Friday, January 25, 2008

The Separation of Marriage and State

While looking up definitions of "sex-positive" on the Glossary of Relationship Terms the other day, I came upon a rather interesting entry about the "separation of marriage and state" which pretty well sums up my views.

According to the Glossary, the separation of marriage and state is:

A slogan or summary statement representing the position that a government should be involved in neither:

* the definition of marriage;
* the establishment and maintenance of the institution of marriage; nor,
* legislation and enforcement of laws regarding marriage, apart from:
a. the protection and support of the members of each family;
b. the support of consensual relationships and self-constituted family units, also their protection from outside forces; and,
c. the employment of judges for the disposition of children and property in the event of divorce.

Comments: The slogan is modeled on the phrase, "the separation of church and state," which is said to derive from a remark by Thomas Jefferson.

The position is often nested into a more comprehensive view, for instance, one or more of these:

* Persons and their personal relationships are more fundamental than the state and should not be rendered susceptible to being cogs in a socio-economic machine, which is what governments are wont to do. (Personalism)
* Personal matters are no business of the state, and marriage is primarily a personal matter. (Libertarianism)
* Coercion of any sort is entirely inappropriate when it comes to sexuality, relationships, and marriage, except to counter coercion and violence.
* Religion is none of the business of a government where there is no state establishment of religion; there should be no state establishment of religion; and, since religions have always been much involved in the definition of marriage, a state that involves itself in the control of marriage will find itself either offending one or more religions, seldom all equally, or discriminating against those whom the religions discriminate against; and a government should never be complicit in discrimination, whether between religions, between religion and no religion, or with regard to those against whom one or more religions discriminate.

One implication of the position is that government would no longer be prohibiting such things as group marriage and gay marriage, but instead would be trying to foster a peaceful environment for all sorts of relationships and a fair playing field for the people in them.

Various alternatives to the governmental control of marriage are suggested, for instance:

* Marriage in any formal sense should be abolished.
* Marriage and the form it takes should be by contract between consenting parties, perhaps even a contract to be periodically renegotiated.
* Marriage should be a matter worked out between the families of the parties.
* Marriage should be defined and regulated by the institutions, for instance the religious institutions, to which the parties voluntarily belong. And,
* A combination of the last three: Marriages should be contractual but marriage as such should be institutionalized by families and voluntary religious groups.

When you have time, check out this site -- it will keep you busy for hours.

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