JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (March 23, 2016) – A proposed Missouri resolution would begin the process of abolishing government marriage licenses in the state, effectively nullifying both sides of the contentious debate on same-sex marriage.

Rep. Jeff Pogue(R) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 113 (HCR113) on March 14. The resolution calls on the legislature to agree to file a petition to call for a special session in order to discuss the state’s involvement in the institution of marriage. The resolution opens with a strong statement regarding the state’s place in marriage.

“State government should not be involved in the institution of marriage or the issuance of marriage licenses.”

It goes on to declare, “A special session is needed in order to properly vet such matters and reform our statutes to remove the state’s involvement in marriage.”

Under the Missouri state constitution, the legislature can petition for a special session with the signatures of 3/4 of the members of both the House and the Senate.

Passage of the resolution would take the first step toward getting Missouri out of the marriage business altogether. A bill recently passed in the Alabama Senate provides an example of what the Missouri could do, practically speaking.


Withdrawing the state from the marriage issue would accomplish two things.

First, it would effectively render void the edicts of federal judges that have overturned state laws defining marriage. The founding generation never envisioned unelected judges issuing ex cathedra pronouncements regarding the definition of social institutions like marriage and the Constitution delegates the federal judiciary no authority to meddle in the issue. Constitutionally, marriage is an issue left to the state and the people.

Second, it would limit the sates role in defining and regulating marriage, ending the squabble between factions seeking to harness the power of the state. This would remove the burden from government officials torn between the legal requirements of their jobs and their personal religious convictions.

By limiting the states role in marriage. the Missouri legislature would all Missourians to structure their personal relationships as they see fit without interference from the government or other people.

“Licenses are used as a way to stop people from doing things,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “My personal relationship should not be subject to government permission.”


As a 2007 New York Times op/ed points out, for centuries marriage was a private affair.

“For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity. For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

In fact, state marriage licenses were used as a way to prevent interracial marriages. Later, the NYT story recounts, the licenses became necessary in order to subsidize the welfare state.

“The Social Security Act provided survivors’ benefits with proof of marriage. Employers used marital status to determine whether they would provide health insurance or pension benefits to employees’ dependents. Courts and hospitals required a marriage license before granting couples the privilege of inheriting from each other or receiving medical information.”

Something rarely considered by those seeking to control the state’s definition of marriage is that a marriage license means a person requires government permission before getting married. In America, people generally cannot drive a vehicle without a license. People cannot practice law without a license, nor can they provide medical care.

Put another way, under a licensing scheme, marriage is not a right, nor a religious institution, but a privilege granted by the state and limited by its requirements.

Consider this: In the same way a driver can lose their license if they break certain traffic laws, a man or woman, theoretically, could one day find their marriage license revoked for breaking certain “marriage” rules, whether it pertains to child rearing, or their religious and political convictions.

Christopher Wesley, an associated scholar at the Mises Institute, wrote that “marriage is most endangered when it rests in the coercive hands of the State.”

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

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