Get government out of the marrying business

History professor Stephanie Coontz proposes, in an op-ed piece in today’s NT Times, that the U.S. government should give up the business of officially sanctioning marriages:

Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples — gay or straight — decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship [emphasis added].

This strikes me as a logical continuation of the principle established by the reformation-era Anabaptist movement. Used to be that the state (via state-sponsored churches) had a hand in baptisms, because they were a handy time to register newly born citizens for taxation and the draft. Then the Anabaptists came along and opposed infant baptism – and five hundred years later no one thinks it at all odd that baptism is a purely religious rite.