One of the more annoying memes I am often confronted with is the automatic assumption that libertarians must be for “gay marriage.”I can understand why some people automatically assume such things in good faith, but I can also tell when the leftist media is attempting to exploit an apparent rift between libertarians and conservatives on the right. Whenever I read somewhere that there may be tension between different wings of the American right on an issue such as “gay marriage”, it is almost never a conservative or a libertarian writing it.
Is it consistent with libertarianism to be an uncritical and loud advocate of “gay marriage”? In my view, the answer is no. In fact, it is more consistent with libertarianism, at least in the current political climate and given the way the issue is currently framed, to be opposed to the “marriage equality” movement. The word “equality” ought to be the first indication to a libertarian that something may be amiss, since egalitarian movements are often statist, sometimes outright totalitarian movements that seek to achieve an ideal of equality by sheer force. Communism is the most obvious example, but what feminist and certain racial groups have achieved on college campuses is only a microcosm of what they would like to see in society at large: free speech utterly silenced, opposing views ostracized, careers denied or ruined over the utterance of a heterodox opinion (just view the archives of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for countless examples). To some extent this already does happen in society at large, but only selectively – for now.
The aggressive “marriage equality” movement has already infringed on the legitimate property rights of Christian business owners in the United States, and this follows similar infringements on property rights, religious liberty, freedom of thought in countries such as Canada, the U.K., and elsewhere. In all of the cases that have unfolded thus far in which Christian business owners refuse service to a gay “married” couple, there hasn’t been a single case of discrimination on the grounds that the would-be customers are gay, something individuals generally cannot control or alter, but rather objections to the freely chosen, absolutely voluntary decision to act as a married couple. This, as any serious Christian will tell you, is not a morally legitimate lifestyle and we are in fact under a moral obligation to refuse to recognize as such. Forcing Christians to participate in the life choices of others constitutes a violation of our natural and civil rights. It would be just as absurd to force a Christian photographer to photograph a Satanic ritual. If “freedom” now means the power to compel people to act against their consciences, even when there are perfectly reasonable alternatives available, then the word “freedom” may as well be consigned to the ash bin of history. It is a meaningless word signifying nothing real.
I don’t doubt that there are many libertarians, especially of the secular bent, who personally hold no moral objection to “gay marriage.” Many appear to be of the opinion that the state ought to have nothing to say at all about marriage. In theory, that sounds fine. In reality, the radical egalitarians are fighting for state power, and succeeding in some cases by judicial or legislative fiat, against the express wishes of the voters in states such as California. Meanwhile, the individual rights of gays appear to be rather secure: under existing property rights and contract law, all of the legal aspects of what the state considers a “marriage” can be arranged between two people of the same sex, except perhaps for tax breaks – which aren’t rights, by the way, but privileges.
Confronted with this undeniable truth (and I have confronted them with it many times), gay rights advocates insist that it is unacceptable that gays should have to fill out extra forms to obtain what married men and women are presumed to have by law. This is seriously what the debate often boils down to in the end. So the definition of marriage must be legally transformed, the civil and property rights of millions of Christians denied, and endless barrages of media, government and Hollywood propaganda aimed at schoolchildren, all so that a relatively small number of people don’t have to fill out a few forms?
Say whatever you want about this utter stupidity, but don’t insist that libertarians must sign off on it. Champions of individual liberty should stand on the side of private property rights and religious liberty, and not on the side of those who are quite obviously attempting to use the coercive power of the state to impose their moral vision on the rest of America. This is really a no-brainer as far as I am concerned, even for libertarians who harbor no personal moral objection to “gay marriage.”