If The Government Won’t, Who Will?

I was talking with a coworker from Boston this morning, who recently got a new roommate. Everyone in Boston is a Democrat, except him, as he is a Republican with a strong Libertarian streak. So his roommate told him she was going to vote straight Democrat in the upcoming election, with the reasoning being that “they support gay marriage”. Now, I can think of plenty of arguments against that, the easiest being that while I support the idea of gay marriage, and think it will happen within the next decade or two on its own, I’m not going to vote for folks who are going to steal more of my money and take away some of my other freedoms just to speed up that process.

But my coworker has obviously been listening to me jabber on for a while, because he fired the standard libertarian response to his roommate. “I don’t see why government should recognize marriage at all. Why shouldn’t it simply be a completely private matter? If a church wants to recognize them, that’s fine. If the individuals simply want to consider themselves married, that’s fine. But why should the state be involved?”

Here is where he hit the brick wall. Of course, she wanted to know, if the State of Massachussetts won’t recognize marriage, who will? My coworker told her nobody needed to. She then thought maybe if my coworker didn’t think it was a State matter, perhaps he thought it should be Federal? Nope, he replied, “no level of government needs to ‘recognize’ a marriage.” Sure, that brings up some interesting issues, because there are certain segments of our society that have piggybacked onto the government’s recognition of marriage. But society is a flexible thing, and markets will adjust. So right now your health insurance is provided to your “spouse”? Well, I’d say it wouldn’t take long for demand to change that to “1 member of your household” instead. Maybe that’s your spouse, maybe it’s your “domestic partner”, maybe it’s the elderly father you’re caring for because you don’t want him to be in a nursing home. Markets adjust.

But his roommate just simply could not see it. She could not understand that a marriage could be a marriage without a license from the government. She could not understand that society doesn’t require government to stick its grubby fingers into every one of our institutions to give them some sort of legitimacy. This sort of blindness is one of the major barriers to people moving towards small government. They’ve lived with government intrusion deep into their personal affairs for so long that they can’t even imagine life without it.

The intrusion of government has perverted the entire issue. If the government weren’t involved, gay marriage would be a personal issue between people. If you think it’s sinful, don’t be part of a church that sanctions it. Your rights aren’t violated, and neither are theirs. The government, though, stuck their meddling hands into marriage, and then excluded a bunch of people from the legal benefits government attached to the relationship. That doesn’t fly. Ideally, government would get their hands out of the picture entirely. Barring that unlikely prospect, the next best thing is if they’re going to get involved, they try to make the benefits as universally-available as possible. But instead, they’ve created a benefit and used it to discriminate. Let’s make sure that we understand that a debate over gay marriage is the symptom of a problem, not a problem itself. The problem is government.

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  • http://www.kipesquire.com KipEsquire

    Um, who exactly are these Democrats who “support gay marriage”? Other than Russ Feingold and Barney Frank, none of any significance come to mind.

    Note that saying “leave it up to the states” is NOT “supporting gay marriage.” That has been the cop-out of most high-profile Democrats, including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

    And let’s not forget who signed federal DOMA and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law — the Democratic pervert-president, Bill Clinton.

  • http://www.pubcrawler.blogspot.com/ tkc

    I’ve come across this too. My thoughts on marriage begin and end with, “If you want to get married then go to a church and get married. The government doesn’t need to be involved here.”

    The two most common arguments against this I see are the following:
    1) What about divorce? Marriage would be a contract just like any other. If you want out of a contract there are usually ways of doing it. Neogtiation and arbitration have settled disputes throughout history. If you cannot be adult enough to decide who gets what or custody of the kids then you’ll have to get yourself a mediator… and you’ll pay for it yourself.

    2) Some hospitals and some family members will prohibit gay spouses from visiting loved ones should they be hospitalized due to incapacitation. The solution, again, is an easy one. Give your gay spose limited power of attorney over you should you become incapacitated. Spell it out in no uncertain terms. These sorts of agreements are common place for family members dealing with the elderly, so why can’t they work with gay couples?

  • Eric


    what about Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and the rest of the California Democratic contingent in Congress?

  • http://www.indiancowboy.net/blog IndianCowboy

    I realize that it’s been slow over here, but did you really have to rip off one of my favorite posts?

    (I kid)

    you’ve hti on one of the most scary aspects of life these days. people don’t know how to define themselves without government.

  • Rue-Mur

    The core problem is the Legal Profession, laws are written –first and foremost– By and For Lawyers. That being the core problem, I regret to say I have no solution to offer which would quickly and effectively resolve it. There may be some hope, however, if the Democrats (as currently led and followed) are ever successful at starting another Civil War in order to impose their Neo-Com agenda. Then, during the reign of terror and mayhem that would obviously take place, Libertarians might be successful in torching every law school and court in the country. But the chances are very slim that such a thing will ever occur, you see they simply aren’t replacing their numbers and are in decline –something about hating kids or women who want to be mothers. Now there is one course of action that does have a realistic chance of success, that would be for Libertarians to “take over” the Democratic Party and the DNC. Do that and you can write your own ticket– of course you will have to convince a majority of the country’s voters to vote for you. That means: Mom-And-Apple-Pie, God-Bless-America, In-God-We-Trust, The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence,… you know, all those things Democrats today have a problem swallowing.

    PS: Yes, I’m an Independent.

  • WJ

    Your reasoning is that “The intrusion of government has perverted the entire issue. If the government weren’t involved, gay marriage would be a personal issue between people.”

    That reasoning would then think it is ok for brothers and sisters to marry, polygamy, polyamory, etc. If not, then please tell me how the reasoning above draws a line?

  • gblues in costa rica

    but damnit, i loooooove my goat.

    anyone that thinks gay and straight relationships are the same and therefore need to be treated the same is simply dumb.

    throughout all of human history, in every culture, marriage has been one man, one woman. period. that is the staus quo. it has the presumption, and therefore the pro gay marriage argument has the burden to prove it is right and beneficial to our culture and that all of human history is wrong. now, lots of historical beliefs have been and may still be “wrong” so show us. frankly i have a hard time believing an argument can made that gay and straight marriage are the same, that gay marriage leaves us with a better culture or that the butt is equal to a vagina. biology argues homosexuality is an abnormailty. not something to be encouraged or rewarded but sympatheticaly tolerated.

  • http://noangst.blogspot.com mike

    WJ, polygamy and polyamory are completely different than a relationship between one person and another person. In most cases, polygamy/polyamory involve some sort of other illegal behavior (statutory/under age of consent, forced marriage, sexual abuse, etc.)

    Regardless, in all of those cases, there are other reasons covered under existing laws for preventing the “marriage,” as opposed to the one argument those against same sex marriage have, which is that “they aren’t a man and a woman.”

    gblues, I would simply say that for a long time, slavery was the status quo. For an even longer time, segregation was the status quo. The majority of people in this country supported those institutions at the time they were in existence. Does that make them right?

    Also, for the record, your statement that “throughout all of human history, in every culture, marriage has been one man, one woman. period.” is more than slightly incorrect. There have been numerous cases of different cultures the world over having some sort of same sex marriage.

  • Eric

    WJ wrote:

    That reasoning would then think it is ok for brothers and sisters to marry, polygamy, polyamory, etc. If not, then please tell me how the reasoning above draws a line?

    Aside from the fact that you don’t like it and feel the need to stick your nose into polygamy give me a good reason why the government should make it illegal? The same goes, for that matter, for incest.

    I may find these things distasteful, but what gives me the right to dictate to you what you can, or cannot, do in private so long as you do not violate the life, liberty or property of another person?

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