The Definition of Marriage
Part 1 of the
Libertarian Case for
What does it mean to be free, with respect to marriage and family? How does the definition of marriage affect the size and scope of the state? This series, called The Libertarian Case for Man/Woman Marriage, is designed to help advocates of limited government think through the issues presented by the question of the definition of marriage.
Marriage is a naturally occurring, pre-political institution that emerges spontaneously from society. "Marriage equality" is sometimes presented as an enlargement of personal liberty and a diminishment of the power of the state. In fact however, redefining marriage as the union of any two persons abandons the natural view of marriage. The institution of natural marriage, one man and one woman, is more consistent with a society of free and responsible individuals, governed by a constitutionally limited state, than the alternatives.
Several states and countries have redefined marriage as the union of any two persons. Some people argue that nothing so dire has happened: why shouldn’t we continue with genderless marriage?
Some of the problems detailed in this series will take time to fully emerge. That is because marriage connects the generations to one another. Redefining marriage puts incentives into place and sets social processes into motion whose full impact will take time to appear. In much the same way we saw with no fault divorce, it will require a generation, a full thirty years or more, for all the consequences to emerge. It is foolish to draw conclusions from isolated short-term social experiments. But we can already see how redefining marriage, in conjunction with the expansion of anti-discrimination laws, has expanded the power of the state.
Here are the questions this series will consider:
- Does man/woman marriage serve some essential public purpose that requires support from the government?
- What posture should the state adopt toward individual couples and their children?
- What is the proper role of the state with respect to the institution of marriage?
The essential public purpose of marriage should be to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another. The proper posture of the state toward individual couples and their children should be to facilitate this attachment, not to artificially come between children and their biological parents as we see with same sex parenting and artificial reproductive technology.
Also, the proper role of the state should be to respect marriage as a naturally occurring, pre-political reality and to allow marriage to be itself.
This is part 1 of our series, The Libertarian Case for Man/Woman Marriage Other parts are located here:
Part 1: What is the Definition of Marriage? (you are here)
Part 2: What is marriage and why do we need it?
Part 3: Gay Marriage Facts
Part 4: Marriage equality creates new inequalities
Part 5: Marriage Laws: How Should the State View Marriage?
Part 6: History of Marriage
Part 7: Gay Marriage means Genderless Marriage
Part 8: Government and Marriage
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