In a nice article in First Things, Michael Fragoso responds to a NYT article which attacked the idea of public marriage by taking on these common anti-marriage claims:

  • Why do people–gay or straight–need the state’s permission to marry? 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
  • In 1215, the Church decreed that a ‘licit’ marriage must take place in church.
  • But people who married illicitly had the same rights and obligations as
    a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife
    had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same
    prohibitions against.
  • Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices.
  • In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match.