Oklahoma isn’t ready to remove the state from marriage

Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City by Caleb Long for Wikipedia
Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City by Caleb Long for Wikipedia

OKLAHOMA, OK, January 29, 2014 – Oklahoma Republicans are rallying libertarians across the country, calling for the state to end its formal relationship with married couples. 

The legislation, put forward by Representative Mike Turner (R-82), is the first of its kind, and would leave the question of marriage to secular or religious institutions and two (or more) consenting adults.

The problem is the government granted incentives that come with marriage.  Those incentives, from tax to estate protection, are removed when government granted marriage is removed.

At the root of the Oklahoma marriage controversy is gay marriage. In 2004, Oklahoma enacted State Question 711 that introduced a constitutional ban on gay marriage within the state. But earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern ruled that the gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.

The right’s reaction was swift: remove government from marriage altogether.  Eliminating the government’s involvement, and governmental benefits, would be absurdly costly and extraordinarily difficult to enforce. Marriage comes with over 1,100 benefits, including expedited immigration status, joint parental rights, and military benefits.

Removing government recognized marriage would raise taxes, as it would eradicate marriage tax benefits, for millions of Oklahomans.

The reality is that the United States, or any state within the U.S., cannot do away with marriage without great swaths of people unduly suffering. So many people rely on the laws involved in marriage that it would be unjust to remove them without any tapering whatsoever.

In fact, the only option that reduces the government’s legitimacy in marriage is offering the contract to everyone—and I mean everyone.  Polygamists, brothers and sisters, and best friends alike could marry under the state. Why? Because marriage from the state is simply nothing more than a civil contract with benefits of legal joinder.

Marriage through the church or other religious institutions means something far more, carrying with it emotional bonds and benefits.

Only allowing everyone to marry through the government, brothers, sisters, cousins, groups, makes the government’s marriage meaningless, as marriage benefits would be available to anyone, including those who chose to marry themselves. The government would do away with accusations of discrimination and inability to freely associate.

In the US there are over 32 million single heads of households that would benefit from access to marriage tax benefits such as tax shelters, IRA for jobless spouses, work place health insurance costs and benefits, enhanced charitable deductions and estate protection to name just a few.

Oklahoma should not even entertain the idea of removing the government from marriage.  Instead, the state should expand marriage to extend its benefits to any couple willing to enter into a marriage contract.

Should Oklahomans really want to defend the sanctity of marriage, they should make the government’s involvement in marriage so meaningless that only private marriages have social capital.

Removing government from marriage is, at this point, a libertarian pipe dream. The benefits that marriage provides are just too good. And that marriage law is intimately tied to federal issues—from naturalization of American citizens to social security—prohibits any kind of government removal from marriage.

The Oklahoma legislation to remove government from marriage will not pass—nor should it. Our society relies too heavily on the benefits that the government provides married people.

Until that entire system is questioned and then tapered down, government as the third party in marriage is here to stay.

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  • CarolinaSistah

    I agree – remove all government involvement in marriage. Give it back to couples, families, and the Church.

  • acmaurer

    Why not get the government out of the marriage business? You argue that government should stay in because of the benefits it provides. Rather a circular argument. Taxes and so forth could be modified in a revenue-neutral way. The whole push for homosexual “marriage” would go away without the benefits.
    Get rid of divorce court, too.