Reason.com has an excellent article on the history of government involvement in marriage.
Back in the days when there was an identifiable counter-cultural movement in the United States, feminists, gay activists, and much of the left identified the institution of marriage as the foundation of conservative American culture and therefore something to oppose, not seek. But now, with more and more gays gaining official permission to marry, the left is celebrating a right that it used to compare with the right to be imprisoned....
The idea that the state should promote, sanction, and regulate monogamous relationships gained currency in the 16th century as a reaction to Europe’s first sexual revolution. Public, group, and what we now call homosexual sex were commonplace, prostitution was rampant and generally unpunished, pornographic books and pamphlets were widely popular, and laws against adultery and divorce went unenforced. Martin Luther and other leaders of the Protestant Reformation seized upon marriage as a means though which to curb unchristian freedoms and bring about social order.
Luther recognized that “he who refuses to marry must fall into immorality,” identified marriage as “the remedy against sin,” and demanded that all of humanity seek the cure “in order that fornication and adultery may be avoided as well as pollutions and promiscuous lusts.”
Until then, the Church alone had recognized and overseen marriages, but Luther and the reformers wanted a more powerful and “worldly” enforcer of God’s laws. Marriage, they said, belonged under the purview of “temporal government,” which “restrains the un-Christian and wicked so that—no thanks to them—they are obliged to keep still and to maintain an outward peace.” Moved by these injunctions, governments across Protestant Europe seized control over marriage and instituted rules to enforce it.
Read the rest here
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