Glenn Beck defends gay marriage

That is the title of this story.

Here a key quotation:

“Let me take the pro-gay marriage people and the religious people — I believe that there is a connecting dot there that nobody is looking at, and that’s the Constitution,” Beck said during a recent segment of his online talk show. “The question is not whether gay people should be married or not. The question is why is the government involved in our marriage?”

Polite comments are welcome.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

31 thoughts on “Glenn Beck defends gay marriage

  1. At first I thought it was going to be another strange Beck rant. But this one I agree with. Getting government completely out of the marriage issue solves many problems. Polygamy? Its up to consenting adults. Polyandry? Same Group marriage? Same. Not the governments business. I will keep my one perfect wife and my temple marriage. Let others be.

  2. It’s easy to view this as a neat little solution to the gay marriage dilemma, but it’s not. On the contrary, privatizing marriage is an anti-solution to the issue. It’s a superficial idea that ignores those pesky unintended consequences. Please see the following link on an outstanding website:

    A quote from the above: “Far from settling the marriage debate, ‘getting the state out of marriage’ will reduce liberty, leave cultural questions simmering, and harm our nation’s children.”

    Another pertinent quote: “Would getting the state out of marriage make us freer? We can get a glimpse of the answer to this by looking at the impact of no-fault divorce. Presented to the public in the name of personal liberty, no-fault divorce has led to an increase in the power of the government over individual private lives. Family courts are one of the most intrusive institutions of the modern state, regulating how mothers and fathers spend their time and money. People under the jurisdiction of family courts can have virtually all of their private lives subject to its scrutiny. This is not an increase in freedom: it is an unprecedented insertion of the state into domestic matters.”

    The conclusion is that private marriage is an easy-out that will lead to greater suffering for families and children — presumably not in society’s interest.

  3. Totally with Craig on this one although it is more complicated than that. Imagine, for example, the changes that would be required to various state benefits which depend partly upon living circumstances (including marital status).

  4. “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government
    everywhere to promote those measures designed
    to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental
    unit of society.”—The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Glenn Beck sound like an irresponsible citizen. Six years ago I pointed out on this web site a Los Angeles Times article regarding a village in China, where nearly everyone divorced to take advantage of a government allocation that would benefit two single people somewhat more than a married couple.

    The couples divorced, considering it a formality that wouldn’t really affect their relationships, but the consequence was wholesale social ruin. Formalities really did matter. The libertarian-tinged argument that government shouldn’t be involved in marriage rings hollow. As long as government touches human society, it will and should deal with marriage. Marriage is a civil status, not a private arrangement.

  5. I’ve thought long and hard about this proposed solution before. I’m not at all convinced it will help. Assuming the government had no legal entity called marriage, it would still have to decide in many areas whether it should privilege man-woman household arrangements. The government will always be required to make judgment calls about the relative merit of various domestic situations,

    For example, orphans are wards of state under the current system. So it’s the state’s obligation to ask, “What is the optimal home situation we should be putting them in?” That requires asking whether homes led by a man-woman couple offer unique benefits over other domestic environments. Eliminating the state’s legal concept of marriage does not eliminate this orphan question; it merely moves it, while also making things more messy.

    Other examples exist. So even if we don’t call the legal concept “marriage,” the government / public sector will still have to hash out what relationships are of more or less value to society. We might as well answer those questions now under the current system (which has an astounding track record for creating societal stability), rather than dismantle that system and be faced with have to answer the same questions and problems anyway.

    I think the answer is probably federalism (Imagine! The Founders knew what they were doing!). Simply ensure the Constitutional promise that one state’s marriage definition will not be forced to be upheld by another state, and we can all get along again.

  6. John. Marriage is not just a civil status. Surely someone who quotes the first presidency such as yourself should know that.

  7. My position: I will support whatever position the Church has on this issue. The Church was famously involved in Prop. 8 but has been mostly silent on the many other state battles. The Church seems to be emphasizing the religious liberty issue now. My read is that the Church is concerned about defending religious rights to maintain temple marriage in accordance with the Proclamation, which is looking more and more prescient, by the way.

