Friday, July 06, 2012



Discussions about the subject of marriage and who can be married are quite common in our society at this time. Sometimes these conversations get quite heated and friendships are strained, accusations of bigotry arise quickly but the subject is seldom explored analytically. In one attempt to get such a discussion on a less emotional and more analytical basis I suggested we back up and consider why government regulates marriage in the first place.

It was interesting to discover that most people have never thought of government marriage laws as "regulation". However, a little recall of people's own life experiences or even just reading the news or legal notices would indicate they have experienced or heard a lot about this regulation.

   - Any married couple will recall that a government license is required to enter a marriage.
   - Any divorced person will recall that government permission is required to end a marriage.
   - Government fees are charged for either of the above regulatory actions.
   - Standards set by government as to acceptable behavior for married persons.
- Consider domestic abuse standards
- Consider child protection laws
- Consider child support requirements 
   - Education or training is required of those entering the regulated activity.
   -Government incentives are used to encourage desired outcomes from the regulated activity.
- Consider tax incentives, like per child deductions
- Consider inheritance rights of children
- That the license grants certain a-priory rights (without additional contract) in the 
areas of health care, property ownership, privacy, and power of attorney.
- Government police and legal powers are used to enforce standards and requirements. 
Such enforcement is seen almost daily in the domestic violence, child protection and fiscal requirements areas. (The use of enforcement in the matter of 'bedroom behavior' did occur in history but has been essentially removed from marriage regulation in the US. I remember such police action occurring as late as the 1990s, usually to harass those suspected of being homosexual.) 

 I don't know if the realization that government interest in marriage is essentially regulatory will lead us to easy resolutions of the issues but it might  make it less a less emotional subject to understand and talk about. 

Click here to go to the Minnesota State Law Library index of  "Marriage" related items.

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