kraorh commented that "of course [marriage] should be privatized!"
So I'll take the opposing position.
But before I can do that, we need to define what "privatized" means. I take it to mean that the 50 states would stop licensing marriages. I also take it to mean that we would abolish the category of "common law" marriage - which still exists in some states.
People could still have church wedding ceremonies, or whatever kind of ceremonies they wanted. No one wants to interfere with that.
But couples would just have to agree among themselves what kind of agreement they had with each other. They could just have a verbal agreement, or they could have something formal written up and witnessed.
As far as I can tell, the state gets out of the job of defining who is a spouse and who isn't.
So here are a few problems I propose off the top of my head:
1) The common-law right to not have to testify against a spouse seems to vanish, since spousehood is no longer a state defined category
2) Inheritance rules allocating a percentage to spouses (in the absence of a will) seem to vanish.
3) People who are already legally married, who had relied upon the legal institution, will suddenly find themselves... without a contract
4) There is little to be gained from privatizing, because through the proper use of prenuptial agreements one can already custom-tailor the marital agreement. What's more one can already "go private" with a long-term romantic relationship by formal agreements as to assets, terms, conditions, and penalties.
5) Children - a key "issue" in many marriages - are not parties to the contract, so the state will end up involved in custody disagreements anyway, looking out for the "best interests" of the kids.
6) When a (written or verbal) contract dispute arises, the state - or some arbitration board - will have to get involved anyway.
Privatize marriage? Many say yes.
But might it turn into an unholy mess?