    From a civil (not religious) standpoint, I support people doing whatever they want as long as they don’t harm other people. If people want to have ceremonies and say they are married, I could care less. However, marriage is about more than just two peoples’ desires. Marriage is an always has been about a community’s recognition of a life-long commitment to create a family and to be fruitful and multiply. This is why the government gets involved in the first place (ie, because marriage is a community activity involving the future health of the polity). Even in a “libertarian” arrangement, it behooves a healthy community to recognize that this couple is married and that they had these children and are responsible for not abusing the children, etc. So even in the most anarchical arrangement, the “government” (meaning the members of the community) may have to step in on occasion. What happens if the parents die and there are no other relatives? What happens if the husband is abusing the wife? What happens if there is a single parent and he/she is suffering from some kind of addiction and can’t take care of the kids and they are malnourished, etc? Note, this does not mean that the children belong to the government — they belong to their parents as long as they are children. But there is a limited role for government to step in to maintain a functioning and prosperous society.

    I tend to think that “government getting out of the marriage business” is not realistic. I doubt we will see this in our lifetimes. What we will probably see is growing acceptance of same-sex marriage and its eventual legalization. There will be constant tensions between the need for societal norms and rules and this legalization. Many people will continue to push against the “intolerant” like our Church who maintain the right to private heterosexual marriage. And many of the people who today are pushing for same-sex marriage will eventually push for same-sex marriage in the temple and in chapels. This is probably exactly what the Brethren feared when they decided to become involved politically in this issue in the first place.

  8. I actually agree with Beck. Get government out of the marriage business, and make marriage a purely religious (or non-religious) status. However, I think adults should be able to apply for civil unions, where they are recognized by the government as two people living in the same household. People in a civil union would receive the same tax benefits, inheritance rights, access to hospital rooms, etc. as married people currently do.

    Right now, many married people are not considered married in many states. Two women who are married in one state move out of that state and find that in order to have any marital rights at all, they need to move back to a state that recognizes their marriage. They don’t even have the right to divorce. For example, if a couple gets married, moves to Utah, and tries to get a divorce because they come to believe that their homosexual relationship is sinful and their marriage a sham, they can’t get a divorce in Utah because Utah doesn’t recognize their marriage, and they can’t get divorced elsewhere because, in order to get a divorce, you need to actually be living in the state where the divorce is to occur.

  9. I support civil contracts of domestic partnerships but reject the notion that the State can, without violating the Constitution, perform religious ceremonies such as marriages. Marriage began as and always has been a religious ceremony. The pomp at city hall was a pale reflection of the marriage ceremonies in churches, but even a poor reflection is a mirror image. Let city hall grant a civil partnership and contract and leave it at that.

    In reality, changing to domestic civil partnerships would have little or no impact. Already almost all states recognize common law marriages where no ceremony is needed; just the living arrangement and an intention to be known as husband and wife. The family courts have jurisdiction regardless of the ceremony or license in such common law marriages.

    Let’s get the state the he** out of religious ceremonies. Let’s get the state out of sanctifying a relationship. Let’s get the state out of social engineering of relationships. Let’s have the state enforce (with emphasis on “force”) equality before the law.

    I for one don’t give a crap what the state says or sanctions. I would not go to the state, or mayor or any governmental office to ask permission to be with my wife and kids. If I have children, in all states my paternity of that child is enough to grant rights of support and perhaps a right as to whether the child is put up for adoption should the mother reject the child.

    I would add that my view accords with Joseph Smith’s. He gave no or little weight to civil marriages. They should be seen for what they are — a contract that can be breached at will as long as one is willing to pay the damages caused by breach. Let the secular be just that — wholly and unredeemably secular.

  10. Has anyone bothered to read the in-depth article I posted that totally dismantles the notion that private marriage would be a public good?

