Libertarian Party Activists: Inconsistency on Marriage Equality

Inconsistency on Marriage Equality
Published June 20, 2013 | The Libertarian Party of Tennessee website

– Libertarian to Libertarian –

By:  Allan Wallace and Steven Rodriguez. 

Allan Wallace is a long time Libertarian party member and activist who has held positions of leadership in the party. He is also one of the founders and first Chair of Outright Libertarians, an organization of LGBT LP activists. Steven Rodriguez is a college Senior who has been involved in the LP and the libertarian movement for 2 years and is a founding member and first President of Young Americans for Liberty at Belmont University in Nashville and Vice-Chair of Outright Libertarians.

It seems as though each and every day, the federal government perpetuates a brand new assault on our liberty. It is rare when we find a good example of freedom advancing and government withdrawing. The issue of same-sex marriage is a profound example.

With the Supreme Court poised to release decisions in two landmark same-sex marriage cases, now would be a good time for libertarians to take a hard look at their message on this issue. As public opinion continues to move toward extending civil marriage to same-sex couples, one would think that libertarians would be on the vanguard of this winning social issue.

Unfortunately most libertarians are either silent or openly hostile towards this and other gay issues. When they comment on this issue, those statements are usually inconsistent with what Libertarians have advocated for nearly 42 years now.

However, when discussing other issues, Libertarians freely and readily advocate for any person wanting more freedom or being hurt by government’s unequal application of its own regulations and laws.  And, we have traditionally stood with anyone trying to find a legal way to pay less in taxes. We have done so even when only a few would benefit, such as Senior Citizens wanting a break on their property taxes.

In other words, libertarians have always stood for:

  • Anyone or any group of individuals striving to regain the freedom to choose in any area of life, knowing that as individuals make more choices for themselves, government makes fewer.
  • Anyone fighting to make government live by its own rules and by the Constitution, knowing that this restricts the ability of politicians to discriminate against groups or classes of individuals they dislike.
  • Anyone wanting to pay the least tax possible, knowing that one tax break may only be a drop in the bucket, but it is one more drop the government cannot use to exercise its power.

…EXCEPT lately, it seems, when it comes to gays and lesbians!

Over the last decade and a half, some Libertarians and the LP leadership (to some extent) have become progressively more apathetic or in some cases openly hostile toward gay rights issues and in particular, the marriage equality issue. Instead of standing up for equal rights, these Libertarians choose a conservative dodge:  the all-or-nothing push to get government completely out of marriage someday.

Marriage is a very complex and interwoven into many aspects of our lives. For many people it is a religious rite. For most it is a social acknowledgement of two people’s commitment to each other. In modern society, it is always a vow of love and commitment to each other, and a commitment to create Family where none existed before (they become each other’s “next of kin” and in some cases, decide to create and/or raise children). There is one other aspect to marriage, the legal, asking permission (via a license) from the state to marry; this is Civil Marriage. And remember, we are talking only about the aspect of marriage that is legal or Civil Marriage.

These are the three major inconsistencies:

  • The belief that giving gays and lesbians equal treatment under the law (as it applies to civil marriage) is the same as extending the powers of the government, when the opposite is actually true. It restricts government’s power to decide who can and cannot marry, reduces the amount of control that the state has over couples, and to an extent, prevents government from practicing what has been a form of discrimination.
  • The belief that if the ultimate goal is to someday get the government completely out of marriage, that it is somehow okay to support unequal treatment under the law NOW, and throughout all the decades it could take to accomplish that goal.
  • The belief that because the government gives over 1,000 special “benefits,” (that is, tax breaks and freedoms) to straight couples, that it is somehow nefarious to extend those same tax breaks and freedoms to gay and lesbian couples.

Marriage “benefits” is a misnomer. These are not benefits issued by an all-benevolent government; they are FREEDOMS we all already have that government took away and controls. Extending the choice of civil marriage to gay couples is DEREGULATORY by its very nature because it restricts government’s power in those areas.

An Expansion of Govt. or an Expansion of Liberty

Every libertarian should agree that reading discrimination into the law is always a government overreach, that paying less taxes is always a good thing, and expanding freedom (and thereby restricting the government’s power to act) is an act of deregulation.

As a tax cut does not abolish taxation yet still expands liberty, gay marriage DOES expand liberty. As a matter of fact, gay marriage was considered a tax cut by anti-gay conservatives fearing this very thing. They introduced the issue to the Iowa Supreme Court, complaining that allowing gays to marry in Iowa would reduce tax collections.

The Court mentioned this argument in their ruling in Varnum v. Brien: “Due to our laws granting tax benefits to married couples, the state of Iowa would reap less tax revenue if individual taxpaying gay and lesbian people were allowed to obtain a civil marriage.” That alone is reason enough to support gay marriage.

