The marriage license has a rather interesting pedigree. While generally accepted as a basic tool to secure a union its history is entrenched with prejudice, and even full blown racism. In the early 1900’s the marriage license was used as a mechanism to prevent whites from marrying inter-racially. Two disabled people or those with a genetic disorder were also not granted a marriage license for fear that they would procreate and create another generation of their specific “defective” gene. Eugenics, at the time, was an acceptable approach to backdoor regulate the results of potential procreation. Of course these parts of the license have been made void by the Supreme Court, but one would have to wonder why a marriage license is still required or even necessary.
For a couple to get married, they need to have a marriage license granted to them by a public official. They pay a fee on average of $35 for a piece of paper which is essentially serves as a permission slip, stating they are of legal age, a United States citizen, and proof they are of the opposite sex (New York now being the latest exception; honoring same sex marriage) After signing this piece of paper the couple can officiate the marriage with a waiting period of 1 to 6 days. Some states like Mississippi and Montana even require a blood test to make sure neither person has syphilis.
Each year an average of 2.2 million couples get married in the United States. Using that number and the cost of the fee approx $35.00, the amount spent for a piece of paper just so people can marry comes out to be $77 million. That money goes directly into the public coffers. And true to government on all levels, this will inevitably fund pet projects, ridiculous wages, and public pensions. In this process the expansion of government is also inevitable. All while keeping it out of the private sector and furthering infringement on people’s personal lives.
The states know this, which is why we haven’t seen the nullification of a marriage license. One could also conclude that this was a huge deciding factor in the recent lift on the ban of NY same-sex marriages. According to the Census, there are approximately 46,000 same sex couples living in New York. And while licensing fees are minute when compared to the ever expanding gaps, revenue is revenue. The idea of being just, liberalized, and generating revenue offers a nice medium that appeals to the majority.
I would even expect to see the fee for a license increased now that this law has passed. While not every same sex couple inside of New York will rush to the altars this will draw same sex couples from out of state to come to New York. And while it may not be recognized in their own state the symbolism is important to the couple; which, in turn, produces revenue for New York state.
Libertarians believe that all marriages should be considered civil unions and shouldn’t be sanctioned by the state. In addition most libertarians believe that anyone should be able to be in a committed relationship and not be discriminated against when it comes to assets, insurance, and taxes. The IRS cares not who is living together and sharing the financial responsibilities. They care that the taxpayers are paying their taxes. If the argument is that without a state recognized officiated marriage there would be too many legal issues, then why can’t a couple go to an attorney to have wills and papers drawn up? One is required when a couple decides to end the marriage so why not let people handle the parameters of their relationship if they felt one were needed?
By eliminating the government officials, and official regulations from the process, the couple would pay a lawyer to essentially outline who gets what if the marriage were to end or if either party should die. It would be like a prenuptial agreement and a living will combined. Many couples already do this but if it became standard procedure, you open a whole new market. Lawyer fees can add up fast, but with a new market created, lawyers would compete for clients’ business and they would have to charge the lowest price possible. Already we have attorneys who specialize in every area of the law; television commercials and the thickness of the Yellow Pages attest to that fact. With the elimination of marriage licenses, any government, whether it be local or federal would lose control of the process but reap substantial rewards from a new stimulated market.
Americans are concerned with the government in every aspect of our lives, this just one way to create new jobs, afford more freedom to the individual, and stop the government from restricting two people who wish to spend their lives together. We always hear that America needs to be more “progressive” when it comes to their value system. So shouldn’t we leave the outdated marriage license process and rules behind, with it’s oppressive past, and embrace progress in the spirit of individual rights? The worst possible result of this measure would be that lawyers cut each others throats to try and corner this new market. The most positive result? A nullification of an antiquated process guided by underlying oppression.