Both the US Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to pass new same-sex marriage legislation in coming days. The legislation is expected to codify what is already de facto law in the US under the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Obgerfell v. Hodges. The legislation further solidities federal law stating that states are required to recognize same-sex marriages that are legal in other US member states. The legislation also ensures that same-sex spouses will continue to be eligible for federal benefits through programs like Medicare and Social Security. The legislation does not mandate that each state government establish its own provisions for same-sex unions, however.
In the year 2021, there’s not really anything remarkable about this in the minds of most people. To most modern thinking, marriage is just yet another thing that is to be regulated and modified according to the whims of a civil government’s lawmakers and judges. Even among those who think there ought not be any federal role in marriage legislation, very few dispute that the governments of the member states themselves—or foreign national governments, for that matter—can rightfully exercise immense legislative authority over the regulation of marriage. The only disagreement is often over how government officials ought to regulate marriage, and to what ends.
“Historically, the Government Was Very Uninvolved in Marriage.”
The only dissenters to this consensus appear to be some libertarians like Ron Paul. For example, in 2012, Paul told a rally audience “I’d like to see all governments out of the marriage question. I don’t think it’s a state decision. I think it’s a religious function.” These comments followed earlier comments from Paul contending that “Biblically and historically, the government was very uninvolved in marriage.”
Paul is right in saying that marriage historically had (often) been a matter for religious authorities instead of agents of the civil governments. Yet, given the rise of the modern sovereign state, which is currently the ultimate legal authority on virtually all matters, it has become difficult to even imagine the particulars of the historical reality to which Paul refers….