When conservative-leaning libertarians say that gay couples should not be allowed to legally marry (to participate in Civil Marriage), they are essentially saying: 

  • the IRS should confiscate more tax dollars from gay couples than straight couples,
  • gay spouses should be compelled to testify against one another in court,
  • gay spouses should not be allowed to sponsor their foreign spouse for citizenship,
  • gay spouses should not be the default legal inheritor of their spouse’s estate (allowing the legal “next of kin” to take everything from the surviving spouse, with or without a Will), and
  • gay couples are not deserving of the same freedoms as straight couples.

One more conservative fallacy:  people claim that “Civil Unions are just as good as marriage” and don’t take away the straight monopoly on the word “Marriage.” – In each and every state where Civil Unions have been tried, it NEVER provided all the same legitimate tax breaks and freedoms provided by civil marriage. And, in every state where it was tried, they have given it up for (or added) real marriage equality for that very reason.

The Final Inconsistency

The inconsistency that plagues those straight Libertarians who claim that getting government out of civil marriage should be the ONLY goal Libertarians pursue, is the fact that most of them ARE THEMSELVES LEGALLY MARRIED! In spite of their stated belief that there should be no civil marriage, they have engaged in civil marriage, got a State issued Marriage License, and take part in all the tax savings and freedoms that ensue thereto, while specifically excluding gay and lesbian couples. In this, they have passed inconsistency, into hypocrisy.

 

For More Information, view the CATO Institute’s video:

The Constitutional Case for Marriage Equality

8 thoughts on “Libertarian Party Activists: Inconsistency on Marriage Equality

  1. Daniel Wiener

    I find this article puzzling; it seems to be attacking a straw man (“some Libertarians”) as apathetic or hostile to gay marriage, without naming any names or citing examples. In contrast, the Libertarian Party Platform seems pretty clear on the topic:

    “1.3 Personal Relationships
    Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”

    I think most libertarians would agree that the ultimate goal is to get the government out of the marriage sphere altogether, just as we would like to get the government out of the education sphere altogether. But that’s simply not going to be accomplished in one sudden jump. So the discussion then has to focus on appropriate interim measures to move in those directions.

    I see gay marriage as being analogous to school vouchers or tuition tax credits for private schools, and living together without being “legally” married as being analogous to home schooling. They are all improvements over past government restrictions which tried to limit relationships to heterosexual monogamy and education to public schools. There is no contradiction between aiming for an ultimate goal and also advocating for interim stepping stones to get there.

  2. Ad Hoc

    Daniel,

    I’ve heard quite a few big and small L libertarians make those arguments. I’m not sure why you are puzzled. There was a recent thread with an argument like that on IPR and there have been many in the past, and many other places.

    I agree with you about the need for interim measures.

    Imagine if there had been an LP in the 1950s and 60s, and imagine if it had been protesting against school desegregation (because there should ultimately be no government schools) or if it had defended state bans on so-called interracial marriage using the same “logic” as some libertarians use now against marriage equality. Imagine how embarrassed that would make us now. The arguments some libertarians use against marriage equality today will be just as embarrassing a few decades from now.

  3. Daniel Wiener

    Ad Hoc @ 4,

    I’ll grant that there may be a few libertarians who argue against gay marriage, just as there are some libertarians who argue against school vouchers. I don’t necessarily dismiss them out of hand; I’m willing to listen to whatever arguments they have and consider their validity. But I can hardly do that if I don’t know who they are or what their arguments are. This article tells me neither. It just refers to unnamed libertarians and then attacks their supposed views, with no links to those individuals or viewpoints so that we readers can judge for ourselves their legitimacy. It’s a classic “straw man” argument (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man).

  4. Daniel Wiener

    Ad Hoc @ 6,

    It looks like that thread ended up an argument primarily about tax exemptions rather than marriage equality. I personally consider the tax exemption issue to be a good argument in favor of gay marriage as an interim measure. (The tax advantage of marriage is one of the reasons I eventually got married instead of continuing to cohabit.) And there are valid concerns over the legitimacy of “discriminatory” tax exemptions.

    Unfortunately today’s article didn’t even bother to find and link to a relatively obscure IPR thread such as the one you cited, in which one or two people raised questions about the tax implications of gay marriage. Instead this article propped up a “straw man” and then attacked it as being representative of a significant number of libertarians. Not very persuasive.

  5. Ad Hoc

    No, there were quite a few comments about marriage equality as such, and others about taxes. You might have to read more of the comments or read it through to the end.

    I’ve seen those same arguments made many other places, not just on IPR, and on many threads here, not just one. It was just one recent example that came immediately to mind.

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