I’ve been leading up to this with my History of Marriage and Keep Government out of Marriage columns and now I’m finally going to take the plunge and weigh in on the highly charged issue of same-sex marriage. Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows my Libertarian tendencies and it will come as no surprise that I don’t think the government; federal, state or local, should have more than a minimal opinion on marriage one way or the other.
Still, government cannot allow anyone to marry because there are legal situations that must be addressed. Certainly everyone acknowledges that children must be protected from ill-intentioned adults. Thus we don’t want twelve-year olds being duped into a disadvantageous marriage. There are mentally ill people who can likewise be fooled for a variety of reasons and I do see a need to protect such groups.
The main arguments against same-sex marriage seem to fall into three categories; Slippery slope, marriage as an institution, and religion. I’ll examine each one.
I’ve never been a big fan of slippery slope arguments. The idea is that to allow same-sex marriage is to open the gates to marriage of brothers to sisters and people to animals. I just don’t see it. Firstly, animals have protection in place already that supposedly prevents their abuse although much goes on anyway. As to incest I’m not really sure I care if first cousins get married and it’s certainly legal in a number of states already. These sorts of laws vary from state to state in any case but I don’t see it changing much if same-sex marriages are allowed.
The institution of marriage is the main argument you hear against same-sex marriage and I sort of see a point here. Marriage is ingrained into society and largely a convention for procreation. People get married to have children. With fewer people having children and marriage rates in general decline I’m just not convinced that allowing same-sex couples to marry is going to hurt an already fading institution. But, if this is the main issue for people it seems relatively simple to allow some sort of civil contract that conveys the legal benefits of marriage without calling it marriage. I completely understand that a spouse has rights to make decisions for a medically impaired partner and why same-sex couples would want similar rights. There are a number of issues of this nature that should be addressed. I would have no problem with granting some sort of civil contract that gave the benefits of marriage in this regard but was called something else.
Finally, there are religious arguments and I think these are the most reasonable. I’m sure that surprises people as I’m an Atheist. However, the Constitution of the United States guarantees religious freedom. Marriage has become, like it or not, a religious institution. While Polygyny remains quite common around the world there is little historical evidence for religiously sanctioned same-sex marriage anywhere. I’m not convinced that the federal government is correct to force a particular state to allow same-sex marriage or that even state government should dictate to each county. We have laws that prevent the purchase of alcohol in counties and I don’t really see why a particular county or state shouldn’t ban same-sex marriage because it is against the will of the majority. No state is required to recognize a marriage created in another state although largely they do. The Constitution is silent on the subject of marriage of any kind and should, as far as I’m concerned, remain so.
My conclusion is that if a state or county wants to ban same-sex marriage then it’s within their domain just as it is within their domain to refrain from placing such a ban. If polling is to be trusted this entire issue will fade away into nothingness within one generation as the vast majority of young people seem to not much care if same-sex marriage is legal.
Certainly we already see some states banning and others allowing and this is a good thing. This is one of the founding principles of the United States. Where the Constitution is silent the power belongs to the State and to the People.
Tell me what you think!
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
A well reasoned piece. My person view is a little complicated but I’ll try to explain. To me marriage is a religious institution, a union between man, woman and God. However for many years now we have allowed civil celebrants to conduct marriages (I understand registry officers can conduct them in the US) which means for many many people marriage is not about religion and God but about love and a social contract. In my view these unions are not marriages but legal civil unions and I would be more than happy for homosexual people to engage in these types of unions – But we have called them marriages for so long I doubt we can take that name away. So religion has lost its exclusive hold on marriage as its institution. This is further emphasized by the fact that the plural nature of countries like Australia and the US mean no one religion can claim to define religion. Some religious groups such a Quakers do support homosexual marriage further weakening the argument that marriage is a religious institution and religion doesn’t support homosexual marriage.
So my view is that my personal preference would be for all unions conducted outside a religious institution to be called civil unions (including homosexual unions) but that we have gone too far already down the path of calling these unions marriages so it would not be sensible or equitable to deny homosexuals the same recognition we have given to other couples who ‘marry’ outside of a religious institution. I also acknowledge that no one religion has a exclusive right to define marriage and as our societies become multi-faith it must be accepted and acknowledged that some religious groups define marriage to include homosexual marriage.
So there is my very complicated position. I would support the extension of marriage to homosexual couples as I think society has already gone too far down that path to back out now.
I might add that in Australia marriage is a matter for the Federal Government not the States and as such it will be up to our federal Government to extend marriage to homosexual people. some states have already created ‘civil unions’ which both homosexual couples and heterosexual couples can register for but it is not the same.
Hi Renae, not an unreasonable opinion and one that seems to be shared by the majority of younger people. I suspect, as I mention in the post, that this will not be a contentious issue twenty years from now and people will wonder what all the fuss was about. Time will tell! Thanks for the comment as always! 🙂