Marriage is at the center of some of our fiercest political debates. Here are some recent developments regarding marriage in the United States. Earlier this year, the Justice Department announced that it would no longer defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). A few weeks ago, New York became the largest state to allow same-sex marriage, joining five other states, the District of Columbia, and the Coquille and Suquamish Indian tribes in Oregon. The Senate Judiciary Committee has recently started to consider a bill that would grant federal benefits to same-sex married couples.
But to what extent should the state be involved at all in regulating or recognizing marriage? In her recent book, Untying the Knot: Marriage, the State, and the Case for Their Divorce (Princeton University Press, 2010), Tamara Metz argues for the “disestablishment” of marriage. Marriage, Metz argues, like religion, should be separated from the state. She further claims that the liberal state should only be in the business of legally recognizing a wide variety of intimate caregiving unions among consenting, able-minded, able-bodied, adult intimates. In this interview, she clarifies her position further.