the state still does not recognize human-animal unions. To me, this is just a deliberate oversight in the state's definition of marriage that I do not think has to be addressed. What I do not understand is how/when polygamy became frowned upon and made illegal.

If the opposition to gay marriage originates from the Bible, this cannot be where the opposition to polygamy comes from as there are numerous examples of many Biblical "heroes" having multiple wives. Again, if marriage is a contract between individuals to join together and share assets, why can this contract not include more than two people?* (*Side note: This sets me on another tangent about the biological origins of marriage that I will have to expand upon in a later post. In short, polygamy actually makes more sense from the aspect of our communal societal origins.)

Finally, what should negate all of this, the separation of church and state. This should eliminate any discussion of religious influence for two reasons: 1) it explicitly forbids the inclusion of religious beliefs in government law, and 2) as you are free to practice any religion you wish, you are also free to practice no religion and be free of persecution for your beliefs or lack thereof.

That’s the short end of a complex topic, but let’s moves on to…

2. Taxes
I have to bring everything back to my distaste for big government and taxes, but this is actually relevant here! Because of allowances in the tax code, marriage is monetarily incentivized by the government. That is, you save on taxes when you get married and file as such.

In addition to income taxes deductions, you can save and share in a multitude of benefits including: sharing of Social Security and Medicaid, property taxes, unemployment, and insurance, to name a few.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is the tax-free transfer of property in life and in death (inheritance). In fact, DOMA was brought before SCOTUS on appeals to the ruling of ‘United States v. Windsor’. If taxes were removed for transactions between family members and on inheritance (whose idea what that??), there would be less incentive to even define yourself as a married couple in the eyes of the state.

If financial incentives are eliminated, government will not have any role in defining marriage, nor should it.
A marriage contract would dictate the benefits and rights of the involved parties (visitation/medical/children) as the individuals see fit. That is, people could have a ceremony celebrating their commitment to one another however and whenever they want. No marriage "license" or "authorized" officiant needed.


Ultimately, the more personal we make it and the fewer people telling us how to define marriage the better.

(Not a good conclusion, but this is getting long winded and I want to wrap it up. I also got to touch on all my favorite topics: government, religion, and individual liberties! Rambling as it may be, this post is a win in my book).

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