Libertarians and gay marriage

I am for liberty, generally speaking. But I am not a libertarian because libertarianism is less about liberty than about having easy answers to difficult political issues.

You don’t think so? Consider how many proud libertarians have signed on to gay marriage. All it takes is for someone to say, “People should be free to marry anyone they want to,” and the argument is over — libertarians nod their heads and say amen.

How many of them stop to ask why laws are needed for gays to marry? How many stop to think how such laws actually limit the freedom of others to live their lives as they choose, according to their own most cherish beliefs about right and wrong?

These aren’t really difficult questions. One only has to consider the case of the Christian photographer in New Mexico who was fined $7,000 for refusing to photograph a lesbian wedding; or the case of the online dating service eHarmony, which was forced to spend $2 million to accommodate gays; or the case of Chick-fil-A, which was induced to drop its support for organizations supporting traditional marriage to obtain approval for new restaurants in Chicago.

In each case, the force of law was used to redistribute freedom from one party to another party. In each case, the freedom favored was homosexual and the freedom disfavored was religious. And in each case, the homosexuals already had the right to marry; they just didn’t have the power to coerce others into accepting their choice of lifestyle. Now they do, thanks to new laws providing more freedom to gays and less freedom to Christians, Jews, Muslims, and anyone else who believes homosexuality is unnatural and immoral.

That’s really what the issue is all about. It’s not about the freedom of gays to marry. Gays already have the freedom to marry. All the old laws against sodomy have been struck down by our courts or repealed by our legislatures, so there’s nothing to stop gays from hiring a minister to bless their union, moving in together, and carrying on like a married couple. They don’t need gay marriage laws to do any of that. Their union can be made a matter of law by legal instruments other than a marriage certificate, and they can easily find people to bless their union, take pictures of their wedding, rent them an apartment, sell them a house, and otherwise treat them like a married couple.

What they need gay marriage laws to do is ensure everyone they encounter submits to their own perverse sense of what is right and good, going along with it as if there’s nothing wrong with it, or suffering the consequences, imposed by men with guns if need be.

Simply put: Gays need gay marriage laws to force their morality on others. How libertarian is that?

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6 Responses to Libertarians and gay marriage

  1. e6ahck says:

    Romans Chapter 1 comes to mind especially verse 32 — Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

    The USA has moved forward in the last 30 years from living under God’s judgement to experiencing the fury of God’s wrath.

  2. Ken Miller says:

    I consider myself a Libertarian leaning Conservative/Republican. I am motivated by the principle of individual liberty more than any other principle.

    I think you are spot on that it is no longer a question of liberty, but rather coercion by the government to infringe on others’ liberty and force them to “affirmatilvely” give a benefit to another. Gays ought to have the right to live together even though many of us don’t believe it is moral. The principle of liberty grants this, just as it grants to those who disapprove of this behavior the right to make their own unconstrained choices consistent with their moral disapproval. The “gay agenda” today wants to make it illegal to believe, freely express, and live consistent with the ancient belief rooted in the scriptures that certain sexual behaviors are against Divine command.

    The one disparity I would admit for the gays is that “unmarried” couples do not necessarily have access to some of the same benefits as married couples, such as filing taxes jointly, “family” insurance plans, etc. For me, it is consistent with the principle of liberty to allow “civil unions” that would provide such benefits. Where I draw the line is the term “marriage”, and of course the affirmative protections that infringe on others’ liberties as mentioned above.

    Modern libertarianism is largely rooted in the philosophical framework of Ayn Rand. I love Ayn Rand, but the motivation for her defense of liberty is rooted in “egotism”, and she views altruism as a vice (which itself seems incompatible wth the principle of liberty, because what if someone wants to be altruistic!). Egotistm and impugning altruism is incompatible with historic Christianity. I believe it is possible to develop a philosophical defense of libertarianism that is rooted in the Christian principle that no action can be considered virtuious unless it is freely chosen. The principle of liberty is what makes virtue possible, though it will always be a struggle to use the power of persuasion to convince people to freely chose the virtuous life.

    • Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      Thanks, Ken, for the comment. There are some thoughtful libertarians who see the gay power grab for what it is. They even include at least one gay libertarian, Justin Raimondo, editor of and one of the many colorful characters featured in my book Eight Ways to Run the Country.

      I’m glad you raised the issue of tax breaks and insurance. My response is: Is the push for gay marriage about tax breaks and insurance benefits? Is that what marriage means to gays?

      It’s certainly not what marriage means to straights. People don’t spend thirty grand on a wedding to save a few thousand each year on taxes and insurance; they do it because the commitment of a man and a woman to live together for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do they part is itself a very big deal, which still usually involves children, who are extraordinarily expensive.

      Because society needs children, has an obligation to protect children, and has an interest in seeing them become healthy, productive, law-abiding citizens, the state has often made marriage a matter law to keep couples together. It has also often provided various advantages for married couples, to help them shoulder the burden of the future.

      Gays, of course, want these advantages for themselves. That is indeed a big reason for the push for gay marriage. But do they deserve them? Do gay couples provide the same benefit to society by raising children? Very rarely, which means that giving them the same advantages would be very unfair.

      Real marriage and gay marriage are not equal, and forcing people to treat them equally does not increase liberty. Employers and their insurance companies are already free to extend benefits to unmarried partners, gay or straight, if they so choose; why must they be forced to do so? And if gay couples are given a tax break, everyone else will be forced to shoulder more of the tax burden. Some liberty.

  3. Ken Miller says:

    You make a valid point about insurance companies, that they are currently free to extend family programs to partnered gays, yet they don’t unless the government declares them “married.” The problem that libertarian-minded individuals run into is how the libertarian principle applies in a non-libertarian society. What I mean is, in a true libertarian society, government would not be defining things such as what should be in an insurance policy. Given the fact that government laws do in fact do set the framework that determines what insurance companies cover and don’t, a libertarian has to decide whether to accept that government is going to be running things, and advocate that if one member of society is getting benefit A, then another member should get it also. Or, they can take a principled stand that government should not be in it at all. Much of what the ACLU gets involved with is advocating for “equal” benefits from the government, rather than advocating for government to get out of the benefit business. In most cases, I don’t think ACLU stances truly reflect a principled libertarian view, though many Libertarians like the ACLU.

  4. Dwight Johnson says:

    Paleo-libertarians do not in any way wish to impose “gay marriage” on anyone, as your friend Anthony Gregory explains so well in this ancient article, since such imposition is contrary to the Non-aggression principle.

    While often put in terms of “civil rights”, no gay person has ever been denied the right to marry, given the immemorial definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. What they have achieved is the re-defining of the word, and, by doing this, have used the state to enforce their view on others, as you explained. The Paleo-lib position is to let people do as they wish as long as they do not use force against another. Force, of course, is what the state is about. Libertarianism is strictly about the proper extent of the use of force in human society. It is not a comprehensive ethical system.

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