Why does the state have any interest in recognizing marriages at all? I believe that many people- even many Christians who greatly value marriage- would be hard pressed to offer an answer to this question; marriage is currently seen as a mere personal choice, with little thought given to the broader societal impact of marriage.
At a “Next Generation Event” during the recent annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, helpfully gave one main reason for the state’s interest in marriage:
The reason why the state [traditionally] recognizes male/female one-flesh unions: there’s a reason for that. There are all kinds of things the state doesn’t recognize that are important things: lots of us in this room are friends, [but] we didn’t go to the courthouse and register our friendship, and, if we ever get mad at one another and decide we’re not going to speak to one another, we don’t go to the courthouse and deal with it that way; the state doesn’t care who you’re friends with, [so] why does the state care who you’re married to? The state cares who you’re married to because (the state has an interest in that because) a male/female union- at least potentially- has some implications that society has to deal with, and those “implications” are called children. And so the state has to recognize, in some way, marriage, unless you’re going to have the kind of society where children are just abandoned on the side of the road and no one is taking care of them. I mean, really, when you think about the state’s interest in marriage, it boils down to, at the most basic level, issues of child support: ‘who’s responsible for this baby?’ The state is interested in that.
[The rest of the video from which the above quote was taken may be seen HERE.]
Even more recently, in an interview with National Review Online, Dr. Moore again gave a succinct answer concerning the state’s interest in marriage, this time explicitly mentioning the state’s interest in promoting situations in which children have the benefit of both a father and a mother:
The government has recognized marriage for one reason. The union of a man and a woman has implications for all of society in a way other relationships don’t. Male/female sexuality brings with it the possibility of children. Very few of us want the sort of “lord of the flies” laissez-faire kind of society which doesn’t care what happens to children. Encouraging the sort of fidelity that maintains, wherever possible, the right of a child to both a mother and a father is a state interest.
[The rest of the article from which the above quote was taken may be read HERE.]