So I'll ask again: What is the purpose for the state creating a legal status called marriage and attaching a set of conditions and benefits to it? Why bother? It's not like people haven't been getting married all on their own for thousands of years. So what's the reason for the state getting involved?
This has been discussed here ad naseum, but since the SCOTUS has been discussing it I'm all boned up. The states power is to regulate marriage, divorce and custody. The actually laws that govern the institution from state to state are likely as varied as bible interpretations. But clearly 'traditional' marriage has evolved.
Which doesn't answer the question I asked. I know we've discussed it ad nauseum, but I'm still waiting for someone to tell me why the state is involved in the first place. I'm not asking for the details of the involvement, but why it's involved
. What purpose does it serve?
Why are the feds hands in it? For myriad reasons. In most cases they boil down to shared finances and property, custody and ancestry.
Again, you are answering "what", but I asked "why?". Why get involved? What was broken/missing in society that required that the state (at any level) involve itself in marriage?
DOMA unilaterally says that only a man/woman union is appropriate in all instances.
For purposes of federally defined benefits. And what DOMA does isn't in question. Why it does it, and whether that why matches with the why of the marriage status it applies to kinda does.
Alito and the estate tax provision:
Suppose we look just at the estate tax provision that’s at issue in this case, which provides specially favorable treatment to a married couple as opposed to any other individual or economic unit. What was the purpose of that? Was the purpose of that really to foster traditional marriage, or was Congress just looking for a convenient category to capture households that function as a unified economic unit?
Which do you think it is?
Hard to say. It's a valid question to ask. What he's asking is whether there's some quality of "traditional marriage" (meaning a man and woman) that matches the intended purpose of the estate tax provision or was it just convenient. I happen to think, whether overtly stated or not, that it was some quality of male/female marriages which was the target. If it was just a convenient target for unified economic units, then why bother with it in the first place? It would be easier to just say that you can designate anyone as your heir and avoid taxes (in other words, eliminate the death tax). Why apply this to a spouse, but not any random person one designates?
The answer would presumably be that there's some quality or criteria for "spouse" that is not met by "any random person I designate, or a roommate". The next question becomes "what is that quality or criteria"? And that brings us back to the question of what the state is trying to accomplish with marriage. Specifically, why might we want to exempt an estate from taxation if there's a surviving spouse? If you have two people, both with equal likelihood of working, and nothing specific to their relationship which might preclude one from being able to advance their career versus the other, then there's no reason to allow one to hand their property to the other tax free than it would be for one to hand that property over tax free to any other random person they want to.
Hmm.... If the two had a child together, and were married, we can presume that one of them likely had their career opportunities impacted as a result. So it makes sense to allow them to share the fruits of the career focused spouse in terms of pension, health insurance, and estate to a degree greater than any other random friend. Surely, some could take advantage of that and get married purely for the financial benefits. A young woman marrying an elderly man in order to inherit his estate without having to pay taxes. It happens. Similarly, someone might wish to adopt a child, or otherwise becomes a single parent, and would like to define someone else as co-guardian without meeting the traditional requirements for marriage. That happens too. But do we make our rules based on the potential for exceptions, or based on the most common occurrences? I think the latter.
There's a lot more I could write on this, but that's enough, and honestly it's late on a Friday, and I want to head home. So have a nice weekend, and eat some eggs and candy! ;)
choose your answer carefully
I'm not tailoring my answer based on what Alito may have said, if that's what you're thinking. My answer is my answer. I don't need to chooses it. It's already there. My challenge is writing it out so that others understand where I'm coming from.