by Christopher Zimny
"There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are 'just' because the law makes them so." — Frederic Bastiat, The Law
"Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?" — Richard John Santorum
Apparently, for Rick Santorum, the various laws of the land which "preserve" traditional marriage between one man and one woman are so sacred that if they were changed, they would violate the entire "sanctity" of marriage as we know it. During the heat of the primaries before he suddenly suspended his campaign, he served as the latest flair in a long list of defenders of the "traditional values" staple of the Grand Old Party.
Whatever the phrase "traditional values" really means might be subjective (as culture has shifted significantly over the years), but maybe it is not; maybe it does have some kind of objective meaning. I don't call myself an expert in these matters.
Clear on the other side, as it were, of the political spectrum are the challengers of these values. Social liberals claim that marriage may as well be between a man and a man (or the same of two females); after all, what difference does it make? They make the argument that in respect to government recognition of marriage and the benefits that flower from this which married couples enjoy, same-sex couples who earnestly love each other should also be put under such laws. Perhaps this is a fair point, but insofar as it is up to the government to sort this out, one should not consult me.
With all the fervent attack on and defense of traditional values—and the laws which codify them—as oppose to liberal ones, one might rightly suspect that, in fact, the reverse is true: it is instead the laws that give meaning to the values, instead of the other way about.
One might picture a social conservative responding to this theory by saying it is the value of marriage itself that will be threatened with the outcome of these debates (and, they may as well add, with the debates themselves). In fact, this is what one hears time and time again from the religious right. But threatened with what, exactly? If the laws are changed, your author contends that nothing of grave importance will change with them.
Take this idea for instance, Robert Murphy uses it to show how consumer demand ultimately shapes the consumer good: If Webster defined the word ‘up’ as ‘moving toward the ground,’ people wou see right through it and the dictionary company would go out of business. Similarly, in the business of marriage, if the Obama administration (or indeed all the social liberals in the world) espoused that homosexual marriage is indeed ‘marriage’, this would not thus redefine ‘marriage’ as such, and it should not affect, in truth, what the term or what the ceremony really means to those who hold it to a certain traditional standard. In short, even if the doctrine were to be made official law, the meaning of marriage would not change.
Proponents of same-sex marriage usually have arguments along these lines. (For example, "If gay people get married how does that affect your marriage?") The conservative response goes something along the lines of the "degeneration of society" (as if a change in the law itself is the only thing stopping society from changing). It is maintained that letting homosexuals in on the marriage scene (i.e. government benefits, tax breaks, the works) would muddle up the heterosexual monopoly on the practice.
But the law itself is our concern. Instead of this sophomoric bickering between the parties, the libertarian proposal gives a way out for both sides: removal of government from the practice of marriage. Do away with the official benefits and all of that nonsense and let the institution marriage be taken over by the Churches or whatever other place of meaning; get it out of City Hall. The fact that the state has its hands in the business has led to the erroneous debate that was mentioned above. Our compromise is to privatize the institution of marriage. This would be the only idea in practice in which homosexuals would be on equal footing with their neighbors. As we have seen, it should not affect the God-fearing conservative’s idea of marriage (if it does, there might some unseen problem in their own lives).
It might remain a mystery on how to get the two sides to actually agree to such a proposal without some kind of strong emotional resistance, but if these fiercely fighting foes could come together on this long-standing issue, it might ironically be the queerest wedding in our society to date.
EDIT: Ron Paul weighs in on gay sex.
This article was originally published by The Libertarian Review.