Privatizing marriage has long been a hot idea among libertarians. (I myself have been known to expound on the
wonders of contractual marriage as a way of avoiding social strife at cocktail parties.) And in the wake of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, Rand Paul wrote a full op-ed in TIME opining that the government needs to stop issuing marriage licenses and let people (of all sexual persuasions) write their own contracts. But what's more surprising is that many liberals have in the past pretty much endorsed the notion of abolishing marriage, including Naomi Wolf, Michael Kinsley, and Alan Dershowitz.
However, when you really, truly sit down and try to work it out, it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, I note in my column at The Week:
At the most basic level, even if we can get government out of the business of issuing marriage licenses, it still has to register these partnerships (and/or authorize the entities that perform them) before these unions can have any legal validity, just as it registers property and issues titles and deeds. Therefore, government would need to set rules and regulations as to what counts as a legitimate marriage "deed." It won't—and can't—simply accept any marriage performed in any church—or any domestic partnership written by anyone. Suppose that Osho, the Rolls Royce guru who encouraged free sex before getting chased out of Oregon, performed a group wedding uniting 19 people. Would that be acceptable? How about a church wedding—or a civil union—between a consenting mother and her adult son? And so on—there are innumerable outlandish examples that make it plain that government would have to at least set the outside parameters of marriage, even if it wasn't directly sanctioning them.
In other words, this kind of "privatization" won't take the state out of marriage—it'll simply push its involvement (and the concomitant culture wars) to another locus point.
Go here for the whole thing.