Sunday, March 06, 2005

Privatize Marriage

Last weekend, seven of us from Hamline Law in St. Paul, MN were fortunate enough to attend the Federalist Society Student Symposium. The panels and debates centered on a theme of "freedom and the law." The Harvard Fed. Society live-blogged the proceedings here. It's a pretty good account of most of the goings-on of the weekend.

I was originally going to make this post a round-up of my impressions of the symposium, but I will instead be addressing a narrow topic. Perhaps not surprisingly (to those that know me), I thought that Charles Fried offered the most valuable insight of the entire conference. Aside from his statement of "The civil jury is a mistake.", he also addressed the question of marriage. In response to a question from a liberal on the panel, he not only said that he thought that taking marriage out of the state's hands was acceptable, but that we as a society are heading in that direction.

Though I have talked to a couple people about this idea in the past, I believe that this marked the first time I have heard it referred to as "privatizing" marriage. It's also what I believe to be the correct stance on marriage. Before the government ever became involved with marriage, it was a religious institution without any need for a "license."

Instead of the current system we have in place now, I would leave it up to religious institutions to bestow and recognize marriages. In order for a couple to enjoy the benefits that married couples currently do, I would require a wholly separate civil union from the government. This arrangement would allow each church to recognize whatever form of marriage that they choose.

Like many other areas in life, marriage is yet another in which the government does not belong.