Libertarians, Morality and Gay Marriage

Gay Marriage CNNJon Henke at Q&O lays down the libertarian argument for gay marriage and why the state should take a step back from legislating morality:

Immoral does not equal illegal, nor does moral equal legal. Nor *ought* they, and I believe you would agree with that statement.

Consider: would you criminalize gambling, premarital sex, drunkeness or gossip? All of them are immoral in the judeo-christian moral system, yet no libertarian would criminalize them. On the other hand, there’s nothing immoral about driving 45mph in a 35mph zone, crossing a national border at the wrong point or hunting out of season. Yet all are illegal.

Clearly, there’s no inherent connection between legality and morality, nor should there be. (let’s leave aside the more extreme variations of libertarianism)

Go a bit further. Distinguish between the partnership contract sanctified by a Church (marriage) and the partnership contract codified by the State. (marriage) Both have the same name, but they are not the same thing. For clarity, let’s call one “Holy Union” and the other a “Civil Union”. A Holy Union, defined in the Bible and enacted within the Church, carries very different meaning, standards and obligations than does a Civil Union defined in law and enacted by State institutions.

From a libertarian standpoint, the fact that they share the same name is irrelevant. They are still separate and distinguishable.

From a first amendment standpoint, even if one religion (or atheism) allows for two consenting adults to form a union, the state has no business trying to repeal that right with a new amendment. Sexual orientation and partnerships between two adults is free speech that some are hoping to censor and hide.

But don’t let that stop Republicans from mixing religion and nanny-statist. They only seem to do it to rile up their religious conservative base around election time anyways.

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. Oops. I’d actually posted that as a draft, waiting to be edited before I put it up as a post. It’s not up on the main page yet, but it should be shortly. When it is, I’ll have made some changes to wording and added a bit more. Hopefully it will be a bit more coherent.

    Sorry. I guess it shows up in bloglines and google even when I save it as a draft.

  2. Whatever Jon. Maybe we can get the government to define the type of marriage they want. Let’s get specific. It gonna be Jewish, Catholic, Baptist, Pagan. We want the rules down and the wording right. Can’t do it wrong now can we.

  3. What would be the ‘state’ rationale not to allow more then two members in a civil partnership ? Presumably it would be a corporate style contract. The answer will undoubtedly be moral.

    The reason why ‘murder’ is illegal (aside from the definition as unjustified killing)is precisely because it is immoral. Mens rea is essentially a guilty mind.

    Speed limit violations are ultimately considered negligent violations, not particularly criminal.

    In NY a divorce must be preceded with a year’s official seperation agreement. Why can’t one contract with a spouse for immediate withdrawal of current relations if they go sour ? Why is the state concerned with that aspect of the arrangement ? Social engineering is the only answer.

    Every marriage should have specific contractual arrangements outside the state’s forced provisions. I guess that would take all the fun out of the registry at Macy’s.

  4. Few people bother to ask why we need state sanctioned or recognized unions in the first place. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have ever gotten a marriage license. My marriage is between myself, my spouse and God. It’s really no one else’s business. Unfortunately, we live in a country where individual rights are usurped and granted to groups. Married couples are granted a different tax bracket. Businesses are forced to insure or offer special benefits to married couples, even though they only hired an individual. The list goes on. Civil rights, (special privalages granted to members of select groups), have destroyed the equal, negative rights of all individuals, in which this nation was founded. We’ve also given up the extremely important right to freedom of association, which means what you believe is right or wrong is irrelevent. In a business setting you no longer have the right to choose those with whom you will or will not associate.

  5. Jon Henke: For what it’s worth… the part I quoted before you changed it had more impact with me.

  6. I dunno. I find the title, if not the article, somewhat gratuitous. There is really no place for a “libertarian position on gay marriage”, because libertarianism is axiomatically required to be agnostic on *any* form of marriage, whether between a man and a woman; a man and a man; or a woman, three goats, a chicken, and a rose bush.


  7. blowmedown: While in some future Libertopia the whithered-down state may take a hands-off position on marriage, here in the real world the government(s) definitely have their tentacles all over it. This makes it fair game for Libertarians to “have a position” on gay marriage.

    Since there is no chance of getting government to remove itself altogether from regulating marriage (admittedly the ideal libertarian solution), we Libertarians are left with trying to force the state to retreat in selected areas, and providing equal protection under the law—including gays and lesbians.

  8. “A Holy Union, defined in the Bible and enacted within the Church, carries very different meaning, standards and obligations than does a Civil Union defined in law and enacted by State institutions.

    From a libertarian standpoint, the fact that they share the same name is irrelevant. They are still separate and distinguishable.”


    This is exactly the argument I make on this. Marriage has two different meanings which cannot be confused if we are to make sense of this issue. The state should have zero involvement in the first definition, while the state (so long as there is a state) cannot be removed from the second definition. The argument that “the state just shouldn’t be involved at all” is cop-out that ignores the second definition, which *entirely* regards how a relationship is to be perceived and treated by the courts and other state entities. Some may prefer to call the latter a “civil union” but that’s just pissing over semantics.