Social Question

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Why is marriage a legal institution?

Asked by SquirrelEStuff (9169points) April 27th, 2010

All this gay marriage talk got me thinking…
Why does the government have anything to do with marriage? I dont understand why the government needs to “solidify” a relationship. Why does one have to ask the government permission to get married?
Gays are fighting for the government to give them the same rights as straight people. Don’t our inalienable rights come from our creator, not the government? Doesn’t the fact that the government issues a license for marriage, make it a privilege not a right in this sense?
Shouldn’t we start shifting the conversation to all people(except corporations) being treated as individuals by the government and return marriage and partnerships to their religious and cultural roots?

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24 Answers

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

It mostly about taxes.

Mamradpivo's avatar

I never felt I needed the government to approve of my marriage. As long as my wife and I are bonded and society is aware of it, why do I need a license?

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

I agree with you, but then you dont get the rights that married people get.

lilikoi's avatar

I agree. It’s stupid. Sometimes I feel discriminated against for not being married.

faye's avatar

It’s also about next of kin issues regarding medical treatment and inheritence laws.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Rights to property.
Rights to children.

roundsquare's avatar

Marriage (in various forms) is a common institution among people. It affects people predictable ways and as a result, the government can make laws around it that make sense e.g. what @Captain_Fantasy and @faye have said. There are practical things that come up in marriage that the government should rightly take into account.

Nullo's avatar

It’s not, not really. But there is (as ever) a legal side of things. Mostly for administrative stuff.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Why should marriage have anything to do with taxes?

jazmina88's avatar

it binds you in taxes…....

it does make no sense.

anartist's avatar


TexasDude's avatar

I’d prefer that the government stayed out of marriage period.

roundsquare's avatar

@chris6137 Anything that affects income affects taxes. The fact that I like steak affects my income, but not in a way that the government can realize/predict. With marriage, they can.

bobloblaw's avatar

The thing is that married people get divorced. Or get sick. Or die. The State keeping a record of whether or not you’re married helps people (and courts) determine who has the right to inherit, make medical decisions and how to divide property that was acquired during the life of the marriage. Think of it as opting into a default set of rules unless the couple has specified otherwise (e.g. a prenuptial agreement). For the most part, the State is there as a record keeper. The problem is that people on both sides of the debate attach too much baggage to what the word marriage means in the cultural sense as opposed to the legal sense.

If I had it my way, I’d get rid of marriage for everyone and just provide civil unions. Call it whatever the hell you want at home/at the ceremony.

roundsquare's avatar

@bobloblaw That is exactly the right way to solve the problem. Separate the legal concept from the traditional one(s) as much as possible. I’m not sure this would solve all the problems right away, but it would at least move the debate to the legalistic, where it should be.

Factotum's avatar

Sadly, the state has a ‘compelling interest’ in marriage in that they need people to make babies and watch over them until they can start paying taxes.

Statistically children who live without a father do less well in school and have less future success (as defined by education level and earnings) than children who live with both parents. Whatever else marriage may be, it is good for children (again statistically).

I suspect marriage is almost always an institution with both a legal and a religious aspect to it as many individual marriages need all the outside help they can get.

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I too want to keep government out of marriage: I married a government once and all it ever did was spend my money and tell me how to live my life.

@bobloblaw I wish we could do that too. A large part of the gay marriage debate boils down to the meaning of a word.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

I disagree with the idea that marriage should not be touched be the government. However I do believe that the government should not dictate who can and cannot get married. Lets not forget the pluses to this whole thing, there are certain rights and protections to married people who are in marriage and going through divorce. For this to happen though the state needs some way to recognize a marriage from just another relationship, thus you apply for a marriage certificate and it will be granted. Now if you are married you get certain benefits from the state. If you end up getting divorced typically each party in the marriage will be entitled to a fair share of their assets, children are supported, and all that other jazz. Also, marriage is linked to immigration as well. If you decided to marry a foreigner the state needs evidence of this marriage hence, a marriage license (and a whole shit load of other paper work). Also name changes is also a legal thing, and since bills and taxes and other documents are attached to a name, and since names change with marriage, there must be some kind of document stating the legitimacy of the marriage.

Besides, “Marriage” in the U.S. is simply a legal term and if you want to be married you do not have to ask any government for permission to do so. But if you want the legal status of “Married” you certainly need to be declared legally married.
But I will reiterate that I do not agree with denying gay people this legal status.

thriftymaid's avatar

Taxes, responsibility, children.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The government has a right to collect modest fees for anything related to changes in civil status. They should not have the right to grant or withhold approval for adults to marry. Aside from prohibiting consanguinous marriages (involving close relatives) or those involving individuals incapable of entering into a legally binding contract, government should have no say about who can marry.

Keeping official records of marriages has numerous legal benefits that others have already listed. The courts necessarily need to be involved when marriages are dissolved for many of the same reasons.

Marriage is a legal contract between the parties that impacts children born to or adopted by the couple. Marriage confers certain legal rights and responsibilities. In the interest of protecting minor children and dependent spouses, it must remain a legal institution.

Even common-law relationships confers rights and obligations in many jurisdictions for many of the same reasons as marital relationships.

As a matter of public policy, tax laws favour married partners. These tax benefits were instituted to encourage couples to get legally married. These practices are open to review and modification. Law of inheritance are important to protect and conserve the assets of legally recognized families.

Marriage should be available to all couples regardless of the gender of the partners. Of course prohibiting close relatives and minors from marrying serves the public interest.

slick44's avatar

I agree with all of you.

mattbrowne's avatar


roundsquare's avatar

So, there seems to be a general level of consensus that marriage should be a legal institution because it conveys important information that the government can use, and as a result it should not disallow any two people from getting married. Here’s a question: If thats all it is, should the government allow polygamous marriages?

I’m not sure I know my answer to this. Certainly it would complicate the legal implications. I.e. if I have two wives, who would make medical decisions for me.

Moegitto's avatar

All being “Legally Married” means is the Government has you on file as being married. When, your born, your given a social security number and a legal name. These are bound to you until you die, that’s why it’s a legal circus to get your legal name changed in most states. When you get married, your status changes from being “Jane Fonda” to Jane Taylor” (and vice versa for men that take the womens name). The Government logs that in. Everything else that comes with it is the Government being it’s typically greedy (Marriage taxes, dual credit, debt levies). Basically it’s a way for the Government to still keep a eye on you, and get some pocket change while doing it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It gives you certain rights over the spouse’s assets, should they die.

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