I had never really given much thought to the idea of gay marriage until an ‘enlightenment’ at a lecture given on campus last year.
Thanks to the articulation of radio talk show personality Tammy Bruce, the whole situation was put into perspective. During her lecture at UC Irvine, she explained that any law that applies only to certain citizens and not to others is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Any attempt to ban gay marriage that would apply only to homosexuals would violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
As a libertarian, I believe that the right of individuals to make decisions on his or her own is of the utmost importance. The government exists primarily to guarantee these rights to everyone. Since any attempt to ban gay marriage would go against what I believe is the sole purpose of the government, I support gay marriage.
According to the OC Register, over the past 20 years some notable events have created the present climate that now surrounds the issue of gay marriage. In 1984, Berkeley provided domestic-partner benefits to gay and lesbian municipal employees (yes, a conservative libertarian like me concedes that Berkeley actually did something good). In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal acknowledgement of same-sex marriages.
In 2000, Proposition 22 was passed by 61 percent of California voters ensuring that marriage is understood as a union between only a man and a woman. This did not specifically exclude gays from marriage, but just further clarified what many voters believed marriage should entail. In the past five or six years, many companies, as well as municipalities, have granted health benefits to same-sex couples. In February, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In May of this year, Massachusetts became the first state to issue official marriage licenses to gays. In July, President Bush attempted to begin the process to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage.
John Stuart Mill is probably turning over in his grave right now. Mill’s most famous essay, ‘On Liberty,’ expresses the importance of individual liberty and warns against the tyranny of the majority. In our society, which thrives on democracy and generally accepts the decision of the majority, we must not lose sight of the rights of those who do not possess the political clout to legislate their rights to certain liberties. The United States is based on the idea of liberty, the notion that every one of us is capable of making our own decisions for ourselves as long as they don’t adversely affect others. That said, I fail to see how a marriage between two men or two women would negatively affect any vow I may take to a woman in the future.
Does the practice of gay marriage cheapen my vow? If anything, I think it goes to prove that marriage is a desirable institution that is held in the utmost regard and no other commitment is as capable of expressing the mutual love between two people. Some may ask, ‘Why do gays want to get married in the first place? They can’t have children; they can’t have normal lives.’ The most common answer is to show commitment to another person, not to mention advantages available in health benefits, visitation rights, tax benefits, transfer-of-property rights and bereavement benefits. However, should the reasons that gays want to wed really matter? Does it matter what one thinks when he or she is making that decision? Is the government attempting to reach so far into our lives as to try to determine what we are thinking? Quick! Someone call the thought police!
A compromise must be negotiated. I think perhaps civil unions would give homosexual couples a way to achieve the benefits of a marriage. At the same time, we would be sympathetic to the religious sentiment that drives much of the feelings against gay marriage. If there were absolutely no religious influences motivating the fight to ‘defend marriage’ in our numerous levels of government, both major parties would agree that gay marriage is something that fits well into their platforms.
The Democrats claim to be the party that defends the underdog and fights for civil rights. Equal protection under the Constitution certainly qualifies as a civil right that is worthy of a fight.
Meanwhile, the Republicans claim to be the party that wants to leave citizens alone and let them live their lives without the nuisance of big government. I think the government telling us whom we can and cannot marry is the epitome of big government. Although, as mentioned above, both Clinton and Bush have shown interest in denying marriage to homosexuals.
At the very least, the federal government should butt out. Once that is accomplished, at least the people can directly determine their own fate at the state level. Bottom line: Whoever gets married is none of the government’s business
Filed Under: Opinion