Gay marriage this week

The more I read and think about criticisms of gay marriage, the less worried I am about it.

Statistics bandied about by its opponents are hardly evidence, given the amount of time which the American family has been under siege -- far longer than there have been successful, publicly active proponents of gay marriage.

Seems to me that every generation thinks the following generation or two is somehow lesser in moral character.  And every generation has its reprobates, whether it’s Jeremiah Wright or Ted Kaczynski (born in the 40s), Bill Ayers or Patty Hearst (born in the 50s), Tim McVeigh (born in the 60s), or Anwar al-Awlaki (born in the 70s). There are good and bad people in all places, at all times. But mostly, people are people – basically good, especially in America – and society is basically adapted to the capabilities (including technology) of the people of the time.

Yes, standards change over time.  What was considered risqué or even obscene just a generation or two ago might be PG or PG-13 now. What would Potter Stewart say about “True Blood”, or even the cover pictures and stories from Cosmopolitan magazine? Yet it's not obvious that society is worse off for it despite the tut-tuts of our forebears. Furthermore, it’s not obvious that good parenting couldn’t be a largely effective vaccine against our children’s losing their childhoods too early, something I do worry about with my own young kids.

Extremes are a problem; I don't want my children playing a video game in which one of the goals is to steal a car in order to pick up prostitutes -- and then kill them if the mood strikes.  But just as much of a problem is government thinking it's their business.

And that brings me back to gay marriage: The problem is not that gays want to get married. The problem is that government is involved in a religious institution. A religious Catholic friend of mine argues that government has a strong enough interest in the maintenance and growth of the nation's population that federal involvement in marriage is justified. I disagree.

People’s personal lives should not be manipulated by the tax code -- which is to say by the redistribution of wealth from the single to the married (or the other way around when politics gives us the unintended "marriage penalty"), or from the childless to parents.  Get government out of it; get their repeated negative unintended consequences as far away from us as possible. Just look at how the welfare state and the war on drugs have destroyed black society in America in the name of good intentions.

No, my friends, it's about freedom. It's not about your particular preference for "moral" behavior or your religious beliefs or your fears of the degradation of society. Feel free to live them yourselves, but not to try to impose them on the rest of us through government action. In the meantime, allow others to make any contract they want to make, again as long as it doesn’t infringe on the natural or constitutional rights of others. And don’t forget that there is no right not to be offended (by non-violent behavior not directed at you.)

I am not an anarchist; there are legitimate functions of government. But I submit that the declines of cultures and societies (in the absence of being conquered) come from too much power in government. Letting government meddle in our personal lives, letting bureaucrats and politicians decide that certain behaviors which don't harm others are nevertheless prohibited, is anathema to liberty and a thriving freedom-based republic. (And don't bother trying to tell me that allowing gay marriage does harm others. That's just as bad an argument as the guy across the road from me who says that it's his business how much I mow my lawn because my mower puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.)

My only objection to gay marriage is that, like government-funded abortion, it forces people who consider it immoral to subsidize it. While I don't think it's immoral, I still think such forced subsidy is a problem. At least, unlike abortion, it's not a question of life or death, and it impacts a very small (probably less than 1%) segment of our society -- namely, the fraction of the gay population interested in getting married. Still, I've expressed opposition to gay marriage for this subsidy reason in the past.

But at this point, I'm rethinking my view. In 2008, I decided I’d rather have Barack Obama than John McCain – because the lessons of big government would be unmistakable under Obama whereas under McCain we’d be the still-boiling frog. (My son’s middle name is Rand for a reason.) I’m coming to an analogous view that I want gay marriage to pass in more places so that big government moralizers – people who would and do decry government meddling in most other things – will be inclined to extricate government from marriage upon recognizing that the choice is subsidy or no subsidy, rather than gay marriage or no gay marriage.

All that said, I do believe the word marriage has a time-tested meaning, namely between one man and one woman. Some people attach a truly biblical meaning to the word. Others emphasize it's importance and definition due to its centuries- (or millenia-) long meaning. I would much prefer these moves toward allowing gay "marriage" instead change the terminology to something, anything, else, whether "civil unions", "partnerships", or whatever.

