Why Proposition 8 is actually sort of OK with me
2008-11-19

I need to start this off by saying that I did, in fact, vote against Proposition 8. A great many of my friends are gay, I support them with all of my heart, and fully understand why this means so much to them. But I feel like I didn’t really stick to my moral compass by voting against it.

I consider myself a libertarian, somewhat of a radical one in theory, though real world practice doesn’t fit in with those ideals. From that point of view, I have to ask “What the hell does government have to do with marriage in the first place?”

The question, to me, shouldn’t be “why can’t gay people get married?” but rather, “why does the government have anything at all to do with marriage?” Marriage is ultimately a religious institution.

I can certainly see the value to the public of the government being in the business of registering and managing romantic partnerships – though the ultimate Utility is in providing a registry for potential reproduction, a shortcut way to establish heredity or the plausible explanation of same (e.g. secret adoptions, illegitimate children, etc, which are far more common than one is led to believe), which just isn’t possible for a gay couple (yet!). It isn’t possible for an infertile couple either, but to a casual observer, they have plausible deniability for a child, whether adopted or fathered by some party other than the husband of the pair.

But marriage? Why does it have to be called marriage? How is that the government’s business? I’m against gay marriage, because I don’t see what the government has to do with marriage, and why in heavens name should we give them MORE power? It’s bad enough that the State has its nose in heterosexual partnerships; do gay people want to invite government into their bedroom?

Let’s take another tack: historical precedent. There are very few examples of legitimized same-sex unions in the history of any culture on earth. There are some examples in China, Japan, ancient Rome & Greece, etc., but they are the exception rather than the rule.

On the other hand, polygamous relationships have been common to nearly EVERY culture at one time or another – and are still quite common in some parts of the world. Please note that plural marriages still provide that official stamp of heredity, whether actual or spurious.

Given that cultural context, why has same-sex marriage become a political hot-button, while plural marriage has been given the short shrift? Until a few weeks ago in this state, I could marry a man or a woman, but only one partner.

(just curious – does anyone know what happens when someone from a polygamous country emigrates to the US with their spouses? Do they have to pick one?)

The argument has been made that Proposition 8 is a form of discrimination, with television ads comparing it to the Holocaust, or at least the internment of the Japanese. I reply, somewhat tongue in cheek, “That’s ridiculous: a lesbian has the same right to marry a man as a straight woman!” But it’s true, Prop 8 doesn’t propose different rights for different people at all! Prop 8 forbids a straight man from marrying another straight man just as much as it prevents a gay couple from marrying!

Gay marriage opens the system up to further abuse in contexts such as taxes and immigration – not that straight marriage doesn’t sometimes already abuse the system, but this is yet another avenue. If these “marriage benefits” are so valuable, I’m certain we’ll see straight men and women engaging in gay marriages for the financial benefits, without the fear of their parter becoming attached and trying to make the union “real.”

I have a very dear friend who is an illegal alien in this country, who I’ve blogged about before in regarding immigration ." If same sex marriage conferred the same citizenship benefits as conventional marriage (it doesn’t, I checked), I would marry “Juan” in a minute to get him a green card. That’s abuse.

The problem isn’t that gay people can’t marry one another – the problem is that the government gives any favors at all to married couples.

The solution as I see it is a far more radical one than legalizing gay marriage… I think the political institution of marriage should be dissolved entirely. If there is some legitimate need for partner benefits, the government can continue to officiate unions of any number of consenting partners, un pain, un vin, et une bourse. Better yet, just let people execute the legal aspects of marriage as a business contract. That’s what it is anyway – a business contract with boilerplate text that is embedded in our legal and social code. There can be a standard marriage contract – available wherever business forms are sold, like leases, wills and divorces, as a book or software – and those that want to go beyond that can hire a lawyer to write it up any way they want. This is already in practice for some polyamorous families. I expect it doesn’t work any better or worse than traditional marriage.

Let the church be the arbiter of “marriage” in whatever form makes sense to the participants, whether it’s a man and a woman, two men, or three women, four men, and a mountain goat. Let’s keep the government out of our bedrooms and personal business.

I’ll continue to support and vote for gay marriage – I realize that the secular institution of marriage isn’t going anywhere soon. Gay marriage is the most practical way of providing equality and a level playing field.

But it’s not the best way, or the right way.

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Ello