Rendering to Caesar what is of Caesar’s and to God what is God’s- Taxes and the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Marriage BibleIs it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, knowing their wickedness, said: “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin of the census tax.” And they offered him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?”  They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Then render to Caesar what is of Caesar; and to God what is of God.”

 -Gospel of Matthew 22:18 to 22:21

 The issue of marriage was brought before the Supreme Court this past June. The cases involved the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 which outlawed gay marriage as well as the constitutionality of the 1996 “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA)  in which the Federal Government defined “Marriage” between a man and a women and prohibited Gay couples from receiving federal benefits and tax incentives that are currently given to Heterosexual Married couples.

 I personally believe marriage is between one man and one woman. The institution of marriage has been around for a least five millennia and is the cornerstone of stable society. As a Catholic Christian I further believe it is a sacrament ordained by God:

“    And Adam said: “Now this is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh. This one shall be called woman, because she was taken from man.”{2:24} For this reason, a man shall leave behind his father and mother, and he shall cling to his wife; and the two shall be as one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24)

 Now what authority has the Federal Government have over the institution of marriage?The answer is NONE. The recognition or regulation of marriage is not list under the enumerated powers under the constitution. Under the 10th amendment it is clear that this power should be left to the citizens of the individual states. One of the primary reasons why DOMA was proposed by congress was to skirt around the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” (Article IV, section 1) of the constitution. This clause states:” It states that “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.”

 Congress wanted to insure that the Federal government did not have to grant tax and other marriage privileges to same sex couples or require states that does not recognize same sex unions to have to recognize them if a same-sex couple moved into their state.  In striking down section 3 of DOMA the court has been decided on the Federal Level same-sex couples who were married in the states that recognizes these unions must receive the same benefits as heterosexual married couples. As for the case involving California’s Proposition 8 the court essentially “punted”  by not issuing a decision by saying the group that brought the suit had no legal standing.  This leaves the lower court’s ruling on the unconstitutionality of the proposition stand.

As a constitutional libertarian my position is that the federal government shouldn’t take any position on marriage. The congress under the constitution had no authority passing DOMA in the first place. The Federal Government shouldn’t be involved in marriage period. Since the authority to recognize or regulate marriage is not mentioned in the constitution as an enumerated power it is up to the states under the 10th amendment.

 As for the individual states regulating marriage it’s up to their citizens through their state legislatures. If a state wants to recognize same-sex marriage (The term which to me is an Oxymoron) they are free to do so.  In looking back through history most states did not issue marriage licenses until the 1840’s for most of our history the institution of marriage was a religious sacrament and certificates of marriage were issued by your church or temple only.  The issue only started to come up on the state and later the federal level when estate and later income taxes were involved.


 The Federal and state governments shouldn’t treat a married couple any differently than two individual persons in regards to tax policy there shouldn’t be any tax incentives or penalties for being “married”. Estate and power of attorney issues can be handled by current legal instruments such as wills, estates,  trusts etc.  Most of these taxation issues have only arisen since the ratification of the 16th amendment and the imposition of the modern federal income tax along with their state counterparts. .Before the 16th amendment the federal and state government’s relied on excise, sales taxes, tariffs and fee’s. These taxes  were neutral based on commercial transactions and not on income. An individual’s  marital status was not relevant.

 The fear I have is that one day a future Supreme Court will rule that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right and incorporate it under the 14th amendment. This would require all states to recognize same sex marriage. If that were to come to pass it is not beyond the realm of possibility that clergy who have been granted power to officiate marriage ceremonies by the state to be forced to marry same-sex couples in opposition to their religious doctrine’s and conscience.  


 To avoid this nightmare I believe that government on all levels should get out of the institution of marriage. Marriage should be left to the domain of religious organizations. If a church, synagogue, mosque or temple wants to perform marriages of same sex couples so be it.

 Render to Caesar what is to Caesar, Render to God what is God’s.  The state of marriage should not be rendered to Caesar since it was instituted by the almighty and it should be rendered to him only.    

-Just my opinion-D.B.


  1. August 15, 2013    

    Comment Cut & Pasted From Linked In:
    From Michael DePietro • The idea that the federal government has no business defining marriage because of some libertarian principle does not withstand 10 seconds of scrutiny. The Federal government has many laws that were passed back in the day when what the word meant was self evident. This applies to all kinds of things like spousal benefits for social security, bankruptcy rules etc. When same sex marriage went from being a self evidently absurd idea, the equivalent of a man marrying a dog or his lamp shade, then Congress passed a law by huge majorities that was signed by that far right ideologue Bill Clinton, oh… right he was a liberal to moderate democrat.. married to a far left ideologue… In any case it seems pretty clear that Congress should have the power to define the words that included in its other statutes. The libertarian case against DOMA is self evidently ridiculous.

    I have some sympathy for the idea the government at all levels has been recognizing something else than what we mean by a marriage as soon as it began liberalizing divorce laws, and frankly can not get too bent out of shape at the latest destruction of marriage now that the government is too give formal sanction to homosexual unions. I am a bit puzzled as to why such unions need any formal recognition, marriage previously being recognized solely because unions of that form often involved important effect on the raising of children, assuring some system that linked pure reproduction to a social structure to raise the children. Now that marriage is only about the sexual proclivities and or personal emotional gratification of the partners it is neither what a Catholic calls marriage, nor is it worthy of any particular recognition period.

    As it happens homosexuals are not all that worried about getting married as when homosexual marriage is recognized they do not get “married” in significant numbers, this is merely a club to be used to beat the Church who will not perform such “marriages” and thus is more of a weapon than anything. On purely tactical grounds then getting the state out of the marriage business period is probably a good idea.

  2. August 15, 2013    

    Comment Cut & Pasted from Linked In:
    From: Michelle Baran • The government at all levels lack the expertise, the interest, and the ability regarding marriage. Evidence: the existence of divorce, the high divorce rates, the lucrative divorce industry. Marriage is not a governance issue. Marriage is a witness and counsel issue.

  3. February 5, 2015    

    Agreed. But the trouble with that scenario is that the state is needed to enforce certain obligations to the children, and sometimes to the former spouse, upon dissolution of the marriage.

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