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Marriage Equality Means an End to Licensing

By: Alice Salles - Jun 30, 2015, 8:20 am
One should not have to beg for a marriage licenses, which is a tool of social engineering. (CM&)
One should not have to beg for a marriage license, which is a tool of social engineering. (CM&)

EspañolWith a five-to-four vote, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the US Constitution guarantees a right to legally sanctioned same-sex marriage. The decision came on June 26, and was a joyous occasion for those who have fought and lobbied most of the their lives for this day.

As rainbow flags flew high across the country and countless internet users changed their Facebook profile photos to reflect the historic moment, residents of foreign nations joined the throng. Toward the early afternoon hours of the 26th, #LoveWins had become the most viral hashtag linked to the SCOTUS marriage-equality ruling.

To Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the historic decision helps to advance liberty. “No longer may this liberty be denied,” he wrote.

On the other hand, the ruling drew sharp criticism from certain Republican politicians — but they missed the opportunity to use the historic decision to bring attention to the real problem with marriage laws in the country.

Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) wasn’t one of them.

In a Facebook post, the Republican from Michigan celebrated the ruling without ignoring the roots of current marriage laws.

Those who care about liberty should not be satisfied with the current situation [because the same-sex marriage] Supreme Court opinion rests upon the false premise that government licensure is necessary to validate the intimate relationships of consenting adults.

Ignoring the battle to completely remove marriage from the hands of government keeps all US citizens under the government’s thumb. So while the LGBT movement rejoices, part of the liberty movement celebrates with caution.

Those who are distrustful of government intervention know the possible consequences all too well. If marriage laws remain unchanged, government wins, but if marriage license requirements fall, marriage equality wins.

If the LGBT movement is serious about equal marriage rights for all, it must join the voices asking government to get out of the marriage business entirely.

Racist Roots

In the 16th century, European states began requiring couples to make their unions official.

At the time, parents were traditionally compelled to approve the match in advance. In order to keep adults whose parents opposed the match from marrying, government involvement came in handy.

Then, unions were often arranged for political or financial reasons. Having the state micromanaging the process gave certain well-connected families power over their children’s future and the future of their wealth.

Until the mid-19th century, however, public cohabitation was enough evidence of a valid marriage in the US colonies. Most state supreme courts recognized common-law marriages at the time, and it wasn’t until the 1920s that states began requiring couples to obtain marriage licenses. The necessity stemmed from laws that prohibited interracial marriages.

In an effort to keep whites from marrying blacks, Asians, persons of mixed races, Indians, or Filipinos, the United States proceeded to nullify common-law marriages, and marriage licenses became an important part of government’s plan to exert extended control over individuals locally.

It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that courts began invalidating laws against interracial marriage.

But marriage licenses were still valuable to governments. Instead of simply controlling whom people could or could not marry, the US state and federal governments saw an opportunity to control resource distribution to dependents through marriage licensing.

With the enactment of the Social Security Act, legal marital status proof became a requirement. Couples could only inherit from each other if they were legally married, forcing courts and hospitals to request marriage licenses before granting couples any privileges.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill into law, almost all adults in the United States were married and divorce rates were low, but as cohabitation and single parenthood by choice became more popular, marriage license laws lost some of their practical influence.

Despite the shifting trends, the marriage licensing debate heated up once again in the late 1970s after the US Supreme Court dismissed Baker v. Nelson, a case concerning a same-sex couple challenging the denial of marriage. To same-sex marriage advocates, equal access to marriage licenses became a serious matter, and in early 2015, news broke that the US Supreme Court would review a freedom-to-marry case. The product of this review is now part of history.

As government-issued licenses are now celebrated as important elements of the couple’s union, the debate becomes less oriented towards freedom and more towards government control.

Privatizing Marriage

The argument for privatizing marriage is an old one. Consenting adults, after all, should be able to marry whom they wish. Forcing independent adults to ask for government permission beforehand increases restrictions, and makes gay or straight couples more vulnerable to scrutiny because of outdated or even racist legislation.

To presidential hopeful and Republican Senator Rand Paul, now is time to get government out of marriage.

Individuals have always had the natural right to hold private contracts, but government has been somewhat efficient in regulating our rights. As a result, people have suffered due to institutionalized discrimination. Allowing government to have any jurisdiction over your marriage contracts limits your freedom.

So if you’re like Paul and you believe Washington shouldn’t have a say over whether you are gay, straight, married or single, you will agree that the battle for equal marriage rights does not end with the SCOTUS ruling.

Alice Salles Alice Salles

Alice Salles is a wordsmith, editor, and ghost writer. As a UnitedLiberty.org contributor and columnist for the popular Brazilian culture and politics website Liberzone.com.br, she covers both foreign and domestic policy and offers commentary from a libertarian perspective. Follow @AliceSalles.