Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Marriage EQUALITY, Why Not?

Earlier today, before the news out of California that the appeals court declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional, I had been reading this. The title intrigued me: “The Limited Government/Libertarian Case for Man Woman Marriage” so I decided to give it a once over. For those unaware, my state of New Hampshire is one that allows for Marriage Equality. This “backgrounder” as it is called, is meant to be used as supporting evidence to overturn that law, which is a high priority for some members of our Legislature. The basic premise of this article is to claim that allowing for same sex marriage does not increase freedom or decrease the intrusions of the state, but actually the reverse. Because allowing gays to marry destroys the familial bond, it, by extension, increases the size and scope of the state because of the breakdown of the “traditional” family. I have dealt with some of these issues before (here and here), but given the news out of California, and how it will probably redouble the efforts of my home state crusaders, we should address some of the things here.
First, the entire article is an attempt to pander with buzzwords, making reference to the concept of spontaneous order and icons such as Hayek and Freidman. I assume what is supposed to happen is that we read these names and terms and say “oh yeah, she understands us” and then we ignore the glaring inconsistency of the argument. In the final passage it talks about this “spontaneous order” wherein males and females are naturally attracted to each other and the product of this attraction is children whom they care for the rest of their lives in a loving, monogamous relationship. Marriage exists organically, in a spontaneous order situation, predating government, and therefore superior to the dictates of the State. To quote: “People instinctively create marriage, both as couples and as cultures, without any support from the government whatsoever.” Now, in terms of “traditional” marriage, I have no idea what in the hell this person is talking about. For millennia, across almost all cultures, marriage has been a cultural institution, but one in which families decided who you were going to spend the rest of your life with. Dowries and arranged marriages were pretty much the standard, even in this country, up until the mid 1800s. The idea that your base physical attraction and deeply shared personal feelings impacted who you ended up with in your marriage is a product of classical liberal philosophy. Until you were free to believe what you wanted and to pursue your own destiny, you ended up with whomever the family arranged for you. To make some sort of argument that this is all just such an ancient concept, one man and one woman in a monogamous loving relationship of their choosing, is just plain wrong. Women were always property, without rights or privilege, and unless they wanted to be written off, most sons did exactly what the family wanted, and to buck that usually ended badly for both parties (Romeo & Juliet anyone?).
While you could say that it is “traditional” for only one man and one woman to marry, and that it goes back centuries, we have to acknowledge the reason for that: to stand up and publicly admit that you were a homosexual meant a bunch of Dark Age theocratic savages were going to execute you in order to purge the land of sin. For most of the last century in this country to admit to being a homosexual would land you in prison. We are evolving as a country, a culture and a people. Homosexual individuals are asking to be treated equally, to be provided with the same benefits as all Americans, and that is not a hard sell for libertarians. The article asks homosexuals to rely on contract law to sort out the issues of property, end of life and child custody. They should do this, and libertarians should support this, because otherwise we would be supporting an increase in the state. Same sex marriage would be a construct of the State, not organic, and therefore forcefully imposed on a resistant population. This argument can hold no water what so ever, because of where this all begins: the Defense of Marriage Act. It was the incredibly frightening notion that gay people could get married in one state, and demand that their “public act” be recognized in another, allowing them to share property together, or heaven forbid allow for their social security check to go to someone they loved and shared their life with, that started all of this. It was decades of closeted gays not being able to dictate where their assets went or where they were buried or how their end of life wishes were to be respected that brought this about. To turn around now and say that gays should just use contract law to enforce all of these decisions is even more condescending than forcing them to live in the shadows. Equality should never be bartered or compromised, it should be embraced.
Today’s decision regarding Proposition 8 places all of this in the proper context. The case was held as unconstitutional on the “rational basis” test, meaning that no one can come up with a cogent, defendable argument about what possible harm this could do, to allow homosexuals to marry. This piece attempts to do so with quite a bit of gusto, but it falls flat in the end. There is no harm that is caused. It talks about the nature of marriage being binding parents to each other and their children, and that there is a compelling state interest in that. I find that unconvincing in terms of saying, the State will now treat these people differently. The piece eventually reveals its real when it says that most people know that the sexes are not interchangeable and it would need to be imposed on us by the State because marriage equality is … “an unnatural idea that does not spring unbidden to the human mind,”. In other words people and their personal hang-ups are the reason to deny someone equal treatment under the law. Because someone’s upbringing or religious beliefs has them believe that someone’s lifestyle choices are wrong does not, and should not, have any bearing on governmental policy. Equality should never be up to majority rule, and thankfully we have seen that principle upheld toady, and I hope New Hampshire does not find a reason to overturn something that has done no one any harm.


  1. Very interesting take on this subject. I was never aware that it was up to "the state" (ANY state) to define parameters of marriage. It should be up to people's religious and/or personal convictions to better define same.I question using a phrase like "people's hang-ups" in the context that appears above. Because people don't approve of behavioral patterns of others does not mean that rejecting those activities is a "hang up". Accepting the basic premise that "anything goes" is very Timothy Leary-like, and I refuse to accept that theory as the standard of enlightenment.

    Ron from Wuss-Stuh

    1. Not so much "anything goes" but "what is the harm?" must be the first principle in discussing intervention of the state. As to a "hang-up" it is used in this regard: Someone believes homosexuality to be wrong and unnatural, based on a religious teaching. Its existence essentially offends them, yet that does not give them the right, in this society, to use the mechanism of government to stop them from living their lives. Other people/cultures have other "hang-ups" an uncovered woman who walks in stride with a man instead of 10 steps behind. Sacred, can be referenced in ancient texts, practiced in many areas for millenia, yet we would never consider to allow that to be imposed in this country, in any individual state or community, majority vote on the issue or not. It is a "hang-up" in that sense. An individual may not like it, but their is no special consideration that should be given that belief, in terms of imposing policy by the government, unless a harm principle or a compelling state interest can be referenced.

  2. The solution to this problem is to remove the state from marriage completly. Why do consenting adults need to have the states permission to marry ? The only reason for it is so the government can collect revenue and impose it's will upon the population. When the government removes itself from marriage things like gay marriage or polygamy will not matter.

    Jason from Wormtown

  3. Unbelievably homophobic gibberish.