Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gay Marriage Ban Blues

Tibor R. Machan

The charge that George W. Bush is merely trying to kowtow to his base with his promotion of a constitutional ban on gay marriage sounds plausible enough but that’s really not the crucial issue. Never mind his motives. Is the idea sound is what counts. (Too many appear to have forgotten about what matters in these disputes—certainly not the varied, complicated, nearly undetectable motivations of the players!)

Should the U. S. Constitution be amended to ban gay marriages? Lets see why such a ban is supported. Bush says it has to do with upholding and supporting traditional marriages. Some others claim that the matter needs to be taken out of the hands of courts and placed into the hands of “the people.”

Sticking just to these points, is it really the business of the supreme law of the land to worry about upholding traditional marriages? Imagine if that were really the case. Wouldn’t Congress and the president have to start meddling in the lives of millions of couples throughout the country? Marriages are, after all, failing part everywhere—some 50% of the break up. So if it is the proper task of government to uphold and support traditional marriages, we would need a powerful marriage police.

In fact this isn’t the proper task of courts. Nor of “the people,” that is, the majority.

Conservatives especially, who supposedly champion what the American Founders had defended, should keep such meddlesome functions away from the government. Does a ban on gay marriage amount to securing our basic, unalienable human rights? No, it clearly does not. No one has a right to have others marry in a fashion one prefers. Quite the opposite is true—everyone has the right to marry as he or she, along with the partner, chooses. That is what the law would uphold in a free society, not what “the people” or their political representatives prefer.

Notice that none of this bears on the issue of whether gay marriages are a good idea. So what if they are or are not? The bulk of what people decide on in their lives, for better or for worse, is their own business and has nothing at all to do with the job the government has in a free country. What should I eat? How often should I exercise? What career should I choose? When should I take my vacation? Should I have yet another child? Should I add another chapter to the manuscript I plan to send to the publisher? Should I purchase a new car or house or pair of pants?

With regards to any of the matters and millions of others people can make good or bad choices. Whether they do is not the government’s concern. It may well be the concern of their friends, family, pals, neighbors, and others with whom they have civilized, peaceful relationships and who are welcome to attend to what choices they should make in life. Government isn’t part of this interested, concerned entourage, that’s for sure.

The government is at most about keeping the peace and in an atmosphere of peace there can be no official meddling in the institution of marriage. It is between the parties who would marry, that’s all. Except where matters of public health enter the situation, no governmental authority exists to order people about so far as whom they wish to marry is concerned.

So, let us assume for a moment that there is something amiss with gay marriage. The solution is for people to work it out with the advice of their intimates. Not unlike there being something amiss with someone’s career choice or religious preference. And do not tell me these aren’t sufficiently consequential matters in people’s lives. They definitely are, every bit as consequential as whom they choose to marry. Yet no government has any just authority to meddle in these matters.

But, sadly, these days everything has turned into a public affair—whom one chooses to marry, what kind of automobile one chooses to purchase, whether one chooses to smoke, whether one is going to use fossil fuel—you name it and it is the concern of the likes of Al Gore and George W. Bush. They only differ in their choice of what goes into the basket of personal, private concerns they want to make a province of public policy.

Gay marriage or no gay marriage—leave it to the actual concerned individuals, namely, those involved in the decision, not the rest of us.

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