Government Marriage for Me, But Not for Thee

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This week, conservative pundit Matt Barber stated the oft-repeated Conservative talking point that government marriages for gay people will make government marriages “inevitable” for polygamists and practitioners of incest.

Last month, Catholic Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Scotland asked “[i]f we really want equality, why does that equality not extend to nieces who genuinely, truly love their uncles?”

Both Gilbert and Barber meant their comments as criticisms of state marriages for gays, of course, and both favor state marriages for heterosexuals only. However, the argument, their intentions notwithstanding, is a good argument. Doesn’t the doctrine of political equality require that states grant their writ of “marriage” to anyone who asks for one?

My own position is that the very concept of government marriage diminishes human freedom and is based on the assumption that governments should have the prerogative to meddle in every aspect of our lives. Government marriage, which is a recent invention of Western civilization, should be abolished altogether.

What is most interesting about these recent remarks, however, is the response of some pro-gay-marriage groups. In Scotland, the Equality Network denounced the bishop saying that his comments were “offensive and uncalled for,” stating that “We are very disappointed the Bishop of Aberdeen should choose to com­­pare same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest.”

My question for the Equality Network: Why? The Equality Network’s position, and the position of anyone who wants marriage for gays on equality grounds, but not for polygamists or incestuous couples or groups, is violating their own professed value of political equality. Those who support hetero-sexual marriage only — they don’t claim to be in favor of inclusion or equality, so we know where they stand.

But the calls for gay marriage are based, from what I have seen, on calls for equality. So, what is the standard being used by the opponents of incestuous and polygamous unions for their preferred ban on such unions? From what I have seen, no standard has been proffered at all. There is nothing more than the assumption that political rights should extend to gays but not to polygamists or incestuous couples.

This is rank hypocrisy of course, but to point this out is apparently “offensive and uncalled for.”

Unlike the Bishop or the right-wing pundits, I’m not bluffing. Since I put no value on government “marriage” and think it should be abolished, it has no effect on me — from a public policy standpoint — if people want 5 spouses or 10 spouses or if consenting adults of blood relations want to do whatever it is they do that I’d rather not think about. Government marriage, after all, unlike real religious marriage, has never been more than a legal contract, in spite of what the alleged defenders of traditional marriage say. The whole point of government marriage is to meddle in domestic arrangements of citizens. In America, it has its origins in racist policies to keep whites from marrying non-whites, and in Europe it is primarily connected to state desires to interfere in Church matters.

For whatever bizarre reason, some people think it’s a privilege to have government sanction and meddle in their marriages, but apparently, for some promoters of marriage “equality” all their talk about equality extends only to their interest group and the political rights of polygamists and others be damned.

9:07 pm on September 12, 2012