    Nobody has yet to address this point that I posted earlier:

    “Would getting the state out of marriage make us freer? We can get a glimpse of the answer to this by looking at the impact of no-fault divorce. Presented to the public in the name of personal liberty, no-fault divorce has led to an increase in the power of the government over individual private lives. Family courts are one of the most intrusive institutions of the modern state, regulating how mothers and fathers spend their time and money. People under the jurisdiction of family courts can have virtually all of their private lives subject to its scrutiny. This is not an increase in freedom: it is an unprecedented insertion of the state into domestic matters.”

    The conclusion is that private marriage is an easy-out that will lead to greater suffering for families and children — presumably not in society’s interest.

  11. In response to Michael Towns’ comment regarding no-fault marriage, I meet with clients all the time who know their spouse is cheating on them but don’t have enough evidence to prove it in court. Without no-fault marriage, they’d be forced to remain in the marriage. In addition, imagine how much uglier divorces would get if part of getting the divorce involved claims of adultery, abuse, or cruelty, and those claims either had to be fought over in court or at least stated in Divorce Decrees, which are available to the public. More cases would end up going to trial, wasting valuable tax dollars and making a bad situation even worse. Parents would be at each others’ throats even more, in their attempt to prove adultery, abuse, or some other horrible indiscretion. I’m all for requiring counseling or other steps before getting a divorce, but getting rid of no-fault divorce would be a nightmare.

    As far as the affect of civil unions instead of marriages on the state of family relationships, I’ll have to think about where I stand. I don’t think temple marriages will suffer because of it, but other relationships very well may.

  12. By the way, restrictions on freedom due to Family Courts have nothing to do with “no-fault” divorce as opposed to “fault” divorce. Family Courts would have the exact same power either way. I do agree that they sometimes exert a little too much power–on the other hand, the fact that they require things like the father pay child support (so the mother doesn’t have to go on Welfare) is essential. Again, though, I don’t see how Family Courts exert more power because a divorce is no-fault, as opposed to fault.

  13. “Already almost all states recognize common law marriages where no ceremony is needed; just the living arrangement and an intention to be known as husband and wife.”

    Actually, the vast majority of states no longer allow common law marriages, although many used to (and some may recognize common law marriages that occurred before they were outlawed). Nowadays, at least throughout most of the U.S., if you want to be married, it needs to be official.

  14. On a personal level, it makes me happy that my parents started their life together, nine months before I was born, with a visit at the county courthouse.

    On a societal level, I consider cohabitation a grave harm and am glad that the not-particularly-religious people I live among have formal customs available to delineate the married state.

  15. I find it amusing that the last time our country had a discussion on the definition of marriage, it was over polygamy 🙂 I don’t have much of an opinion otherwise when it comes to the behavior of consenting adults; but as others have pointed out, when the welfare of children are involved, the state needs to set up some kind of legal protection.

  16. I used to think the State should get out of marriage, too, until I thought about it more in depth and realized the reasons (which have been outlined on this thread, but not really addressed by those who disagree) that the State is IN marriage in the first place.

    Marriage, as in formalization of a sexual relationship, is far more social than religious. Even before recorded religion, even in states which were very much against religion, there has been marriage.


    Answer that question, and you can see more clearly through this issue and its ramifications.

  17. Michael Towns,

    That’s an enlightening article. Thanks for sharing it. I agree with what Tim said above, but I also agree with the main thrust of the article.

    Still, I think you could, if you really tried, get around the state and still protect children. For example, the state could allow people to make whatever marriage contract they like but offer them several form contracts they could use or modify as they choose. These form contracts could vary on what should happen in case of divorce, and discuss child custody issues, etc. The parents get to work off of a government form to make sure they have something the state could enforce—like any other contract, but starting on a preset form could be the “for dummies” version of those who don’t want a professional to take care of it—but have total flexibility on setting the terms beforehand, with the advice or conditions of whatever marriage authority they choose.

    That seems to be the most reasonable way I can think of if the state had to be taken out of marriage while protecting children. I don’t agree with it (hey, Michael, we agree for once!), but it is something to mull over.

