This is a follow-up on this post. I wanted to highlight something in reply to commentator Matt, who implied in a couple of different comments that anyone concerned with governmental interference should be at least as worried about the very existence of requirements for getting a marriage license as about the issue I raised--the loss of parental rights by married fathers. He even implied that the reply that I gave concerning marriage licenses--namely, that the requirements now are not onerous or unreasonable and that hypothetical later unreasonable requirements would have to be passed by statute and do not make getting marriage licenses unacceptable government intrusion now--could just as well be applied to...parent licensing:
But I don't understand at all why having to apply to get married at all is the way it should be while having to apply for some particular sub-privilege of [it] is a travesty. I'm not remotely convinced by the handwave of 'we'll cross that bridge when we come to it', because this reasoning could be employed in the service of any argument we could possibly make on the subject. 99% of the time, for instance, there is actually no dispute about a father taking responsibility for his children, because no one else wants responsibility for them. So then, if the process of taking responsibility for children were no more onerous than obtaining a marriage license today, it becomes acceptable by our premises. Of course, we would oppose any further unwarranted restrictions on this process...I replied thus:
Because it's much, much more objectionable, dangerous, and statist for there to be existing children whose married parents don't already and automatically have custody over them than for there to be an existing love (and even commitment) relationship, even what is in the eyes of God a marital relationship, between two adults that has not yet been officially recognized by the state.I want to expand on this a bit. Anyone who attempts to make a parallel between a marriage license and a parent license utterly fails to take into account the very notion of marriage as the creation of a family. And the point of the state's recognizing marriages as a way of establishing recognized families is so that children can be born into them. The married couple whose marriage is civilly recognized have created a sphere set up in advance for the reception of children. It is a place within which the family can carry on its life and its business, within which the parents can raise the later child or children and pass on their values. It is a place, a legal space, prepared to receive later children of the marriage.
Children should be born into such a space. They should be born into a legally and socially stable environment already prepared to receive them. They should be born into a family and a home. A child already in existence whose parents are not already recognized as a family by the state is in a custodial limbo, which is not a good place for a child to be. It is not a situation into which a child should be deliberately brought. To bring the child into that space and then require either married parent to "apply" to have his parental rights recognized is to imply that the child is the creature and property of the state, which gives out custody to the parent or parents as a privilege. This is a very serious falsehood.
It really surprises me that these things should need to be said. I can only guess that perhaps the reason they need to be said is that we have gotten away from the whole notion that making a marriage is making a family (even before children come along) and that the state recognizes marriages not chiefly to make the adults involved feel as though their romantic love is getting three hearty cheers but chiefly to establish stable, recognized families into which a child can be born. Marriages are the foundation of history.