Marriage Equality: A Victory for Small Government

This is going to be one of my shorter blog posts, as the point I am trying to make is so simple yet so frequently misrepresented. There has been some debate among libertarians, if you can call a person opposed to marriage equality a libertarian, over whether or not legalizing same-sex marriage or keeping it illegal is the more small government position. Most libertarians will agree that marriage should be privatized. I myself support privatizing marriage. Government does not need to be in the matrimonial business. However, as of right now, the government recognizes civil marriages, not to be confused with civil unions. Therefore, my priority is making sure that gays and lesbians are not discriminated against by government, which means that I adamantly favor legalizing same-sex marriage. At any rate, is it the more libertarian, pro-small government position to support legalizing same-sex marriage, given that government is currently involved in marriage? Absolutely. By having civil marriage for heterosexuals but not for gays, government divides people into different categories of rights based on the immutable trait of sexual orientation. By legalizing same-sex marriage, government would be taking a neutral stance on sexual orientation by avoiding holding up one group of people as superior to the other. It would simply be treating gays and heterosexuals the same. Some libertarians and liberals may disagree about precisely how anti-gay churches and individuals should be dealt with, but the positions that I have laid out cannot be disputed by a true libertarian. There are some people who believe that the government should get out of marriage period but that if there is going to be civil marriage, gays should be excluded. To my mind, this is actually a less libertarian position than supporting marriage equality and opposing marriage privatization. By having civil marriage, government is merely providing a service, albeit at the expense of unmarried taxpayers. By denying civil marriage to gays while allowing it for heterosexuals, government is denigrating an entire group of people based on a trait that, as I said above, is innate. All too often liberals miss a chance to make a point about how their views on same-sex marriage indicate a commitment to small government in certain areas and to call out social conservatives for talking about small government but not really believing in it. I will close with this quote from the libertarian Students for Liberty about why libertarians should support legalizing gay marriage: “This argument [that support for marriage equality is not a small government position] lacks substance however, because the reality is that government is involved in marriage, and so long as that is true, libertarians should uphold the more pressing concern of equality under the law. This is not to suggest that libertarians should be any less concerned with returning marriage to its original, private roots. Take the example of lawfully segregated schools in the United States which lasted for nearly a century after emancipation. Would it be a reasonable libertarian position to oppose desegregating schools because this would further aggrandize the state? Probably not. The proper libertarian position is to oppose state-sponsored discrimination. Should we continue to push for privatized schooling? Of course, but that does not mean that we cannot push for incremental change in order to further liberty and equality under the law. This applies to both segregation and to marriage.”

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