There is a secular case to be made for government involvement in the institution of marriage. Marriage is the only institution wherein a new life may be created. No, the generation of new life is not an automatic given nor are those who choose, for whatever reason, not to generate new life to be considered less in any way than those of us who do. But the fact is that without children, marriage would really devolve into little more than a contract or partnership.
Now one of the problems that clouds the whole debate on marriage is that most people tend to think that the issue is only a positive one. That is, that the issue is about the creation of a marriage and the state’s recognition thereof. That is sadly not the case, if that were all there were to it then the state would really have no reason to create and maintain such a registry at all. No, the real debate is on the unfortunate and often unavoidable issues that arise at the end or dissolution of a marriage. Who gets what and, more importantly, what about the children?
You see, marriage exists to proactively protects the rights of the children. Among these rights are the right to know and have a relationship with both of their parents, which means their mother and father. Marriage in this respect, serves to attach mothers and fathers to children and to each other. Can this be done outside of a legal marriage? Perhaps, but statistics show that without the commitment that comes along with marriage men are far less likely to remain in a family unit and children are far more likely to be hurt in all kinda of ways, including physically, emotionally, mentally, developmentally, etc.
When it comes to homosexual unions, the issue of children’s rights becomes even more sticky, and it is the rights of the children that are often overlooked altogether. You see, while people are busy talking about the rights of the gay and lesbian couple few people seem to be concerned with the rights of the children that are inherently and necessarily violated.
These rights are inherently violated because a homosexual union cannot biologically bring about new life, therefore they must either adopt which has historically been seen as an exception to the rule, but homosexual marriage would make it the rule and biological parentage the exception. In other words, the state would move from recognizing parentage based on biological fact to assigning parentage based on subjective standards. Something that has been done in countries like Canada that have already implemented homosexual marriage, and something that is being considered in homosexual-friendly states like Massachusetts.
Children’s rights are also necessarily violated because if marriage is not kept to the natural, historical, and biological definition, the state is required to intervene in the affairs of married couples even more than it does currently. Currently the state only intervenes when there is a dispute. That means that the only role the state has in regards to marriage is to resolve disputes if they arise. Ideally, most marriages will not require much, if any, intervention. However if marriage is redefined, the state must go from being a passive spectator that only intervenes when a dispute arises to intervening in many areas now, especially when children are involved, to cover over the biological gaps opened up when we separate from a biologically-based definition of marriage.
Sure, governments also interact with the institution terms of offering tax breaks (or supposed tax breaks) to encourage the formation and sustaining of healthy marriages. However that is really out of a selfish motive as biologically-based marriages are historically self-sustaining, requiring little in the way of government services or interference and also capable of producing well adjusted offspring by themselves. By contrast, on average, single parents (mostly mothers thanks to our sexually permissive culture) and homosexual unions require much in the way of government assistance, services, and general interference (ie. to strip/assign parentage in the case of homosexual marriages). If for nothing else than out of a commitment to limited government, the idea of homosexual marriage ought to be rejected.
So while families may not necessarily be defined by legal marriage but they are most certainly modeled on them if they wish to be anything short of a train wreck and an unnecessary drag on society.