The United States Supreme Court recently rendered a decision not to hear cases (a decision not to make a decision) regarding challenges to the implementation of marriage by two individuals of the same gender, aka gay marriage. The Court’s refusal to grant a Writ of Certiori allows five earlier appellate court rulings to stand, acknowledging a constitutional right to marriage for hetero- and homosexuals alike.
This un-ruling will effectively put to pasture any further hope of maintaining marriage as an exclusive right for “traditional” couples. Soon enough, this on again off again social issue will pass from controversy becoming both a victory and a lost cause, most likely remembered alongside the bathroom signs stating “For Colored Only”. Like it or not, gay marriage is here and here to stay. It will become established law as this (in)decision by the Court moves these marriages into the realm of de facto legality, with actual legislation soon to follow. Regardless of the morality supporting the cause and leaving aside any religious objections, this is the correct decision (or correct lack of a decision) as framed within the social construct that is our pseudo-statist existence of excessively intrusive government interference. This is the correct decision because the people, gay and straight alike, have allowed our most intimate relationships to fall victim to the manipulations of the state.
Before Facebook made all aspects of life property of the public domain, it was decided that the state has a vested interest in the relationship status of the citizenry insofar as marriage is concerned. Taxes, housing, banking, welfare benefits and health care are all dependent on the status of ’S’ or ‘M’. Once the relationship itself became “married” to the state, the nature of marriage transformed from a private union to a “partnership” of sorts between the two individuals, historically one man and one woman, madly in love…and the powers that be.
Today, marriage is a highly regulated practice and only specific individuals can engage in the institution. Multiple partners (more than two) is deemed unacceptable as is marriage among closely related family members. The impenetrable bond between a man and his dog cannot extend to marriage and I cannot marry either of my cats. I love my cats. I do not want to marry either one (how could I choose??) but the point is that I am not allowed to marry them. Why not? By what logical sense should this limitation apply to free individuals in the land of liberty?
The fact is that despite any moral or practical objections to the scenarios above, we can’t marry our furried friends because the state says we can’t. The decision about who may marry does indeed have some basis in morality but laws are composed of rules and specific definitions. Moral behavior takes a backseat, legally speaking, to prevailing law and it is that law that lies at the forefront of the current debate concerning the definition of marriage.
Marriage has traditionally been known as the union of one man and one woman. This definition is acknowledged by both church and state, the institutions involved in establishing a marriage. The argument for this traditional view has been that marriage is a state of being with this very specific definition. For most of history this has been the case. But times, and definitions change. The role of the judiciary to interpret law places this issue into the purview of the court. The adaptive element of the Constitution allows the amendment process to make changes to existing law, in effect changing the definition of what was previously legally established. Because the citizenry has permitted the interests of the state to infect the institution of marriage, the state may now establish what the definition of marriage is as a relationship status.
There ought to be no compulsion on any church to acknowledge or perform any marriage that conflicts with religiously held beliefs. However, churches are ubiquitous private institutions that no individual is compelled to attend. Obedience to the state, and participation in governmental activities like tax season, is a requirement of all citizens. Churches can maintain private beliefs but the state’s mandates constitute the law of the land to which we must publicly defer.
Simply put, the state will determine with whom I am permitted to enter into the union of marriage. Government has that power because it has either been given or taken (probably a little of both). Either way, the sleepy electorate has allowed this most sacred bond between individuals to become corrupted by the most devious and impersonal relationship of all, between an individual and the faceless, nameless state. Due to the public interest that now exists concerning marriage, we have essentially abdicated our right to personally define this personal relationship.
For better, or worse, marital bliss is shackled to the interference of the powers that be. Health benefits, end-of-life decision making, property rights, et al. demonstrate the expanse to which marital status is affected by government. This modern day jus prime noctis has the power to approve your marriage or, more broadly and disturbingly, determine if your relationship constitutes a marriage at all.