There’s a political aspect to this as well. Yes, the Republican Party risks losing enthusiasm among some of its base if it drifts slowly away from focus on moral issues. Again, I'm talking about focus rather than suggesting abandoning positions entirely. (That's a statement of political reality; in my preferred world, the GOP would indeed rid itself of religion-based social issues planks in the platform.) But I continue to believe that hard-line positions on homosexuality, abortion, and drugs do the party far more electoral harm than good. Just ask Colorado’s would-be senator, Ken Buck.

I’m a registered Republican, but hardly among the party faithful. My emphasis is that the Democrats are and will always be the party of big labor, and thus the enemy of economic liberty. The Democrats are, if I may borrow a term from my religious friends, beyond salvation. And therefore, I want the Republican Party to be vibrant, tolerant, and above all pro-liberty – without qualification or hesitation.

When the religious conservative base realizes over time that the role of government is not imposing morality – after all, it took some time for them to come to believe that such was its role – they will return to focusing on keeping government restrained to its constitutionally permitted functions. And if they don’t care about that, then I have little use for them anyway even as part of a so-called coalition or “big tent.” After all, belief in big government is not expanding the Republican tent; it’s burning it down.

I can already hear some of you saying “You want the GOP to be the Libertarian Party.” No, I don’t. I’m not for open borders (though I am for increasing legal immigration.) I’m not for a weak national defense (though I am against nation-building and being the world’s policeman.) And most of all, I want to be able to support a party which can actually win.

Fighting against gay marriage -- or at least the equivalent in civil society without using the word "marriage" -- is for the Republican Party both bad policy and bad politics. New York’s passage of approval of gay marriage is a step in the right direction, by which I mean a step toward liberty and a step toward recognition that there are aspects of our lives from which Big Brother should butt out.

Finally, I would note that the religious exceptions guaranteed under the New York compromise, basically saying that you can't sue any religious institution or organization run by a religious institution for refusing to participate in gay marriage. That as well is a step in the right direction. While I don't believe government has the right to discriminate, I believe that private citizens and organizations do.

Just as I think fighting against equal treatment under the law is bad politics and policy for Republicans, if "gay rights" activists try to torpedo people's freedom to exercise their own religious beliefs or conscience within the private realm of churches, synagogues, or charities run by religious sects, those activists will be making a serious mistake of both policy and politics.

  • freak
    Comment from: freak
    06/27/11 @ 04:46:48 pm

    Believe it or not, I don't disagree with your reasoning. But I disagree with your conclusion. 1. There is no right to marriage, which is a form of subsidy. 2. Marriage was recognized and adopted by governments, because its ends were beneficial to societies at large (primarily assuring an inexpensive and stable way of producing and raising offspring). 3. Homosexual marriage provides none of the benefits of (2). If (2) is no longer true, then there's no reason for government recognition of marriage. For the record, I believe it is still true and I believe that the West is committing demographic suicide. There is a lingering question regarding immigration and naturalization, since marriage is widely recognized across the world. And that, of course, touches on federal issues that I will leave as an exercise for the reader. In the end, this is yet another reason why I can't send my kids to public schools. And, for the record, I think societies ebb and flow and moral decline is linked to a weakening of moral fiber. The Athenians did not lose primacy because their government got too big. Nor was Spartan hubris brought about by nanny state. And the Roman republic began its decline following the success of the Punic campaigns and adoption of corrupt (and dying) Greek mores. The beat goes on. On the other hand, plenty of societies with oppressive and all-encompassing governments thrived for centuries. The Roman republic collapsed and gave way to an oppressive empire...Mandarin China...Japan.... No, moral decay goes hand in hand with weakness. Chesty Puller famously remarked that "Our Country won't go on forever, if we stay soft as we are now. There won't be any America because some foreign soldier will invade us and take our women and breed a hardier race!"

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