Time to divorce our politicians from marriage?

What right has the state got to say who can and can’t get married? The state might have a role in protecting the rights of children and children who might be born as a result of a sexual partnership between a man and a woman and there might be a reason to promote stable relationships between those who may have children. But otherwise, surely the moral legitimisation of sexual relationships is none of the state’s business what so ever?

So why do politicians, rather than religious leaders for example, think that it is their role to condone certain kinds of sexual relations? Our politicians are hardly the most morally upstanding people in society!

I believe the state has no right to interfere with people’s private lives unless their behaviour has serious repercussions or seriously affects other people. So, what right have our politicians to either endorse or condemn two gay people who want to live with each other or for that matter condone or condemn two sisters or brothers living together? Why should the state feel it must interfere with one, but ignore the other? What is the real difference? It is that one pair are having sex and the other is not. What does that matter? Why are our politicians so obsessed with sex? Who cares if people in private of their own homes are or are not having sex? Apparently our politicians do, because that is what gay marriage amounts to – an obsession with legitimising sexual acts!

Yes the state has a right to interfere in sex where it affects others: where sex occurs without permission or where permission cannot be given. Yes, it may proscribe abusive relationships or to curtail seriously dangerous or harmful practices, but otherwise the state should have no role or any say about sexual practices! Gay, straight or none – it’s none of their business and they should keep their noses out of private lives!

So, why do we have marriage? Taxation may be a legitimate reason – but that is either because partners have set up home together OR because they have children. Sex (unless children can arise) is NOT RELEVANT. Inheritance, pensions, being the contact in medical emergency and being able to expect support in return for giving up jobs to be in a partnership – they are all relevant issues for the state, but sexual orientation OR NO sexual orientation is not the legitimate concern of the state. A gay couple need not have any more protection from the state than a pair of spinsters.

Who does have a right to have a say?

Even though I’m not religious, I understand that married is hugely important to religious institution. So, e.g. the expectation within a catholic marriage may be very different from that within a Muslim or protestant marriage. They are hugely impacted by the intrusive meddling of politicians into private lives – an area where those of religious faith rightly feel the church has a say but not our politicians!

So, here’s a simple question – why not devolve marriage law to these religious groups (or those of no religion). Why not take the state out of the issue of marriage altogether? Why not even go as far as to create subsidiary law for those who have the most say in marriage – the religions.

A possible proposal

So, let us as far as possible take the state & politicians out of marriage. So, let us streamline the law to the two essential bare minimum elements and let us devolve all the other aspects of marriage to those social groups who want to a say about it.

  1. We bring in a new “family partnership” act (traditional Marriage) , but minimising the role of the state to that necessary for those relationships where there are innocent third parties who have to be protected: children!
  2. Let us draw up a more sensible approach to social partnerships for partnerships where children will result.
  3. Finally, we should divorce the state from marriage and let society in the form of religious groups or even non-religious groups create their own marriages as they wish.

This would create a core legal protective framework involving either or both of the first two upon which social groups could build their own custom-made marriage.

To enable this to happen religious and social groups would register as “marriage licensors” which would then give them the right to produce their own legally enforceable secondary legislation for those who contract to marriage under their rules. As far as possible, but within reasonable limits (e.g. divorce could not be impossible) these groups would be able to create their own rules for getting married and for divorce. This way, everyone from religious groups to the gay community would be able to celebrate marriage in their own way.

So long as the innocent children are protected, so long as those in long-term partnerships are given the legal authority and protection as they mutually consent … it should be up to society and those in society who uphold marriage, NOT POLITICIANS, to determine what marriage means.

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2 Comments

Filed under Scottish Politics

2 responses to “Time to divorce our politicians from marriage?

  1. Aran

    Marriage began as a legal institution for the inheritance of land and property, particularly political treaty between families. The couple didn’t usually have much to say to it and it was considered a familial duty rather than a personal wish.I read recently that the church didn’t require a marriage service until relatively late (after 1500s)
    In the past the church and the law were more or less the same; the church was the place where people with the ability to negotiate, read & write the necessary documents existed. It was inextricably involved. Marriage is a formal creation of important moral relationship, kinship, as opposed to blood which is more obviously established. I think the law is very key to this as a foundation to ensure this relationship works within a community. Religion/morals regarding sex is, as it was from the start of ‘marriage’, secondary.
    Not as many people married legally. Sometimes it was really simple to be married (legend of a famous picture is that it was witness to the marriage of the depicted couple because a marriage existed if a couple consented in the presence of a witness, that was it) Couples used to be less on their own but part of the community and extended family it was less “the couple” & more the family thing. (our church wedding specifically asks the gathered to be a part of the marriage with their support)
    Marriage is, currently, shorthand for a series of legal issues to do with property & inheritance (and tax obligation thereof), guardianship of children, who can say what happens when a person is legally incapable. These can all be addressed piecemeal by couples but it requires some legal savvy that a “marriage” sorts out without that need.
    I can see that marriage needs reform but the law is needed and politicians are our representatives on the body that makes the law. This body is only as good as those who vote them in. We need to reform the attitudes of people to politics in general.

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    • Interesting comments Aran! I agree with a lot of what you say, except I’ve no doubt that the reason marriage was important historically is because it results in children.

      As you say, marriage is a social relationship – but there are also many other social relationships, none of which either the churches or government had sought to regulate. So, children is the one key element that makes marriage such a special relationship that it amongst almost all relationships needed its own law.

      But now politicians seem to be saying “marriage is any kind of relationship and children have no part”. If that were true, then the state really shouldn’t have any part to play in marriage – it should be left entirely to religious & social groups to deal with as they want.

      What I propose is a half-way house. The minimum legal protection + giving religious groups the right to have their say over marriage.

      Because, fundamentally, shouldn’t we stop the pretence that there is only one kind of “marriage?”

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