Monday, July 28, 2008

Truth in Jest

I don't think they're terribly serious about it, but Ross Douthat, Matt Yglesias, and Daniel Larison have gone orthogonal to the gay marriage fracas and are indulging a spat over whether to ban the third, fourth, or Nth marriage. Here's Yglesias making the case:

I was thinking recently that if you really wanted to do something to shore up the sanctity of marriage then rather than ban gay marriages you ought to ban, say, fourth marriages. It's one thing to say that people who make a mistake ought to get a second chance, but serial nuptuals really do make a mockery of the institution's basic premises in a way that same-sex couples don't. Maybe some people just need to admit to themselves that they have no business making promises of life-long commitment.
Maybe. It would have the effect of reinforcing the sanctity of the commitment involved in marriage, but sidesteps the matter -- of far greater interest to today's moralists, judging from their words and deeds -- of whether the right sort of people are marrying.

But alas, sanctity is the scare word here, or should be. I continue to believe that the state has no proper role in marking off the boundaries of the sacred. In matters of human bonding, it should restrict itself to the questions of property allocation, child support, and the like, and stop there. Religious institutions and their assorted leaders are more than capable of bloviating about what's sacred and what isn't.

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