To Save Traditional Marriage, End State Involvement in Marriage


Within the next few months, Justice Anthony Kennedy will likely rule that same-sex marriage is mandated by the Constitution of the United States. The ruling will offend both common sense and Constitutional law. But it will nonetheless become the law of the land. With it, states will be forced to recognize same-sex marriages; same-sex marriage will enter the public school lexicon; religious institutions will be forced to recognize same-sex marriages or lose their tax-exempt status. Religious Americans will be forced into violating their beliefs or facing legal consequences by the government. The First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty will largely become obsolete.

There is only one way to stop this development: Get the government out of the business of marriage. Right now.

States and localities originally gave tax benefits and crafted specific legal systems in order to incentivize Americans to get married and have children within the context of marriage. But those legal institutions have been undermined over the past several decades by a culture that degrades marriage and child rearing. Incentive structures that used to provide the cherry on top of good moral decision-making no longer matter enough to drive such decision-making.

That gap between culture and the legal system has led to a cycle of defining deviancy down, with government taking the lead. The view of the value of marriage in American life changed in the 1950s and 1960s; the left used that cultural shift in order to legitimize no-fault divorce laws, legal custody and child support arrangements that incentivized divorce and social welfare systems that incentivized unwed motherhood.

The last bastion of the old value system was the state’s approval of traditional marriage. But thanks to a decades-long cultural shift away from marriage, the left is now in position to use the levers of government to redefine the institution once and for all — and in the process, destroy the American religious culture that undergirds American freedom.

Unlike the movement to retract laws restricting sexual behavior, the same-sex marriage movement has never been about freedom in any real sense. The push for same-sex marriage is not about wanting freedom to copulate; same-sex copulation has been effectively legal in this country for decades, and formally legal since Lawrence v. Texas (2003). The push for same-sex marriage is not about wanting legal benefits available to heterosexual couples; same-sex couples are largely able to make contractual arrangements to achieve those benefits, and in many states, civil unions equate legally with marriage.

The push for same-sex marriage is about placing the power of government in direct opposition to traditional religious viewpoints.

And conservatives cannot stop that push unless they are willing to restrict government power. Conservatism has always been about preventing the power of government from invading the lives of citizens. Leftism has always been about using the power of government to restrict the behavior of others. It is time for conservatives to recognize the reality of their situation, realize the dangers inherent in their insistence on government interventionism and act quickly.

Getting the government out of marriage would mean voluntary lifestyle arrangements governed by contract — a practice that has roots stretching back millennia. Religious people would not be forced by the state to approve behavior they find morally problematic. They would not have to worry about their children being taught about such behavior. Conservatives would be forced to rebuild a culture of marriage rather than focusing on a crumbling legal bulwark.

Conservatives lost the culture. Then they lost the law. They can only regain traditional values by removing legal coercion and incentivization from the table — the left will never hesitate to use those means — and focusing once again on the raising and production of children within a culture of traditional morality.

Ben Shapiro, 29, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, a radio host on KRLA 870 Los Angeles, and Editor-At-Large for Breitbart News. He is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America.”

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