I’m not a fan of The New York Times, but here’s another interesting article by Stephanie Coontz, which she recommends “Taking Marriage Private.”
I’ve already recommended we non-euphemistically slip gay marriage through the backdoor, so it’s nice to see the idea catching on. As she notes, historically privatized marriages have been the norm:
WHY do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.
Indeed, like many other government interventions that we now take for granted (the Drug War and Davis Bacon Act for example), one of the major reasons for this government intrusion was simple, old-fashioned racism:
By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce.
In the mid-20th century, governments began to get out of the business of deciding which couples were “fit” to marry. Courts invalidated laws against interracial marriage, struck down other barriers and even extended marriage rights to prisoners.
The government has no business in marriage. If you don’t want to recognize gay people as married, fine, don’t recognize it. How does it affect you anyways? Furthermore the slow, unfair, costly, bureaucratic family courts can take a back seat to contract law and mediation.
Say it with me; privatize, privatize, privatize.