Sunday, June 26, 2011

Libertarianism Opposes Marriage Equality?

      It always amuses me when social conservatives attempt to fit their ideology into the Libertarian philosophy of limited government. Whenever they try to do this, they have to twist some of the very fundamental tenets of Libertarianism. This twisting was seen last week when Peter Sprig of the Family Research Council attempted to explain why a Libertarian should oppose same-sex marriage. He gives us six reasons why Libertarians do not need to, and actually should support, keeping the "traditional" definition of marriage. Each will be addressed in the order they appear in the article. First, 
Marriage is not a privacy issue. Civil marriage is a public institution. Homosexual activists once demanded that the government stay out of their bedrooms. In attempting to legalize same-sex marriage, they are now inviting the government into their bedrooms.
       May seem like a compelling argument; and yes I would agree with him to an extent that civil marriage is a "public institution". But his argument fails when he states that marriage is not a privacy issue. Maybe the actual institution is not "private", but the choice of a partner is, and the government choosing which choices in partners are "valid" is government intrusion into our very private lives.  Why should my choice of a man for my partner be worth less in the governments eyes that my choice of a woman?
Homosexual marriage is not an issue of individual rights. Every American has a right to marry, but also faces restrictions upon whom they may marry. No one is permitted to marry a child, a close blood relative, a person who is already married, or, in most states, a person of the same sex. These are not restrictions upon the right to marry; they are part of the definition of marriage.
      As explained above, though the institution itself may not be an "individual rights" issue, and may have societal implications, the underlying basis of the institution in today's society- our choice in a partner - is a very individual matter, which the government has no authority to interfere in. Sprigg then engages in a very slick move...the government restricts people from marriage all the time, because that is the definition of marriage. A Libertarian would fundamentally reject this rational; for why should the government tell me or my religion what a "marriage" is? His rational only works because they line up with "his" definition of marriage. Additionally, most libertarians do not believe that incest or polygamy should be illegal, so his argument based on restrictions really isn't that strong.
Freedom of conscience and religious liberty would be threatened. In the wake of same-sex marriage, we have already seen religious nonprofits being told to compromise their principles or go out of business.
      No, religious organizations are protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, even when they do horrible things - eg. Westboro Baptist Church. Also the religious non-profits who are being threatened with "going out of business" are the recipients of state and federal funding. It would actually be more libertarian to expect them to hold their own without government support, which they have the ability of doing and keep their religious freedom.
Economic freedom would be undermined. Same-sex marriage would compel every employer, including the government, to give same-sex couples benefits identical to those of heterosexual couples
       True, I will give him this one. And many Libertarians would also have issue with this - but this issue would not be a reason for which they would not support the legalization of same-sex marriage; as it is an issue that could be dealt with through other means.
The rights of children would be undermined. Children have a natural right to be raised by the mother and father whose union produced them. Research shows that children who are raised by their own mother and father are happier, healthier and more prosperous than children raised in other family structures. The state should not affirm the deliberate creation of permanently motherless or fatherless homes.
      That's actually not what the research shows, but whatever. But the Libertarian would say, "so it is now the governments duty to ensure that all children have mothers and fathers"? Isn't that having the government greatly intrude into the personal and family lives of individuals; something which Sprigg claimed was a bad thing? I'm amused by the last sentence though, for it invokes a very common perception among social conservatives. If the State allows something - it is "affirming" the practice. To a Libertarian, this is a ridiculous claim; for individuals are the ones "affirming" a certain practice. The State, by allowing something, is not affirming that practice, but is instead doing just that...allowing it to happen. The State is morally neutral in regards to the private lives of individuals and their actions.
The breakdown of the traditional family leads inevitably to expansion of government. The best bulwark against a large centralized government is the existence of mediating social institutions which allow society to govern itself. Chief among these is the natural family, consisting of husband, wife and their own children. People living in this family structure are the least likely to become burdens upon society through dependency on government social programs or through crime and incarceration.
       Again, social research has shown that same-sex headed couples are just as good, if not better, at raising children than heterosexual ones. Thus, allowing same-sex couples to wed will actually increase the stability of the family structure and individuals so that they will not need the government to "intrude" upon their family life.

       In the end, Peter Sprigg attempts to advocate a "Libertarian" position regarding same-sex marriage; yet falls into the same pitfalls that other social conservatives do when trying to appeal to Libertarians. To a Libertarian, the government does not have the authority to tell one person who they can and cannot contract with; they cannot tell someone that their choice of a partner is more legitimate or illegitimate than another persons without any valid philosophical or Constitutional reason; and the government cannot "advocate" for a certain family structure or definition. A Libertarian recognizes that by Government allowing something, it is not affirming or condoning the practice, but is instead allowing individuals to make free and rational choices. And that is why the majority of Libertarians support legalizing same-sex marriage.

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