The State and Marriage: Sever the Link
I argue that the connection between the state and the institution of marriage should be severed. More precisely, I argue that the state should not (i) solemnize or purport to solemnize any marriages, (ii) register any marriages and (iii) make any laws, civil or criminal, with respect to marriage.
My ground is that the state has neither need nor business in discriminating in favour of, or against, those that it regards as married. I argue that, while the state has legitimate needs for which it currently uses marriage (e.g. in immigration law, and in dealing with intestacy), these needs can be met, and would be better being met, by consideration of unregistered de facto relationships as found in the law of Australia and of New Zealand. In dealing with questions of immigration, intestacy etc. the legal system could take into account de facto relationships, and the parties could, if they wished, make statutory declarations to the fact that they were in, or not in, such a relationship. This would then spare the legal system the complex and controversial question of which such relationships should be treated as marriages.
I do not argue for any change in any of the typical Western laws respecting sexual intercourse; in particular, I do not argue for any change in the laws regarding rape,the age of consent to intercourse or intercourse with a minor.
Daniel J. Hill is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Liverpool. He is author of Divinity and Maximal Greatness (2005), and co-author of Christian Philosophy: A-Z (2006), The Right to Wear Religious Symbols (2013), and Does God Intend that Sin Occur? (forthcoming). He has also written ‘The State and Marriage: Cut the Connection’ Tyndale Bulletin 68.1 (2017), ‘“Women Cannot Truly be Bishops”: The Logical and Canonical Implications of this View’ Churchman 129.1 (2015), and ‘Is Sexual-Orientation Discrimination a Form of Sex Discrimination?’ Liverpool Law Review 41.3 (2020). He is the Co-Director of the Jonathan-Edwards Centre, UK, and the Chair of the Tyndale Fellowship’s Study Group in Philosophy of Religion.