The wait is over. Our Dear Leader uttered this pronouncement recently. Biden probably forced the issue when he opened his big mouth a short time before.
At a certain point,” Mr. Obama said in an interview in the Cabinet Room at the White House with ABC’s Robin Roberts, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
This on the heels of the previous day’s overwhelming vote in North Carolina that not only bans gay marriage but also civil unions. If there’s one thing BO’s opinion is not, it’s for him personally. His attempt to tiptoe past the issue will rouse the opposition in November. The Romney camp must be licking their chops.
So, should gay marriage be allowed or not? I find gay “marriage” troubling. I believe marriage plays a fundamental role in human society that does not entirely translate to other unions. But rather than argue my position I want to suggest that, as often happens in public discourse, we are presented with a false alternative: that gay marriage must be legal or illegal.
A cornerstone of libertarian social philosophy is the sanctity of contracts. No one may interfere with agreements entered into voluntarily by competent adults. A marriage is a ceremony in which a couple publicly declares their intention to enter a permanent relationship that is exclusive in many respects. They may choose to have a clergyman bless their union or not, but there is always an invisible and uninvited party at the altar: the state. Numerous laws dictate the form marriages may take with respect to divorce, property ownership, and taxation among other things. This is wrong. It is not the province of the state to restrict the content of voluntary contracts made by consenting adults.
I’m surprised opponents of gay marriage haven’t framed the debate as a slippery slope. What’s next, they might ask, three-way marriage? In fact, there is no legitimate reason to outlaw such unions. If allowed, they would be tested in the marketplace of ideas, and the experiences of people who entered informal threesomes and foursomes in the 1970’s suggests that only rarely would they succeed.
What about time-limited marriages? Not “till death do us part” but a ten-year agreement, for example? Again, no reason why they should be outlawed.
How then should we respond, those of us who are repelled by gay marriage? It is not a major issue for me. If a man introduced someone to me as his husband, I might just say, “yeah, right” and leave it at that. For those who are passionate opponents, there is a long list of non-coercive actions that are possible – speaking out, blogging, boycotting, shunning. A majority of Americans, a declining majority to be sure, would probably share my sentiment. But that doesn’t mean we get to forcibly deny the rights of gay couples or threesomes to contract with each other.
What might we expect if the state were to cease its interference in marriage? Brand names would arise for various forms of marriage. For example, “Catholic marriage” would be a lifetime commitment that excluded divorce, with the brand perhaps identified by a logo. “Open marriage” would signify that extramarital sexual affairs were permitted. “Islamic marriage” might require the woman to wear a veil in public. Once established, these brand names could not be misused by those who did not practice their tenets.
Couples could make financial arrangements that best suit them. As it stands, the state decides for everyone by such things as community property laws and inheritance rules.
Married couples pay different tax rates under the income tax code. Some couples pay a “marriage penalty” meaning they pay more tax than the total they would pay if filing as singles. For other couples it’s the other way around. Is this fair? No, but as I have argued on this blog, there is no such thing as fair tax. Repeal of the income tax is the best answer, or short of that, ever lower rates will lessen the impact of the disparities.