Do you support gay marriage? The knee-jerk libertarian answer, “why do we authorize the state to recognize or withhold recognition for personal relationships?” while true, doesn’t really advance the conversation. A more thoughtful response is to ask what is this “marriage” fuss is about anyway? After all, anyone can call themselves married, you can call yourself an artichoke if you like, it’s not against the law. What is wanted beyond that? No law will compel your mother-in-law to agree to call herself that if she doesn’t choose to, and no law will force the neighbors to chat while you trim your hedges if you give them the heebie-jeebies. Those are social acceptance issues which are overwhelmingly moving towards recognition of same-sex couples. As long as they are only couples. For now. Sorry, Big Lovers. Nor does anyone seem to seriously argue that churches should be compelled by the state to marry couples in violation of their canons.
The civil libertarian argument says homosexuals are denied the pot of gold at the end of the marriage rainbow for discriminatory reasons. Examining the contents of that pot, we find they do indeed glisten.
A host of legal and social benefits derive from a spouse’s status as next-of-kin. In addition to inheritance law and various survivor benefits, your spouse is the one who can get in to see you in the intensive care unit (and decide when to pull your plug). During the early years of AIDS, heartbreaking stories of men’s partners being shunted aside by blood family members, some of whom had little contact with the patient, spurred the promulgation of living wills and medical power of attorney.
The federal income tax code wallows in social engineering, unshyly favoring the two-parent, one-income with kids, family. Married Filing Jointly is the lowest-rate filing status. For two couples each with one earner making $50,000 a year, the value of legal marriage is $2025. The unmarried couple pays over 30% more in federal income tax than the married couple.
Many other laws also accord rights to married couples. COBRA, inheritance, Social Security, Medicare, Veterans’ benefits, adoption and foster care, Family Medical Leave Act, etc., all have meaningful social and dollar value-added for the legally married. And if you’re married in the mob, your gay spouse could not be compelled to testify against you!
But back to talking the libertarian talk, if the answer to the question “why should same-sex marriages be recognized?” is to claim any of these “rights”, The Free Agent suggests asking, rather, why legal spouses have entitlements over single people. It’s not an equality argument to say, “I don’t object to dividing people into classes, I just want access to the entitled class”. The Free Agent thinks that’s like saying, “I’m down with the Whites Only drinking fountain, I just want to sip from it.”
It might surprise The Free Agent’s fabulous gay friends to learn she doesn’t have a strong opinion on legalizing same-sex marriage. But it should surprise no one she opposes state-sanctioned privileged classes of any kind.