Hands off marriage!

Whenever politicians and activists start arguing about things such as ‘Gay Marriage’ and polygamy, you never hear them advocate the one legitimate answer to all such questions – take it out of state hands! Marriage is a religious and social construct. When you marry you are either married in the eyes of your God or in the eyes of your peers (or both). Beyond the deity or social network necessary to validate your marriage, it really doesn’t matter who does or does not recognise your marriage – and it certainly is not for the state to go around telling us whether or not we are married. The closest the state should get to marriage is protecting the vulnerable from sexual molestation by setting legal age and mental competency limits for sexual activity.

The only areas where marriage and the state intersect are benefits and taxation, next of kin and inheritence. As marriage generally results in people being worse off as far as benefits and taxation go, removing that status from that arena would only be a good thing; people should be taxed fairly and any benefits should be proprotional to basic needs and the actual situation.

Next of kin status is easily resolved by requiring people to register their next of kin. If they were reminded annually to update any changes this would resolve those cases where a couple have lived together for years only for the parents of one to be regarded, officially, as next of kin, or where whether to switch your life support off or not falls to a relative from whom you have long been estranged. You could register your spouse, partner or lover, or a blood relative, or even a friend as your next of kin.

When it comes to inheritence, people should be encouraged to make a will and where no will exists the inheritence should pass to whoever is registered as your next of kin. This would erradicate such inequities as the elderly sisters living together who would be hit with a hefty inheritence tax bill that a lesbian couple in the same situation would not (although, being a particularly vile form of taxation, inheritence tax should cease, anyway). As long as a will or next of kin registration is valid, the state really has no place interfering in how one disperses one’s property at death, proclaiming one relationship to be taxable and another tax free.

Removing marriage from the hands of the state would preserve freedom for everyone. If a homosexual couple are accepted as ‘married’ by their social circle or a particular denomination, it really doesn’t matter if others do not regard them as married. Likewise, it does not matter if a Catholic considers a Jewish marriage as valid or not, and vice versa. An atheist should not require a priest’s blessing to marry, nor does a Christian need the endorsement of an atheist for their wedding. Whether a Muslim or a fundamentalist Mormon’s extra ‘wives’ are really wives is a matter for his conscience and co-religionists, not for others to decide.

Marriage is a social and religious construct that only has meaning within a social and/or religious context. The state can no more define whether a marriage is genuine on its own authority any more than it can force someone to accept a marriage as genuine. Passing laws legalising or banning certain types of marriage might allow the state to restrict the rights of those who will not conform to the pseudo-morality it avows, but has no bearing on what people truly believe. You can say something is illegal and people will still do it if they believe it is right, and you can say that something is legal and people can still refuse to accept its validity. Attempting to police social and religious belief is akin to ordering the tide to halt, only the state can cause real harm to people whilst attempting the impossible.

The state needs to step back from the arenas in which it has no right to meddle and deal with those areas that do concern it and which it has an appalling track record….

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