    As an aside, when I read the title of this post my first thought was that hell must have frozen over. In case you were wondering, it did. I checked.

  18. Beck is wrong.

    As I have mentioned elsewhere, before we can decide issues related to Marriage and the State we have to first adequately answer the questions: What is Marriage? Why does it exist in the first place? How does it differ from other kinds of relationships such as friendship or kinship? What role does it play in society?

    In addition to the excellent article linked to earlier by Michael Towns, you should really read the author’s additional articles on why marriage privatization is not possible also posted at the Public Discourse website.

    To answer the above questions, Robert P. George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan T. Anderson have revamped, expanded, and enhanced their influential academic essay “What is Marriage?” into a full length book that provides a formidable, non-religious argument for traditional, exclusively conjugal marriage sanctioned by the state. It actually became available at Amazon just this morning:

    One of the authors, Robert P. George, a devout Catholic and respected professor of Philosophy at Princeton, also sits on the Editorial Advisory Board of the LDS Church owned Deseret News.

    However, I think a viable compromise alternative to adopting state sanctioned “gay-marriage” or “privatizing marriage” would be “Sex-Agnostic Domestic Partnerships.”

    One of the problems I have with the civil union construct is that in many of its implementations it requires that the participants be in a sexual relationship. In other words, you can only get a civil union if you are in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship. The contract is predicated on the idea that homosexual sex should be given a preferred status equal to heterosexual sex, but that all other kinds of relationships are inferior. So at its core, civil unions of this sort are about normalizing homosexual sex.

    However, If we were to divorce the contracts from a sexual relationship (real or perceived) so that any two adults (sisters, brothers, parent and adult child, platonic friends, etc.) can enter into a legal “Domestic Partnership” that grants them contracted rights and obligations (hospital visitation, inheritance, etc.) then that is something that I could support, as long as the rights also included obligations: i.e. if I were to enter into a domestic partnership with my best friend so that he could get onto my medical insurance, visit me in the hospital, and inherit my assets if I die, then he would also be obligated to pay my insurance premiums, medical bills, and debts if I could not.

    At that point a domestic partnership becomes just a contract between two people. It implies nothing about the acceptability or prefer-ability of sexual relationships, while still allowing homosexuals, as well as others, access to broad legal relationships. Civil Marriage of exclusively heterosexual couples would still remain the default preferred relationship, precisely because it is inherently different than all other kinds of relationships (as George, Girgis, and Anderson argue in their book), while still offering substantial legal recourse for all other kinds of relationships, including same-sex ones.

    I think that such “Sex-Agnostic Domestic Partnerships” are the best compromise we’re going to get.

  19. This marks the first time that I’ve (essentially) agreed with DavidF and the second time in as many days that I’ve agreed with SilverRain.

    I am rather flabbergasted. I shall put on Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” album to unflabbergast myself.

  20. I agree, J. Max, but I don’t think that SSM proponents will. The newest line is “what about the children?” of same-sex couples. As it now stands, they insist that such children are not granted the same legal benefits that the children of heterosexual couples are granted.

    In order to satisfy that, you would also have to include sex-agnostic adoption agreements as part of the package, so that I could adopt with my mom, my sister, or brother, if I wanted. Theoretically, such contracts could extend to more than two adults.

  21. Though I should add, that I’m sure that would also not satisfy. Most legal protections are available under the right contracts, or could be made available with little opposition.

    But I suspect that the legal protection reasoning for SSM is a surface argument. Underneath, is the burning desire to be accepted. That can never be legislated without infringing on personal religious liberty. To many on both sides, their moral outlook is superior to others, so justifies forcing the others to adopt their moral stance, in simulation if not in reality.

  22. SilverRain,

    I see what you are saying and that is a sticky issue. Social scientists have enough data to establish that, in general, heterosexual biological parents provide the best environment for the flourishing of children.

