Ron Paul on Marriage Licenses

According to Joe Kovacs at WorldNetDaily, Ron Paul denied the need for a constitutional amendment to protect the traditional definition of marriage.

"I think we have fallen into a trap that we have to redefine marriage," Paul said. "Why don't you just tell them, 'Look it up in the dictionary to find out what marriage is?'"

He said the Defense of Marriage Act was good enough and if further regulations were necessary, "put it at the state level like the Constitution says."

Paul explained getting marriage licenses only came about in recent history for health reasons.

"True Christians," he said, "believe that marriage is a church function. It's not a state function. I don't think you need a license to get married."

I think Paul only got that partly right, although still closer to true than any other candidate.

He's right that the federal government should stay out of anything having to do with marriage. There aren't many clearer instances of a power "not delegated to the United States by the Constitution." It is simply beyond the right or authority of anyone in the federal government to make any laws whatsoever concerning marriage. Morally speaking, it is inappropriate for even individual States within the Union to legislate concerning marriage beyond defining it in relation to its laws. A marriage license, by definition, is state permission to marry. Slaves ask permission to marry, not free men.

However, I think Paul is wrong on two points.

First, marriage is is not a church function any more than it is a government function. What priest was present at the wedding of Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 24:67)? Marriage is between a man and a wife with God as catalyst and witness. It is certainly appropriate for the couple's community, including church and government officials if they desire, to serve as witnesses to their vows or ceremonial participants but nothing more than that.

Second, I don't believe marriage licenses were created to address health concerns. They are primarily an exercise in state power. By insisting on a license, the state asserts its authority over you and your marriage. By seeking a license, you accede to that assertion. Although potential health issues, such as improper consanguinogamy, is often cited as a justification for marriage licenses, health has always been secondary to state power.

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