Gay Marriage

On the one hand, I am amazed at the degree of opposition some conservative/libertarian types have to gay marriage. It’ll “weaken marriage”–? Whose? Not mine. Say you’re given a choice: prevent an increase in taxes, or prevent gay marriage from being recognized. Easy choice! (Prevent tax increases, just in case you are on the fence.)

On the other hand, the problem with gay marriage is that it’s just the thin end of the wedge: the gays will use it next to argue that homosexuality should be included in all the antiidiscrimination laws.The whole issue is confused. Part of it is because the leftist minority is disingenuously using this as a tactic to increase gay rights, e.g. to affirmative action, anti-discrimination laws, etc. And partly it’s because people are not clear on the terms of dispute.

For many it comes down to mere semantics. For example, a conservative libertarian friend is opposed to gay marriage. But he admitted, he has no problem with the state enforcing agreements between people–two gays, two sibligs, a rock band–and calling it a civil union. If two people want to form a union whereby they pool their assets and liabilities, have power of attorney over each other in critical medical or death situations, why shouldn’t such agreements be enforced? So my friend’s only problem is if the statute legalizing such agreements refers to the union as “marriage”.

I.e., the objection is just to the label the state happens to use. Thin gruel, it seems to me. My view is agreements should of course be enforced. The labeling of the ontology of the relationships protected by the legal system should be left up to tradition and individuals–to private society. Gays would probably try to have “marriage” ceremonies; the civil union would be one legal result flowing from this. Gays and englightened liberals and other moral relativists would then refer to such gay couples as “married.” They would try to nudge others to do the same–much as ethic jokes have been pushed into the closet and certain official labels like African-American or visually impaired have been foisted on us and others, like black or colored or blind, are frowned upon.

Whether mainstream religions or mainstream (hetero) people would adopt the gays’ denoting of this relationship as “marriage” has nothing to do with law or the public policy debate. I can say I am “married” to my dog. No one is obliged to treat this seriously. Etc. It’s not a legal issue. Nor a political issue. Nor a libertarian issue.

One final comment. Bush wants to constitutionally define marriage as between one man and one woman. But if this is the case, doesn’t it mean bigamy can’t be a crime? After all, bigamy is marriage to multiple partners; but if marriage is only marriage between one man and one woman, bigamy is just impossible, legally. Clearly bigamy is a type of marriage, albeit an illegal one. The definition of marriage is broader than what’s legally permitted. Bigamy is funny (not funny-funny, but strange-funny). It’s not illegal to live with multiple women. Nor to refer to them as your wives. It’s illegal to apply for the official status with multiple wives. You see how the state here subtly equates its dictates with reality.

But presumably, if we “define” marriage as a union of one man and one woman, bigamy would still be regarded as illegal. Yet if two men attempt to marry, it just will be ignored, and treated as a non-event. So the federal attempt to officially “define” marriage has this result: a man (trying to) marry a second woman is illegal; but a man marrying another man is not (because it is not given status). How’s that–the traditionlists penalize heterosexual bigamy more than they do homosexuality. Methinks they are all confused; they should stop relying on the state to define what is or is not marriage; and should drop all causes secondary to that of lowering taxes and spending.


11:05 pm on February 12, 2004