    Mark Regnerus and the Storm over the New Family Structures Study
    The Vindication of Mark Regnerus

    Of course, circumstances often fall short of the ideal and so provisions have to be made for less optimal arrangements while still preserving and encouraging the ideal. That may entail some form of sex-agnostic adoption as a sub-optimal necessity.

    I haven’t read the “What is Marriage?” book linked above yet, but from what I understand the authors do attempt to propose solutions to address these kinds of issues in a compassionate and reasonable way.

  23. As an aside, it’s the church that is fully vested in being “legally and lawfully married.” Bishops/Stake Presidents/Temple Sealers are able to perform marriages because state law recognizes their ecclesiastical authority and grants them permission to act on behalf of the state and marry people. If not, all marriage contracts would be performed by a governmental officer. Overall, I would be happy if the state got out of the marriage business, but if the Prophet and church leaders want us to support marriages of heterosexual couples (however they are contracted), then I assume they see the forest for the trees.

  24. I thank Brother Glenn for baiting (unintentionally) conservatives into arguing how government mandates can be for the betterment of society and liberals into arguing why the government should stay out of our lives. Life is good.

    I still say that the best argument for gay marriage is that *legally binding relationships* are the fabric of our society and that encouraging SS couples to join that group is the best way forward. Unless you believe that millions of non Mormons who are born with SSA(as the Church now admits) living in celibacy is a realistic proposition.

  25. Geoff, agreed. Maybe “intrusion” is the right word to use – except for the negative connotation. In any case, I very much enjoy hearing people argue for/against a particular issue they believe in – using the language of their political enemies.

  26. I’ll agree with you on that. I hope a discussion like this helps people define exactly where they stand on the correct role of government in society. Does government have a role in protecting the innocent and does that apply to the role of children in society? Yes, as a libertarian, I can tell you the answer is definitely yes. I think people who say “government should not be involved in marriage” have not really thought through the issue very well. As others have said, it sounds good, but there is a correct (limited) role for government in protecting the life, liberty and property of people. As for liberals, I would like to see more people really embracing the position that government should not be involving itself unnecessarily in peoples’ personal decisions. I saw a college liberal argue passionately for regulating 32-oz soft drinks but then trying to defend the legalization of marijuana because people should be able to make their own decisions about what they do with their bodies. Doh!

  27. Governments come and go. There are millions of Latter-day Saints currently doing what they can to live the gospel while subject to dozens of different governments. Where government is conducive to gospel living, then three cheers, but it shouldn’t be too surprising or dismaying that it often is not, and we shoulder on best we can.

  28. Does the federal government have the constitutional authority to recognize marriages? I think the answer is quite clearly yes.

    Very early on in the Republic, federal judges recognized the evidentiary and testimonial privileges associated with marriage and recognized marriage in immigration and citizenship law.

    The constitution clearly vests Congress with the power to pass citizenship rules in Article 1, Section 8, and given the then practice of giving a woman her husband’s citizenship, this naturalization power includes a power to recognize marriages.

    The constitution also vests Congress with power to raise and support armies and navies. In the contemporary world, which women could accompany officers and soldiers in what circumstances was a question that sometimes arose in military affairs and the answer quite often depended on marital status. So this grant of power should also be understood to include the possibility of recognizing marital status. Today, of course, marriage is an extremely important issue in the military since it determines which dependents can recieve benefits, live on base, which soldiers ought to be transferred together (if married, the military tries to keep them together), when sexual relations that would otherwise be illicit are not (again, because of marriage), etc., etc., and these are questions that all arise naturally from trying to promote the good of the service and the well-being of servicement.

    Under the same section, Congress has the power to tax for the common welfare, including income tax under Amendment 16. In a number of ways taxation requires Congress to take an approach to marriage issues–taxation must either be by household or not, what constitutes a household must be determined, is a wife legally the same as her husband so death duties aren’t owed on his demise or her demise if one spouse remains alive, etc.

    Finally, under the Full Faith and Credit clause Congress is given the power to regulate when one state must recognize the legal acts of another state, which is the explicit basis for DOMA.

    Seems to me pretty clear that recognizing marriage is constitutional.

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