Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gay Marriage: A Libertarian Solution

The marriage issue is misconstrued on both sides. Both a gay marriage ban and state-sanctioned gay marriage are wrong. The crux of the problem is the government involvement in marriage itself. Those who wish to give the legal "privilege" to be married to straight people while denying it to non-straight people are, first, violating equal rights under the law, and second, missing the point. A marriage should be a private contract - not a state privilege. Further, this group is also violating state's rights by federalizing the issue. Those who wish to have state-sanctioned gay marriage are also missing the point. It does not require a state privilege to allow gays the legal right to marry.

The solution is actually to take away the state adminstration of marriage altogether; to privatize marriage. An institution, church or agency is free to contract marriages. Each institution is free to choose whether or not to do gay marriages. On one hand, gays indeed do not have an abstract "right" to be gauranteed that every institution does gay marriages. On the other hand, neither do straights have an abstract "right" to be gauranteed that every institution does not do gay marriages. Those who wish to get straight marriages will go to those institutions they are most comfortable with, and they can have no valid complaint of the existance of an institution that allows gay marriages.

Since there is a (rising) demand for gay marriages, presumably it will be met by the provision of the service, presumably by the very least by individuals in the gay community, as well as others who are willing to provide the service. Those who wish to get gay marriages will go to those institutions which allow it; and to argue that no such institutions can arise privately when no legal impediments exist to doing so is nonsensical. The state simply has no jurisdiction over it. A marriage is a contract between two people, not between those two people and the state. The "legal" status of a marriage should be as a contract between those two people who are married. Marriage is thus really a matter of very basic contract law, not a matter of the federal government or a privilege.

Once again, private property rights provides an optimal solution to social questions. Unfortunately, conventional politics frames the debate in terms of special interest instead of a question of private property vs. government, state's rights or contract law. Instead of viewing the issue (and it really should't be an issue in the first place) in terms of general principle, it becomes, first, a partisan question, and second, an endless battle between two special interests - on one side, the gay community and pro-gay activists, and on the other side, the religious-right community and anti-gay activists. Such cultural warfare misses the point and transforms our society into "the mob" over time. Insteading of picking sides in cultural battles, it is best to sit back and rationally access the situation, and find a neutral solution.

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