By Bobby Ross Jr. | GetReligion

Way back in 2004 — during Season 6 of the Emmy Award-winning television drama “The West Wing” — a congressman raised the idea of banning marriage. All marriage.

With two-thirds of Americans then opposed to same-sex nuptials, a gay Democrat identified as “Rep. Benoit” proposed getting the government out of the marriage business.

“If the government can’t make it available to everyone, I want us out of the business entirely,” Benoit said to Josh Lyman, chief political adviser in the fictional Josiah Bartlet administration. “Leave it to churches and synagogues, and, of course, casinos and department stores.”

Lyman chuckled and brushed off the suggestion.

Fast-forward more than a decade: A majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court has legalized it. And amid ongoing battles pitting gay rights vs. religious liberty, some real-life lawmakers wonder if the answer might be removing the government from the process.

The Associated Press reports on a Missouri legislator’s proposal to do just that.

Read the full column.

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More of my GetReligion columns (January 2017):

In real-life Mayberry, what makes Trump supporters tick: Religion? Race? Economics? Published Jan. 5.

As Emanuel AME gunman gets death, looking for faith — and finding it — on victims’ side. Published Jan. 11.

Victim’s blood-stained Bible ‘reminds me of the blood Jesus shed for me and you, Dylann Roof.’ Published Jan. 12.

You’ll never guess who called Texas bill to end abortion the ‘most extreme measure’ yet. Published Jan. 16.

Surprise! Yes, it IS possible for mainstream media to produce fair, balanced abortion news. Published Jan. 17.

Oh no, look what Trump’s done: He’s appointed someone to Cabinet who ONCE PRAYED. Published Jan. 19.

Why you can buy a beer in North Dakota on Sunday morning but not a belt at Wal-Mart. Published Jan. 24.

‘They say the press doesn’t cover them’: Trump weighs in on March for Life. Published Jan. 26.

5Q+1 interview: Why this pastor believes media misinterpreted Trump’s order on refugees. Published Jan. 31.

Click below for additional January 2017 columns.

The rest of my January 2017 columns:

A holy ghost in Dallas: ‘Servant leader’ steps into key public office in the Lone Star State. Published Jan. 3.

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Transgender bathroom bill unveiled in Texas. Published Jan. 9.

Best of cotton-candy journalism: How to turn religious pablum into front-page news. Published Jan. 10.

Inauguration week goodies: Elephants, donkeys and thought-provoking Godbeat stories. Published Jan. 18.

Are Bible classes in public schools constitutional? The answer is complicated. Published Jan. 23.

Surprise! Pro-life women planning to join March for Life get front-page news coverage. Published Jan. 25.

Big news report card: Five key questions about news coverage of March for Life. Published Jan. 30.

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