March 25, 2011
SB172 would create the right to a civil union in Colorado, giving any two unmarried adults substantially the same legal rights as married persons. The bill passed the Senate, but it faces an uphill battle in the House.
The bill should become law, and a stepping stone to a higher goal: to extract the state from regulating marriage at all.
As early as 1691, marriage laws were imposed for blatantly racist reasons. Miscegenation laws that barred marriages between whites and blacks became the genesis for modern marriage licensing. The Supreme Court overturned them in Loving v. Virginia, where the court resoundingly rejected the Virginia Supreme Court’s claim in Naim v. Naim that the State of Virginia had legitimate purposes “to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens,” and to prevent “the corruption of blood,” “a mongrel breed of citizens,” and “the obliteration of racial pride.” The Supreme Court held: “These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment... Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”
It is argued that marriage between one man and one woman deserves special, exclusive status, preference and privilege in the law because such regulation “strengthens the family” and “provides stability for the individuals, their families, and the broader community.”
Marriage is and should be sacred. It strengthens society. Heterosexual couples are able to procreate, which forms the basis of all prosperity and public good. Yet those who fear civil unions have produced no robust evidence that says providing equality under the law for other relationships impairs the goals associated with protection of marriage.
In essence, those who object to civil unions claim that marriage and civil unions are a mutually exclusive, zero-sum game in which rights of heterosexual married persons are disparaged or harmed by the extension of rights to others.
Many people choose to live in close relationship with others completely outside the traditional bounds of marriage and procreation, and they deserve the right to enjoy legal protections afforded to other familial relationships.
Marriage is, at its core, the melding of two individuals in a spiritual, religious, intimate and loving relationship. It is a contract between two individuals and, perhaps, God, if they are believers. It is only marginally the province of government regulation.
Only when it comes to the protection of the rights of children — and the orderly dissolution of the relationship and distribution of assets — does the government have any legitimate interest in the relationship. The only other legitimate role of government in such relationships, irrespective of the gender of the parties, is as a recorder and enforcer of a contract that details the rights and responsibilities of the parties who have come to a meeting of the minds about how they wish to construct and lead their lives.
Society should head toward complete withdrawal of the State from the regulation of marriage, which is best left to the partners and their respective religions.
The General Assembly should pass SB172, then amend and/or repeal all mentions of “marriage” to replace them with the words “civil union” in our statutes.
Marriage then becomes a matter beyond the pale of civil law, as it should be, and squarely the province of religion and personal commitment. — By Seth Richardson, for the editorial board