Let’s get one thing straight from the start. In a civic sense (religion aside for the moment), nobody has the “right” to marry. Marriage is a privilege, not a right. This is because it is licensed. Just as with driving, fishing and many professional certifications (unfortunately, meteorology not being one of them), you need a license for civic recognition of marriage.
Again, this discussion is purely in a civic sense. Religious marriage definitions (protected by the First Amendment freedom of religion) and personal marriage definitions (protected by the First Amendment freedom of speech) are a different matter altogether. [Most of us who are happily married treat it as a privilege anyway, because we care that much!]
Constitutionally, the Federal government should be out of the marriage arena altogether–this includes who gets recognized as “married”, spousal benefits, and such things as the marriage penalty in taxes. Why? This is very easy and factual.
- FACT: The function of marriage is not provided as a power of the Federal government in the Constitution.
- FACT: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” These are the words of the Tenth Amendment, strictly as written.
And that’s all you need! Very clearly and obviously, it follows that any provision for marriage is a function of the states, or of the people.
Federal taxes and benefits? Simple. Just remove “marriage” from all Federal forms and rules. Reword them all to declare a primary beneficiary as applicable. It doesn’t matter who…the primary beneficiary (or “dependent” if you wish) could be a spouse, a relative, a friend, a cohabitant, me, you, any living human. The particulars of his/her relationship to the individual is none of the government’s business. Boom—government is out of the marriage issue once and for all, as it should be. Moreover, government is more accommodating and flexible than ever, and less intrusive. It’s a win-win situation!
As for federal “benefits” specific to marriage (spousal) and penalties (the infamous “marriage penalty” in income taxation): neither should exist, because marriage is none of the Federal government’s business. See above. Problem solved.
All this divisive debate over Federal definition of marriage that is distracting us from other issues? My simple proposal renders it moot! Problem solved.
The correct Federal role in marriage: none.