State Marriage Benefits Betray State Intrusions

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments concerning two different cases that relate to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA was signed into law in 1996 in order to delegitimize any attempt by the states to legalize homogender marriage by disqualifying members of such unions from receiving certain federal “benefits.” So even if a state did legalize and recognize such marriages they would always remain somehow second-class in terms of government-mandated benefits. However DOMA proved to be an irrelevant impediment and several states have since enacted laws recognizing homogender marriage. So, once again the question of federalism falls before the court: wherever federal and state law conflict, which shall take precedence? The constitution was written in such a way that state law supersedes in all cases except where the constitution has expressly delegated such authority to the federal government. Progressives typically fall into the category of those who believe the constitution to be a “living document” insofar as they routinely discover new “expressly delegated” authority that tends to align with their worldview. Conservatives however view the document more through an “original intent” lens. Oddly enough though the rolls are reversed with respect to DOMA. Now it is the progressives insisting that the constitution does not give Congress any implied authority to regulate marriage and it is the conservatives claiming there is clearly an unwritten mandate in the constitution to defend “pillars of our society” such as marriage. My, my, it seems the constitution can be all things to all people when it suits their partisan purpose.

The more compelling message of DOMA, which both sides and the media have managed to ignore, is the idea that there even exists such a thing as “federal benefits”. Every so-called benefit is connected in some way to some illegitimate intrusion of government in our lives. Government takes away our liberties and intrudes on our rights and then graciously metes them back out piecemeal as “benefits” for those that play nice and follow their rules. Consider the following contested benefits: Tax benefits (income and estate tax are immoral confiscation of productivity), insurance benefits (employers should have no role in providing insurance of any kind), Social Security benefits (Social Security is a fraudulent compulsive quasi disability/ponzi scheme that should not exist in a free society), immigration benefits (there should be no limits on immigration).

But the biggest intrusion of all: Marriage itself – the government, neither at the federal nor state level has any business whatsoever in regulating, validating or approving of marriage. Marriage (for legal purposes) is simply the voluntary association of one or more individuals for a specified or unspecified length of time. Advocates of marriage regulation base their argument on an appeal to the concept of government playing a role in maintaining the structure of society. There is only one problem with that argument: government has no such role. Churches may play that role for some and to the extent people freely associate with those churches and abide by those teachings that is entirely legitimate. But the state has no role in embodying in law the teachings of certain religious institutions.

Remember, democracy is a dangerous weapon as it cuts both ways. For example a law passed last year (by majority) in Denmark forces churches there to marry gay couples by some representative of that church. Using government to either require or forbid some action is equally wrong no matter who does it. All sides should join together in dismantling the ability of government to intrude on our rights. Government is a powerful weapon. We need to stop using that weapon against each other.