Expository critical essays in literary, political, historical, philosophical, and spiritual topics remain part of my literary toolkit.
Although it currently does so, the United States government does not have the authority to exercise power to control marriage. The U. S. Constitution takes no position on marriage. Each state has its own requirements for obtaining a marriage license, which citizens must acquire in order to become legally married. For example, in Indiana couple of first cousins can marry—but only after each is 65 years of age or older. In Illinois, those first cousins can marry, if they are only 50 years old. In Tennessee, first cousins 18 or older can obtain a marriage license and marry.
Until June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the decision that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right in all states, a struggle for same-sex marriage legality state by state continued take up time and resources. At the time that the Supreme Court handed down its decision, roughly 33 states still retained a ban on same-sex marriage. Thus, an issue that should have never been on the table had been wasting the time and resources of government officials for many decades.
Having gone from the legislative branches of governments state and federal to the supreme judicial branch, the issue of same-sex marriage remained a focus of attention, distracting lawmakers and court officials from attending to business for which they were originally elected and intended. Constitutionally, the fact of the matter is that marriage should never have become a purview of state: marriage is a private issue involving only the marriage partners and their religious faith, and the state has no business wielding power over it.
Get Government Out of Marriage
No government, at any level, has the authority to exercise power to control marriage. The United States Constitution takes no position on marriage. Therefore, any Federal law on marriage is, in fact, unconstitutional, for example, the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.
Each state also has its own Constitution, and as there are variations in requirements for a marriage license, there are variations from state to state regarding a whole plethora of legal issues, but as the U. S. Constitution takes no position on marriage, neither did most state constitutions until in 2006 when nine states, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin, put to the voters referenda for constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.
Simplify the Marriage Process
Individuals desiring to marry are required to appear together in person before their local county clerk to fill out the paperwork for a license, which is then issued by the state after a short waiting period that again varies from state to state, possibly even county by county.
Marriage governance could be greatly simplified. People who wish to marry should be allowed to do so without any government oversight whatsoever. In effect, they would do what currently many individuals do, simply move into a residence together and get on with their lives.
Categories of Marriage
If, however, no legal oversight seems too radically simple for the body politic, the state could allow the marriage-seeking individuals to simply register their relationship with the county clerk; it might also be acceptable to establish several categories of relationships: traditional marriage, domestic partnership, mutual financial partnership, civil relationship, each with certain contractual agreements—offering enough paperwork to keep bureaucrats busy.
What would not be acceptable is limiting any individuals because of race, religion, sex, gender, nationality, age, number of partners, status of health, or any personal trait that might be seized upon to serve as a basis for denial of the individuals seeking the status of marriage. And all categories would qualify as marriage, that is, the same full benefits that now belong to a traditionally married couple would be available to any individuals coming before the clerk to seek the marriage status.
Eliminate Government Red Tape and the Same-Sex Battle
Such an arrangement would eliminate much government red tape and at the same time eliminate what is likely to remain a battle over same-sex marriage. Just as the government has no authority to deny same-sex couples the opportunity to marry, it has no constitutional authority to control any citizens’ choices in marriage.
Equal freedom for all citizens should always be the goal of a democratic republic. Marriage is a relationship that can be controlled and managed only by the individuals involved, not by a bureaucratic hierarchy of government. As Thomas Jefferson averred, "That government is best which governs least."
- "Marriage License in Indiana." U. S. Marriage Laws.
- "Marriage License in Tennessee." U. S. Marriage Laws.
- "Marriage License in Illinois." U. S. Marriage Laws.
- "Gay Marriage." ProCon.org
- "The Money behind the 2006 Marriage Amendments." The National Institute on Money in State Politics.
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes