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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