What’s the Problem with Gay Marriage?

On Wednesday, 19 May 2004, the Tennessee state Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Frighteningly, only one senator voted against the amendment: Steve Cohen (D, Memphis). I say “frighteningly,” because banning a contract between consenting adults is the first step down the road towards–oh I don’t know–having a representative from the Department of Marriage walk into your house to verify that you’re making love to your wife in the missionary position. Think that’s ridiculous? Then consider how ridiculous it would have sounded 40 years ago to claim that one day the police could pull you over just to see if your seat belt was fastened.

The effort to ban gay marriage is simply the most recent attempt to control the private lives of individuals through government force. The plea from those who support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is that they must uphold a “pillar of society”–to quote Bill Dunn, (R, Knoxville). This claim was also made by slave-owners of the 19th century.

Southern plantation owners argued that without slave labor, society would collapse. They could not conceive of an economy without forced labor. For this “good” of society, the slave-owners destroyed the rights of an entire race. This example may seem outrageous, but supporters of the amendment to ban gay marriage are saying that homosexuals do not own their own bodies, nor their own lives; that they do not get to choose how to live their lives. All for the “good” of society.

Unfortunately for those who wish to use government force for social engineering purposes, history shows us that the more individuals are free to pursue their own self-interest, the more society prospers. The further we distance ourselves from tribalism, the better we fare.

One conservative argument against gay marriage is that gays desire marriage only for the government benefits that marriage brings. Oddly, few conservatives have used this moment to dismantle those entitlements. Eliminating all government benefits for marriage would do two things for conservatives: 1) prove the motives of homosexuals desiring marriage status and 2) shrink government–something conservatives claim to desire. So either conservatives are disingenuous in claiming to want less governmental nannying of our personal lives or they don�t even believe their own argument.

A second argument against gay marriage is Biblical–that homosexuality is a sin in God’s eyes and we mustn’t allow it to be sanctioned by the government. Eating pork is a sin in some religions yet there is no movement afoot to amend our constitution to outlaw bacon. There is also no cry that bacon is sanctioned by the government simply because it is not outlawed. In a free society, laws are not constructed by religious affiliations. And if they were to be, which religion’s commandments get to become law? The largest?

This leads to the most dangerous argument against gay marriage: supporting a tyranny of the majority. Barely a news report on gay marriage ends without noting what percentage of the population opposes gay marriage. Many opponents of gay marriage (our state’s Senate included) desire a “democratic” resolution. They want “the people” to decide in a vote. As though a popular vote to decide how an individual chooses to live his life makes it okay.

Relying on majority opinion on an issue regarding an individual’s ownership of his own life is about as suicidal as one can get politically. Liberals rely on “if the people want it, it’s their right” for their myriad of social programs as though forced labor is morally justified when it’s popular or for the “good of the many.” Conservatives rely on the same principle when it comes to defending “pillars of society.” Neither is correct to do so and both regret it when the other side gains the majority.

The solution to the gay marriage issue is simple. Declare that individuals are free to live their lives how they wish provided they do not violate the rights of other individuals. Then, get the government out of the marriage business altogether. Stop the licensing, taxing, and entitling and leave the necessary functions to private contracts. The less we regulate, the healthier we become.

Or else be prepared for that knock on the door from the Department of Marriage Security.