Marriage: Not The Government’s Business

Aaron Hardy
May 20, 2011 · 3 min read

News has been rampant lately when it comes to marriage — in particular the definition of marriage. At times these discussions and arguments have become violent and have raised anger levels amongst various social groups to dangerous levels. Some argue under the banner of morality and religion that the right to marry should be reserved for a man and a woman. Others argue under the banner of tolerance and equality that two people of the same gender should be able to marry one another. But what perpetuates the argument itself is government intervention.

While the arguments have almost wholly surrounded how the government should define marriage, I propose that the argument should instead be whether the government should be involved in defining marriage at all. What’s the purpose? What business does a government have in recognizing a sacred/emotional/spiritual commitment between citizens? Why must it determine who can officiate marriages? Why must its tax and social security laws distinguish between being married and not? Why is it involved at all?

Some may feel it’s the government’s duty to promote the family organization and procreation.

First, while personally I think that family and procreation are fantastic ideals and I support them, this is not what the founders meant when they declared that the government should promote the general welfare. This type of argument grants the government far too much control and is just the beginning of the slippery slope that leads to legislation like China’s one-child policy. Afterall, China’s promoting their general welfare…right?

Second, the government sucks at incentives (learn more about the Broken Window Fallacy). In marriage, the backfiring of incentives is readily demonstrated in sites like To reduce your tuition costs, you can simply participate in “a marriage of convenience, no romance, no love, no sex, not even living together. You need to meet one time, get a marriage license, get married by a Justice of the Peace and then get a divorce after college is finished.” Heck, you can even find your convenience-marriage partner using their online matching tool! I know the government didn’t intend for this to happen — but it does happen and it happens all the time. Stay out of our marriages.

So if the government doesn’t define what a marriage is, who will? You can kiss a goat, say “I do”, and call it marriage for all I care. I may disagree with your definition and think you’re crazy, but that’s your prerogative and right to do so. Likewise, if my religion states that God is the ultimate definer of marriage and chooses to only perform marriages between a man and a woman, that’s its right to do so as well.

I’m not the first one to express that government should stay out of the marriage business. In fact, you may be surprised to discover politicians that hold similar views. Take Andrew McCullough, a Libertarian who recently ran for Governor of Utah. When I asked what his stance was on same-sex marriage, he responded:

Marriage is a religious sacrament. If a religion is willing to conduct the ceremony, and if the parties are of age and capable of contracting, the State should stay out of it. The last person who asked me this question liked what I said. The law of averages says you will not, but thanks for asking.

One other Libertarian and one Constitutionalist in the state election responded similarly. Notice most of these people are not Democrats or Republicans. However, Ron Paul has likewise taken a similar stance as he recently expressed in the Republican presidential debate.

What’s your take? Should government be involved with marriage? Why or why not?


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Aaron Hardy

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I am a software engineer at Adobe working on the Launch product, primarily focusing on the Launch runtime library and extension development ecosystem.


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