Government, Marriage and Divorce
After President Barack Obama recently endorsed same-sex marriage it appears that changes to the nation’s laws will not be far behind as the inevitability of nationwide same-sex marriage is a almost a given at this point. The recent developments have caused some people to take notice of the fact that the level of government involvement with marriage and divorce may decrease in the future as our culture moves farther toward championing individual choice over traditional marriage values.
Both state and federal governments are involved with the business of marriage because marriage has proven it is good in itself, better for the children and essential for the common good of society. If marriages did not serve the public in a positive way, the current legal government protections and regulations wouldn’t be necessary, and marriage would simply become the act of two people living together.
That’s why government has always been involved with the institution of marriage, as well as divorce. Marriage has been publicly sanctioned in every society throughout recorded history, and it has usually also been a part of many different religious and cultural rituals as well. Sociologists have long recognized that humans are social beings and marriage is the relationship that is the basis of all families and creates bonds of identity, fidelity and responsibility. Countless scientific studies have confirmed the biological and social benefits of marriage, underscoring the fact that it is as beneficial for individuals as it is for society as a whole.
The concept of traditional marriage is only an ideal though, and as we know from the nation’s climbing divorce rate, ideals can often fall short of reality. The reality of same-sex partnerships does not include procreation, but it doesn’t mean that same-sex marriages can’t result in permanent, caring bonds that are the equal of heterosexual couples. Obviously, not every marriage has to produce children to be complete, and the children raised or adopted by gay partners have been shown to thrive as well as or better than kids from heterosexual parents do.
However, if marriage is going to be redefined to include the partnerships of any two people in any category, it raises the question of whether the government should stay out of the business of marriage altogether. If marriage is simply a legal ratification of a companionship and love relationship only and there is no reproductive element involved, perhaps it is will become unnecessary. Unlike the current situation where the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government are all involved in both marriages and divorces, getting the government out of the equation would mean that simple domestic partnership agreements would define the rights and responsibilities of both parties and no more marriage licenses or divorce courts would be required at all.
Whether the government will get out of the business of marriage in the future is an interesting question. Although it may seem unrealistic right now, it would certainly be possible given enough time, and the final results remain to be seen if our culture continues to elevate the personal choice of the individual over what has already been proven as one of society’s highest benefits.