The Calico Cat
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Gay Marriage - A Libertarian Perspective
A topic much discussed of late is that of gay marriage. In this essay, I attempt to examine gay marriage from a libertarian perspective. As a libertarian, I believe that government laws should be minimal, and people should be free to do what they want so long as their actions donít harm others.
Before examining gay marriage from a libertarian perspective, letís examine just the topic of marriage. A pure libertarian might argue that laws respecting marriage are unnecessary and not consistent with the philosophy that laws should be kept to a minimum. People should be free to live with whomever they choose, and they should also be free to get married at a religious ceremony. But why should there be special laws recognizing marriage?
The answer is that the concept of marriage is so deeply rooted in our traditions that the sensible libertarian accepts the laws codifying marriage as a necessary exception to general libertarian principles. In fact, Iíd go as far to say that libertarians who argue against marriage laws give the whole philosophy a bad name. Marriage is not just deeply rooted in Western cultures, but in fact seems to be a universal practice of all mankind, no matter what part of the world and what religion. Marriage is a practice that is quintessentially human.
Marriage also fills a special role with regards to raising children. Children really do represent the future of our country, and it seems that children are better off if they are raised in a family where thereís both a mother and a father. This is not a statement based on Christian religious doctrine, itís based on observation, and itís probably part of the human condition.
I therefore conclude that marriage laws are a necessary and proper exception to the general libertarian philosophy of minimal government laws. But what about gay marriage? Well, unlike regular marriage, gay marriage is not deeply rooted in our traditions. And gay marriage does not help to raise children. In fact, gay marriage is an oxymoron, because the very definition of marriage is that itís between a man and a woman.
All that gays can expect from a libertarian government is that they be free to practice their sexual activities. And with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision of Lawrence v. Texas , this is indeed the law of the United States. Gays have achieved everything they are entitled to from our government. In fact, Iíd say that this might even be more than they are entitled to, because even a government operating under libertarian principles is allowed to outlaw activities that harm others. Given that gay sex between men spreads a disease thatís fatal and has no known cure or vaccine, a reasonable case can be made for outlawing such activities. AIDS potentially threatens everyone, not just gay people.
Gays have all the freedoms they are entitled to. They can perform any sex act which each other that they want, no matter how repugnant such acts might be to the majority. They are also free to get married in the traditional sense. Nothing prohibits a gay man from marrying a woman, or a lesbian from marrying a man. And if the gay man canít get it up in bedÖ well there are straight men who have the same problem.
What gay people are asking for is not equality or freedom, but rather a big public ceremony that endorses their deviant activities. Gay people are saying ďwe are victims, we are a minority, therefore we deserve special privileges.Ē Itís just typical liberal politics at its worst. The libertarian does not believe in this sort of group identity politics. Gays should be free to practice their unusual activities so long as they donít harm others, but they are not entitled to have the government attempt to legislate how straight people feel about them. (Gays, of course, are free to take their case to Hollywood, and they are certainly doing a darn fine job of promoting themselves in this manner.)
Unfortunately, some who call themselves libertarian have come to the opposite conclusion with regards to gay marriage. Some libertarians support gay marriage. Maybe they havenít thought out the issues as thoroughly as I have. Maybe they arenít real libertarians. But thatís why the title of the essay is ďgay marriage Ė a libertarian perspectiveĒ and not ďgay marriage Ė the libertarian perspective.Ē
posted December 7, 2003