Ruling on gays ought to spur needed debate
There is no doubt that a Massachusetts court's demand that gays be allowed to marry will stir up a storm of controversy.
Some are predicting it will be an issue in the upcoming presidential race. There is even talk of amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman, apparently in anticipation that other courts will support the view that our current marriage laws are discriminatory.
The issue has created strange shifts in thinking. Some "liberals" who usually favor federal government intervention into just about everything have suddenly become "state's rights" advocates. And some "conservatives" who usually want the federal government to mind its own business have suddenly become advocates of federal control of state decisions.
Those who want to put a marriage provision in the Constitution appear to have forgotten a previous attempt at social engineering via the Constitution that proved to be a disaster - Prohibition.
Whether to drink or not is an individual choice, but moralists decided to impose their will on everyone and the resulting law encouraged the emergence of organized crime and led to disrespect for the law. Many people simply ignored Prohibition and the amendment was finally repealed. But not before the harm had been done.
The roots of marriage are social and religious, not governmental. It is only in fairly recent times that the government has inserted itself more and more into this private matter, so much so that now everyone accepts that the government should approve who gets married and whether they should stay married or not.
Once you grant government power over marriage, you also grant it the right to abuse that power. A tragic instance of this was the prohibition against interracial marriages that once existed in many areas of our nation and which were eventually tossed out by the Supreme Court as unequal treatment. Some advocates of gay marriage use that as an example to support their case.
Although we fear the opposite will occur, it would be beneficial if the Massachusetts Supreme Court's decision actually resulted in less government involvement in the marriage process.
On a legal level, the union of individuals is really about contract law. Two individuals agree to form a life partnership and to share resources and responsibilities in regard to themselves and any children that may be involved. If they decide to break that contract, then the courts step in to determine how that is best done to prevent wrongful harm to any of the parties involved. That is the role government should play, not deciding who should be joined and who should not.
Perhaps the Massachusetts decision will provide a needed springboard for a real debate on the proper role of government in marriage.