In “The Libertarian Case for Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage,” Sheldon Richman from the Free Association argues that there is no libertarian case for the Supreme Court to have ruled against marriage equality.
I don’t necessarily disagree with many of the points he makes. What troubles me is what he avoided discussing: This ruling likely means coercion and aggression will be employed against churches, religious and private organizations, and business owners to force them to support gay marriage. We have already seen this in my own state.
There will be unspoken consequences (which marriage equality advocates are no doubt aware) that will impact people who don’t believe in gay marriage but aren’t looking to force their views down others’ throats; they just wish to be left alone.
They know what this ruling means, and they have a reason to be apprehensive.
Richman acknowledges this problem, sort of, but he quickly dismisses those concerns by saying that the the violators of people’s rights should be targeted (bold emphasis added).
Similarly, the prospect of the government’s compelling bakers and photographers to participate in same-sex weddings hardly constitutes a reason to ban same-sex marriages. Let’s target the actual rights violators and leave the innocent alone.
The offhand declaration is very bothersome and one wonders if he actually thought about what that means.
Does he not realize that the “rights violators” is the state? Does he not understand that the people who sue the baker and the florist would be powerless without the state?
It is not the gay couple who complain that have the power to shut down the baker or the florists. The state does. It is the law enforcement arm of the state that threatens violence, not the person who makes the phone call.
This doesn’t justify a ban on same-sex marriage, but it does provide legitimate reasons for people to oppose it if it means their rights will be violated as a result. Richman’s argument places one group of people’s rights at a higher priority and comes off as “Yes, some people’s rights will be violated for the sake of marriage equality, but let’s deal with that later. This is too important an opportunity to let it pass by.”
And thus the vicious cycle of using state coercion against one’s political opponents continues.
If you’re wondering where half the momentum from the anti-marriage equality crowd came from, it’s the reality that the marriage equality movement is a zero-sum game. As same-sex couples gain the right to marry, many of them expect and feel entitled to forcing everyone else to support them. They do not believe one has a right to withhold acceptance.
To make this clear, I am not saying that the Supreme Court should have ruled in favor of the traditional marriage model or maintained the ban on same-sex marriage – chiefly because it would be upholding state marriage licenses. My point is that the consequences from this ruling will not simply involve allowing same-sex couples to get a marriage license, tax and government benefits. This “right” will come at the expense of other people’s rights to their property and there are plenty of people who are more than eager to utilize this power. If the Supreme Court had simply abolished marriage licenses or permitted freedom of association while respecting people’s property rights, the entire matter would be moot.
But they didn’t; they just stuck their finger in the wound and festered it even further. No libertarian should rejoice or defend it.
There may not be a libertarian case against legalizing same-sex marriage, but there is certainly a libertarian case against legalizing same-sex marriage via a Supreme Court ruling when that right to marry also includes the ability to use state coercion and aggression against anyone who doesn’t have the same beliefs. Libertarians who carry on as though all that took place was allowing people to get married who otherwise couldn’t are either naive or suffering from cognitive dissonance.
Libertarians need to understand that the government did not surrender one iota of power in this ruling; in fact, by changing the definition of marriage to all 50 states through the will of just six people, they exercised authority not even granted to them by the Constitution. Libertarians may argue it doesn’t matter whether liberty is advanced through the Constitution or not, but liberty was not the victor in this battle. This was a power grab by the judicial branch.
As long as the state will maintain its illegitimate claim to licensing marriage, the conflict will not be remedied. And this, my friends, is why the solution to solving a problem is as important as solving the problem itself.