Should marriage be disestablished?

One of the many interesting points Tamara Metz makes in her book Untying the Knot: Marriage, the state and the case for their divorce is that liberal thinkers have been surprisingly unconcerned about the relationship between marriage and the state. While many have written about relations between individuals within a marriage – Mill most famously – they have generally accepted that the state has a legitimate role in regulating marriage.

Metz think this is a mistake, from a liberal point of view. Marriage is like religion, something of deep cultural and emotional meaning, but on which there are widely differing and strongly held views. While almost all cultures have marriage as an institution, some insist on monogamy while others allow polygamy, some make divorce difficult and others easy, some allow gays to marry while most see marriage as between a man and a woman.

Liberals have dealt with religious disputes by requiring the state to keep out of them, and Metz believes this provides a model for how the state should treat marriage. It should not be in the business of trying to give particular cultural meanings to people’s relationships. Just as liberals do not supported ‘established’ religion, they should favour disestablishing marriage. Continue reading “Should marriage be disestablished?”