Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Further thoughts on gay marriage...

I suppose this is one of those issues that separates conservatives from libertarians. Conservatives believe that tradition should determine the future. I disagree. Tradition can have a place in the life of the individual if he or she so chooses, but the only tradition that the government should stick to is the tradition of liberty.

There has been a lot of talk in these anti-gay marriage articles about the traditional definition of marriage. For all the talk of tradition, they leave out a lot of important information. For thousands of years, in virtually every culture (certainly the Monothestic cultures) women were considered property of their husbands. They were chattel that passed from the father to the husband. As social mores and gender roles changed, so did the definition of marriage. I see no reason why the definition must be frozen now.

Another element of traditional marriage was that it was simply a private contract between man and wife. In Judaism, fiances still sign "ketubahs" (contracts) right before thet have their marriage ceremony. Why can't we go back to this tradition? That's what marriage is, a contract. And suddenly libertarians are expected to believe the government should tell us what kind of contracts we should sign?

Can we know all the consequences of ending the prohibition of same sex marriages? No. Can we know all the consequences of ANY policy change? No. Also, what about the unforseen consequences of leaving things "as is"? As technology progresses and society changes, certainly there will be new consequences for old policies. Shouldn't we be just as concerned about these?

All the arguments against gay marriage have essentially been selective and conservative arguments. I still see no reason why a libertarian should be against gay marriage.

Of course, debate is great. I enjoy reading articles that challenge my views, and I appreciate the multiplicity of voices in the libertarian discourse. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but I still can't see how a libertarian can be for government regulation of one of the most personal issue there is. And let's be clear: If you're not for gay marriage, you are for the status quo, making you against gay marriage. Does this mean every libertarian needs to be "out in the streets" supporting gay marriage? No. There are too many issues, and everyone has some issues they care about more than others. However, given a choice between the status quo and allowing same sex marriage, libertarians should clearly be on the latter side.

My $1.05


Adam Scavone said...

"If you're not with us (my comma key is missing) you're against us!"

There's no room for "get the government out of marriage" in your argument and you fail to address the question of whether all relationships are entitled to the same title for legal status.

You also tried to close any possible hesitation and demand fealty to the pro-gay marriage camp with your "you're with us or against us" argument but never addressed why civil unions (covering a variety of relationships) are discriminatory. "You're with us or against us" is the kind of argumentation that drives me insane - it's a good part of the reason why I'm not a Republican and why I'm not a Democrat.

Patrick said...

Gay Marriage is a lame issue, no one cares about it but social conservatives and gays. What was especially eye opening for me on this issue, is that even some gay rights groups out there are against gay marriage. They are frightened by the "end of gay liberation".

Basically, after "they" get the right (read: sanction) to marry, then they are fully "accepted".

The definition of marriage has not changed for thousands of years, contrary your daring statement. True, the power structure between a man and a wife have changed. Nevertheless, marriage has continued to be defined (without change) as being between men and women, even with the exception of multiple wives.

A stronger argument would be that individual "choice" was the essential liberty at stake.

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Dan said...

Adam- I agree that civil unions are all good. In fact, an optimal solution might be to have the government out of the marriage business entirely and instead issue civil unions to hetero or homo couples, and leaving marriages as what they should be: a religious institution, not under state control. If we can't have civil unions for all, I prefer allowing gay marriage to not allowing it.

I didn't say "you're either with us or against us"- I said "you're either for gay marriage or against it". I'll be damned before I tell people they can or can't be with "us" (whoever that is) because they disagree with me on a single issue. I just personally am unable to see how the position I criticize is compatible with libertarian philosophy, but thankfully I am no position (nor do I want) to define who is and isn't a libertarian.

Pat- the definition of a marriage clearly has changed. Being someone's partner is not the same as being their property.

I didn't bring up the individual choice aspect because it's a given (C'mon, it's a f*%$ing libertarian blog!). I am adressing specific concerns brought up as libertarian arguments against gay marriage. In particular, I am adressing the notion that a) marriage has remained a static institution throughout history, and b) we should fear its "unforseen consequences". Now go back and read my post.

Patrick said...


As I said, the power structures (i.e. property vs. partner) may have changed over time. But the simple fact is still unavoidable, that marriage has always been between either one man and one woman, or one man and multiple women. Not between homosexual partners.

That aside, I don't think this issue is important. A person's sexual preference is a private choice, let's keep it that way. Do you think marriage is a public or private matter?

Additionally, I found your response somewhat offensive. See:

Dan said...

Clearly, marriage is a private choice, so therefor everyone should have the private choice to marry, gay or straight.

As I said in my last post, it would be best if government were out of the marriage biz entirely and stuck to civil unions.

I guess that means we're both offended. Who are you to decide that gay marriage is a lame issue and that only social conservatives and gay folks care about it? I'm neither and I care. Please don't try to project your opinions as facts.

Even if that were true, what would it matter? Pick any equal rights issue. For a long time the majority people who cared about ANY of those issues were those who were denied equal rights and those who wanted to perpetuate the denial of rights. Try it. Women's rights, jim crow, native americans, japanese internment.

Patrick said...

The libertarian remedy is to refrain from participation in the practices they dislike, and to not stop others from doing as they please.

Your point about the power structures within marriage changing is a non sequitur. It is irrelevant to the discourse about whether gays should be given the same right to associate as others. That was my point.

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