On Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll answer a question on whether “gay marriage” should be considered a kind of marriage. (Hint: The right answer is “HELL YES.”) In the process, I’ll explain why civil unions might be a step in the right direction, but they’re not an acceptable alternative to legalizing gay marriage.
Lately, along with everyone else on Facebook, I’ve seen a wide variety of arguments about gay marriage… some better and some worse.
From my libertarian friends, I often hear that the government should “get out of the business of marriage” entirely. That view is wrong, for reasons that I explained in this podcast: State Involvement in Marriage. Basically, the state should not give marriage licenses, but rather ought to treat marriage as a private contract. As with every other kind of contract, the govenment provides the basic legal framework — including establishing the meaning of terms, setting defaults for when terms are not specified, establishing standards for consent, and so on. Moreover, the state will have to determine what counts as a valid marriage contract, so that those standards and defaults might be applied, just as it does for employment contracts. That definition of marriage (and other contractual relations) should not be arbitrary, but rather based on the fact of fundamental similarities in the nature of various relationships between people.
What I find particularly objectionable, however, is when people refuse to support gay marriage due to this view that the state ought to “get out of the business of marriage” entirely. The fact is that legalizing gay marriage would rid our legal system of a major injustice, without impeding the fight for a fully contractual system of marriage. To oppose the former because you want the latter is rather like saying, “I’m opposed to ending brutal corporal punishment of children in government schools because I’m opposed to all government schools.” Political changes that are for the better — that genuinely advance the cause of liberty — can and should be supported, even if not immediately the ideal.
Even worse, however, is the outright opposition to gay marriage that I’ve seen from some supposed Objectivists, particularly in this blog post and its comments. The arguments offered are so weak as to be laughable. Ultimately, they’re based on negative judgments of homosexuality, morally and psychologically, and those judgments are rooted in nothing more than repugnance. (That’s not an inference: it’s quite explicit from the blog post and its comments.)
Thankfully, that kind of irrational bias against gays is far, far, far less common among Objectivists than in years past. Still, I hate to see it… ever.
Update: As promised, I surveyed the various quasi-secular arguments against gay marriage on the 7 April 2013 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the podcast segment here:
For more details, check out the question’s archive page. The full episode – where I answered questions on the validity of gay marriage, the is-ought gap, the aftermath of a friendship, mixing politics and romance, and more – is available as a podcast too.