Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Corruption of the Privacy of Marriage

A guest post by Daniel Michel

Within just a few days of the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex civil marriage, those on the victorious side of the case began calling for new discriminatory laws and policies to be put into place. One columnist suggested scrapping the longtime tradition of tax-exempt status from religious institutions — and even polygamists feel emboldened by the decision. Other radical ideas are sure to come about.

It already looks bleak for many of us who support traditional marriage: the true definition, nature, and substance of what marriage, in fact, is. This issue over marriage and same-sex unions has obviously become divisive, and outside of the legal realm, there appears no end in sight to this debate. This is why it may be time to take a new, or rather old, way of dealing with this issue: privatizing it altogether.

What privatizing marriage means in this context is that it would completely be handled by private hands, including institutions and individuals outside the state. What this would look like is churches would be in control of marriages as they see fit, of who can or cannot be married, how the couple should conduct themselves, etc. It may seem this happens already today, but appearances can be deceiving. How much the state has already invaded the sanctity of marriage is more than one can comprehend.

They are already involved in contracts regarding how the couple will manage their property, who gains what if the marriage fails, the benefits they receive once married, and the higher legal status it earns them in American society. This is quite a recent phenomenon, starting in the late 19th to early 20th century when the first state-sanctioned marriage laws were coming into place. The benefits of these laws were much appealing at the time, and they were easily accepted. Like any other state program, however, it grew and grew and festered into a monster one could not see the consequences of at the time. We have now seen that monster's true face.
Before this new manifestation came into society, the norm was religious groups were the keepers of this institution. It was the culture, it was of no contestation, it was the way of life. Marriage was not defined by the state, and those of the state would dare not touch it. What marriage was at the time to many was second nature, and like most in history, the general culture thought it was going to be like this until the Second Coming, but sadly, this culture would not last. Today, many on the traditional side of marriage want that culture to return, but by means of the state.

Those who lost in this ruling will clamor for the old laws that discriminated what marriage is, what marriage is not, and how other forms of unions shall be treated. It will not work. That culture is gone. The older generation has failed to keep that culture alive, and now a new one has taken its place. The state has turned to this new culture as its new power source and is profiting from it.

Letting the state manage marriage was a mistake that has now come back to haunt us. It has taken a while, but now we face its consequences. This is why those who see this new ruling as a defeat are absolutely correct in one sense, but tragically wrong in another. The ruling was indeed a defeat showing what today's society has fallen to, but it is wrong to think that the state would revive the traditions of the old. These traditions, like those of old treasures, must be handled with care, and in responsible hands. Those of the state absolutely do not have these hands, for they would drop anything, no matter how important, for the sake of keeping their security, their power. They have done just that, and we have let them do so.

Daniel Michel is a recent graduate from Villanova University, where he studied history and economics. He writes about the impact of current events on everyday life and how Catholics can respond to our modern culture.

1 comment:

  1. We're in a tough spot for sure, but I don't agree with the thinking behind this: « Letting the state manage marriage was a mistake that has now come back to haunt us. »
    Letting our secular nation provide tax benefits for marriage works towards the common good. It's a far cry from the proper function of a rightly-ordered state, but it's something. I wonder... if letting the state manage marriage was a mistake, can we agree that the American experiment was also in part a mistake? While the Church had its good years, it seems the full secularism of the Founders has finally come full circle. I'm not sure of the way forward but I think this is an important point to make if we're to avoid the mistakes of the past.