– Libertarian to Libertarian –
By: Allan Wallace and Steven Rodriguez.
Allan Wallace is a long time Libertarian party member and activist who has held positions of leadership in the party. He is also one of the founders and first Chair of Outright Libertarians, an organization of LGBT LP activists. Steven Rodriguez is a college Senior who has been involved in the LP and the libertarian movement for 2 years and is a founding member and first President of Young Americans for Liberty at Belmont University in Nashville and Vice-Chair of Outright Libertarians.
It seems as though each and every day, the federal government perpetuates a brand new assault on our liberty. It is rare when we find a good example of freedom advancing and government withdrawing. The issue of same-sex marriage is a profound example.
With the Supreme Court poised to release decisions in two landmark same-sex marriage cases, now would be a good time for libertarians to take a hard look at their message on this issue. As public opinion continues to move toward extending civil marriage to same-sex couples, one would think that libertarians would be on the vanguard of this winning social issue.
Unfortunately most libertarians are either silent or openly hostile towards this and other gay issues. When they comment on this issue, those statements are usually inconsistent with what Libertarians have advocated for nearly 42 years now.
However, when discussing other issues, Libertarians freely and readily advocate for any person wanting more freedom or being hurt by government’s unequal application of its own regulations and laws. And, we have traditionally stood with anyone trying to find a legal way to pay less in taxes. We have done so even when only a few would benefit, such as Senior Citizens wanting a break on their property taxes.
In other words, libertarians have always stood for:
- Anyone or any group of individuals striving to regain the freedom to choose in any area of life, knowing that as individuals make more choices for themselves, government makes fewer.
- Anyone fighting to make government live by its own rules and by the Constitution, knowing that this restricts the ability of politicians to discriminate against groups or classes of individuals they dislike.
- Anyone wanting to pay the least tax possible, knowing that one tax break may only be a drop in the bucket, but it is one more drop the government cannot use to exercise its power.
…EXCEPT lately, it seems, when it comes to gays and lesbians!
Over the last decade and a half, some Libertarians and the LP leadership (to some extent) have become progressively more apathetic or in some cases openly hostile toward gay rights issues and in particular, the marriage equality issue. Instead of standing up for equal rights, these Libertarians choose a conservative dodge: the all-or-nothing push to get government completely out of marriage someday.
Marriage is a very complex and interwoven into many aspects of our lives. For many people it is a religious rite. For most it is a social acknowledgement of two people’s commitment to each other. In modern society, it is always a vow of love and commitment to each other, and a commitment to create Family where none existed before (they become each other’s “next of kin” and in some cases, decide to create and/or raise children). There is one other aspect to marriage, the legal, asking permission (via a license) from the state to marry; this is Civil Marriage. And remember, we are talking only about the aspect of marriage that is legal or Civil Marriage.
These are the three major inconsistencies:
- The belief that giving gays and lesbians equal treatment under the law (as it applies to civil marriage) is the same as extending the powers of the government, when the opposite is actually true. It restricts government’s power to decide who can and cannot marry, reduces the amount of control that the state has over couples, and to an extent, prevents government from practicing what has been a form of discrimination.
- The belief that if the ultimate goal is to someday get the government completely out of marriage, that it is somehow okay to support unequal treatment under the law NOW, and throughout all the decades it could take to accomplish that goal.
- The belief that because the government gives over 1,000 special “benefits,” (that is, tax breaks and freedoms) to straight couples, that it is somehow nefarious to extend those same tax breaks and freedoms to gay and lesbian couples.
Marriage “benefits” is a misnomer. These are not benefits issued by an all-benevolent government; they are FREEDOMS we all already have that government took away and controls. Extending the choice of civil marriage to gay couples is DEREGULATORY by its very nature because it restricts government’s power in those areas.
An Expansion of Govt. or an Expansion of Liberty
Every libertarian should agree that reading discrimination into the law is always a government overreach, that paying less taxes is always a good thing, and expanding freedom (and thereby restricting the government’s power to act) is an act of deregulation.
As a tax cut does not abolish taxation yet still expands liberty, gay marriage DOES expand liberty. As a matter of fact, gay marriage was considered a tax cut by anti-gay conservatives fearing this very thing. They introduced the issue to the Iowa Supreme Court, complaining that allowing gays to marry in Iowa would reduce tax collections.
The Court mentioned this argument in their ruling in Varnum v. Brien: “Due to our laws granting tax benefits to married couples, the state of Iowa would reap less tax revenue if individual taxpaying gay and lesbian people were allowed to obtain a civil marriage.” That alone is reason enough to support gay marriage.
When conservative-leaning libertarians say that gay couples should not be allowed to legally marry (to participate in Civil Marriage), they are essentially saying:
- the IRS should confiscate more tax dollars from gay couples than straight couples,
- gay spouses should be compelled to testify against one another in court,
- gay spouses should not be allowed to sponsor their foreign spouse for citizenship,
- gay spouses should not be the default legal inheritor of their spouse’s estate (allowing the legal “next of kin” to take everything from the surviving spouse, with or without a Will), and
- gay couples are not deserving of the same freedoms as straight couples.
One more conservative fallacy: people claim that “Civil Unions are just as good as marriage” and don’t take away the straight monopoly on the word “Marriage.” – In each and every state where Civil Unions have been tried, it NEVER provided all the same legitimate tax breaks and freedoms provided by civil marriage. And, in every state where it was tried, they have given it up for (or added) real marriage equality for that very reason.
The Final Inconsistency
The inconsistency that plagues those straight Libertarians who claim that getting government out of civil marriage should be the ONLY goal Libertarians pursue, is the fact that most of them ARE THEMSELVES LEGALLY MARRIED! In spite of their stated belief that there should be no civil marriage, they have engaged in civil marriage, got a State issued Marriage License, and take part in all the tax savings and freedoms that ensue thereto, while specifically excluding gay and lesbian couples. In this, they have passed inconsistency, into hypocrisy.
For More Information, view the CATO Institute’s video:
The Constitutional Case for Marriage Equality