Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gay marriage II

Over at his blog, mg lays out the libertarian case for gay marriage.  Or against gay marriage.  Or I'm not sure what. 

Okay, I'm being glib, but only to highlight a point that kinda bugs me about libertarianism.  To start off, Matt narrows down on what the issue really is:
So the cause of action here is simple: one group of people (heterosexuals who declare themselves married)  can get a set of selective benefit from the state if they sign some forms. Another (homosexuals who declare themselves married) cannot. The latter group would like the selective benefits of the former group. In effect, they want in on the party. It can be cloaked in as soaring rhetoric as you would like but, in the end, what we are talking about here is tax breaks and visitation rights. Nothing more, nothing less.
Fair enough.  To summarize (fairly, I hope) he goes on to argue that states really have no role in marriage, that if I want to have a contract with my wife, I should be able to define that contract; I shouldn't have to abide by whatever the state of Massachusetts says a marriage contract is.  I guess I agree on this, although I would push back a little bit by suggesting that there is some benefit to having a standard option offered by the state (but not as the only option).

At the end, though, Matt proposes three steps forward, that I guess make sense to a libertarian, but are just beyond the pale in terms of being remotely feasible:
1) Repeal all selective government benefits for married couples
Really, this is a solution?  There is a zero percent chance of this happening, likely ever, and certainly not in the next 10 years. 
2) Arrange for the government to enforce all otherwise-legal marriage contracts
No problem with this per se, but a consequence is that it would likely increase the strain on the judicial system, and likely be a boon to private lawyers.  And you're going to have the government standing behind polygamy contracts?  There's a chance that ever happens?
3) Continue to allow private marriage discrimination 
Eh, no.  If you're going to propose something that will almost certainly have negative consequences, I don't think you can pretend that those consequences aren't your fault.  Just substitute "gender" or "racial" for "marriage."  Is enforcing that a pain in the butt?  Well, depends on your point of view, I suppose; if you are likely to be descriminated against, then you're probably for enforcement; if you're not, then it is easier to be blase about it.  Was enforcing non-segregated schools a lot of work?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  I am not in any way advocating that government solve all problems for all people, just saying that a private company should not be allowed to fire Gary because he's married to John instead of Joan, in the same way that we now agree a private company should not be allowed to fire Gary because he has AIDS, is in a biracial marriage, or pay his female co-worker less.

Okay, I've been overly harsh in this response, I know.  But here's what I want to know from Matt... I assume you'd agree that, in the next 2 years, none of what you've proposed is likely to happen, and maybe you agree with me that it is unlikely to ever happen.  So what do you want to see us actually do as a country, right now?  If you were on the Supreme Court, would you uphold or overturn Schwarzenegger v. Perry?  If you were a Senator, would you vote for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage?  Would you vote for a constitutional amendment specifically allowing gay marriage?