Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

What is the state’s role in marriage and the family?

Jerry Stratton, July 3, 2015

Monster family

The family after decades of government intervention.

I have long made the argument that marriage is a religious institution that the government should stay out of. That is an argument long lost. But I’ve also made the argument that the marriage contract is anything but, and that there is a lot of room for improvement in how the state views, supports, and, too often lately, discourages marriage and family.

From our child-protection laws to our divorce laws to our welfare laws, government takes an interest in family. But for the most part it doesn’t realize that’s what it is doing. It tries to focus on individuals rather than the family, and in the process does a lot to destroy family. Too often child protection is a winner-take-all fight; welfare in effect pays people for not providing children a family, and divorce law makes the assumption that marriage is transitory but alimony that it is forever.

Gay marriage is unquestionably a huge shift in what it means to be married. It means long-standing assumptions behind government’s role in families are upended, from local laws about child care to state laws about marriage and divorce, to state and national laws about child and parental welfare. It is well past time to examine these assumptions and codify them.

Republicans should recognize that marriage has fundamentally changed marriage’s relation to family, and take this opportunity to define the federal government’s (and, at the state level, the state government’s) role in family and marriage.

Because this is new territory, the federal government should provide states with the authority to do as much as possible. We need to see as many solutions as possible to know what the best solutions are. Fix the problems created on the national level in the past, but when it comes to making new, untested, policy, give the states the opportunity to experiment.

Government policies have for decades now encouraged a family structure breakdown. The Great Society has turned out to be profoundly antisocial. But a free country requires families that care for each other and that produce good citizens. Not just because it means less crime and less welfare spending, but because a country of people cared for by the government—a country of Julias and Winstons—will inevitably demand less freedom.

In response to Government interference in the marriage contract: There is no marriage contract. There is just a bunch of random rulings and regulations created ex post facto.