The United States is firmly rooted in the separation of church and state but often the moralities and rules of each get intertwined. If marriage is an expression of love, why is it governed by law? If it is a legal contract, why burden it with religion or values?

I understand that when a couple gets married and starts a family, laws need to be in place to protect this union for various reasons- shared assets and children chief among them. But these laws should be separate from marriage and the concept of love. What if two married people get divorced? Are there not still rules between them for custody arrangements and the like? What about a couple that has children without ever getting married? Child support is still owed. Even common law marriage exists. All these rulesets exist outside the bounds of normal marriage yet we still feel the need to tie them together.

Conversely, marriage is a sacrament in Catholicism, and certainly important in other religions. People should be able to walk into a church and get married and have the law stay outside of that. A religious union with a partner should be possible without needing to owe them money afterward if things don’t work out.

Where is the separation of church and state?

A couple, heterosexual or otherwise, should be able to enter into a contract to share responsibilities commonly associated with marriage, like tax status. This can be a legal document and the law can govern this as it likes but all the moralities associated with marriage shouldn’t be tied into this legal status. All the noise about same-sex marriage is fascinating to me. In many cases there is already a same-sex union available that enjoys all the legal benefits of marriage except it isn’t officially considered ‘marriage’- yet isn’t that all the law should care about anyway? What is the point of governing that extra level of meaning?

These days marriage is a legal contract- this can’t be denied. There are even several separate contracts that come with it now, like prenuptial agreements. But why is this contract burdened with sex, religion, and morality? And why is a religious sacrament burdened with law? Both these institutions fill two completely separate needs- we should keep them as far apart from each other as possible.