I stumbled upon this little gem from The American Spectator (which references a larger article here) today and it got me kind of raging. The basic premise of the article seems to be that Libertarians and Libertarian-minded Republicans are doing a disservice to First Amendment freedom by supporting the notion of Gay-Marriage. The gist is that people’s religious conviction to oppose gay marriage should be the first principle, and that all those who supposedly support the notion of liberty need to line up to support them, or else be hypocrites. The whole piece references instances of supporters of “traditional” marriage being discriminated against for speaking their mind and Catholic adoption agencies losing their tax exempt status for refusing to place children with gay couples. Now, if someone loses their job for some innocuous comment involving their religious beliefs, then there seems to be a great lawsuit there, but the rest of the article can’t really stand on its merits. The notion of wanting to protect “traditional” marriage is based on an ecclesiastical principle, and that is the problem with their argument. Marriage in this country is, first and foremost, a state sanctioned contract. You can have a priest, a parson or a voodoo witch doctor say whatever they want in front of you, but if that individual is not authorized by the state to officiate the ceremony, it does not mean anything to the state. Sure, your religious tenants have been satisfied, but the state and the legal ramifications involved with marriage have not been. Plain and simple - religious marriage and state marriage are two different things. The same applies for ending a marriage. An annulment or a Sharia Triple talaq does not end the civil commitment of marriage in this country, nor should it. Just because your religion does not like some aspect of the civil process does not mean public policy should be changed. The government exercising its function to protect someone’s civil rights in contradiction to your religious beliefs is not an infringement on your First Amendment rights. The same applies to adoption agencies. Adoption is a state sanctioned function. If a nun showed up at your house and randomly handed you a baby, do you think the government would just say “Sure, you’re a parent now”? If you are an ecclesiastical organization operating in a secular arena, then the secular must win out. When they started this organization, they probably had to agree to those terms up front to get into the field and receive their tax exempt status.
The article goes on to say that gays can go about and live happily in all 50 states, and that should be good enough for them and leave marriage out of it. The problem with this line of reasoning are the rules people like these authors have put in place to actually inhibit, if not prevent, that reality. The problem for cohabitating gays has always been to attain the same level of legal protection as married heterosexual couples. In terms of insurance, property rights, inheritance and death and burial decisions, gays have always been at a disadvantage. If you are gay and spent 25 years living with one person, who do you think you would want making the decisions about your health and your estate should something unexpected happen? Until the concept of Civil Unions came around, it did not matter what your wishes were, it fell to your blood kin, and if they didn’t particularly like or accept your lifestyle choice then the partner was excluded. With the fear of destroying the institution of “traditional” marriage, the Federal Government spurred to action, passing the constitutionally odious Defense of Marriage Act to protect the Federal definition of marriage and allow the states to ignore Article 4 of the Constitution. [While many would jump to defend the concept through the Public Policy Exception, one must remember that the state needs a compelling public policy to ignore Article 4, and “We don’t like homosexuality” is not an actual policy.] Being excluded and discriminated against is what spurred the movement to seek equal marriage rights. If you remove the religious motivation behind the defenders, there is no valid argument. From a Libertarian standpoint the issue here is to have equality for all. Not allowing your religious view, which could be different from mine, and certainly different from every non-son of Abraham based religion, to dominate the debate is the point. “For the bible tells me so” as a policy position is always going to be met with resistance, as well it should be. From a religious freedom perspective, go ahead and dislike the concept, that is fine. Speak out, protest, do as you please, but when you cross into the secular arena you must yield. You can find a great deal of things in the Torah, the Bible and the Koran that are supposed to be practiced on a daily basis and imposed on the community as a whole. If you allow one, you make a case for allowing all. The point of religious freedom in this country is freedom of conscience: You need to be allowed to believe (or not believe) as you see fit, to not have a belief system thrust upon you, one that must be adhered to so as to be a citizen in good standing. Libertarians are not going to stand by and see someone discriminated against because they do not fit into the proper religiously approved lifestyle. Libertarians should never stand idly by while one group’s civil rights are being usurped by a narrow definition of someone else’s religious rights.