Is Gay Marriage About Homosexuality?

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.

4 comments for “Is Gay Marriage About Homosexuality?

  1. March 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I can not support so-called “marriage equality” while my polygamous friends are treated as SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS.

    Really, I know living, breathing polyandrists (and why do commenters always write as though “polygamy” and “polygyny” were synonyms?), and they did not disappear when I changed “There is no slippery slop there is no slippery slope…”

  2. Brian Miller
    March 9, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    I always challenge anti-gay-marriage advocates with another proposition — allow gay people to register as “officially gay” and cease paying taxes, and I’ll never demand gay marriage again.

    Of course, we’d soon “discover” than 75% of the country is gay. Which sorta proves how useless most of the government programs are to begin with :)

  3. Janet Hopf
    March 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    What I hope is for same-sex marriage advocates to argue more aggressively for all of our liberties, not just this specific issue. And, of course, for everyone to stop misconceiving government as the source of our freedom, but, ideally, as defender of it. The more peasants who get promoted to nobility, the fewer of us there are to dethrone the king.

    Like I always say, “everyone’s a libertarian for their own stuff.”

  4. March 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Hi Janet – great post as always. I’d argue more aggressively for government recognition of same-sex marriage. As long as government is creating winners and losers it’s heinous to use sexual orientation or race or gender or age, etc etc as the criteria for making you a loser. The correct answer of course is get government out of marriage altogether that is, no government benefits for being married or single or having kids – or anything else for that matter.

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