The recent Supreme Court ruling that requires all states to issue licenses for same-sex marriages has created a chorus of people celebrating some newfound sense of equality. Finally, they say, the equal rights that heterosexual couples have enjoyed for years are being bestowed upon gay couples. They are, however, celebrating a false victory. This is not a win for equality and rights but a further distortion of both.
The first question to ask is whether marriage is even a right. In the positive sense, it is not (positive rights are make believe). If I had the positive right to get married, as soon as I wanted to get married, it would have to happen immediately or else my right would be violated. Of course in order to get married, a person needs to find a willing partner. Once a person does find that partner, then they would have the right to not have their marriage interfered with. They have the negative right—no one can justly stop them from getting married and they do not need to conscript anyone else for it to happen.
Ignoring the religious aspects, marriage is merely a contract. Freedom of association is a fundamental right of humanity, so if two or more people voluntarily enter into a contract, any sort of interference would violate their rights. A government imposing the requirement to obtain a license for a contract is interference and therefore represents a violation of freedom of association. Although such contracts could be handled completely privately, if government is to exist, all it ought to do is see that the contract is carried through and offer arbitration when the execution of the terms comes into question.
Many of the marriage benefits, such as inheritance, custody of children, child support payments, alimony and terms of divorce, etc, could be handled by such a contract. Many of the others, like emergency medical decisions, hospital visitation rights, and insurance, can simply be arranged with the business or organization that is involved. Furthermore, these sorts of arrangements and agreements are not even contingent upon being married. Why can’t a single person, for example, authorize whomever he wants as the decision maker in emergency medical situations? Businesses are starting to make these sorts of adjustments as even cell phone service providers are offering “family plans” that do not require people to be a part of your family to share the plan.
So the solution is to let people make their own contracts and their own arrangements. Get the government out of it.
And to reiterate, the very fact that there are marriage licenses violates the idea that willing partners are free to marry. You cannot have a right to something while it is simultaneously restricted. The reason behind requiring a license for anything is so that it can be restricted in some way. This was obviously the case with the status of same-sex marriage and was also an issue in years past with interracial marriages. It continues to be the case with polygamous marriages and however else the government decides to define marriage.
It seems that a lot of people are referring to the marriage benefits granted through the licensing process as rights. But these “rights” are being granted to only some people, i.e. licensed married couples. Those who do not fit this criterion are not given the same “rights.” Because a right is something that simultaneously exists among everyone and requires only noninterference from uninvited parties, if everyone is to be seen by the government as equal under the law, everyone would have to be granted these marriage rights regardless of marital status. Therefore, these marriage benefits are not rights but are instead privileges.
Marriage benefits such as lower income tax rates create a privileged class and necessitate that the government does not see everyone as equal under the law. If a single person tried to pay income taxes based on the rates offered to married couples, his inequality under the law would be become obvious.
A lot of people will counter all of this by saying, “I know that you want the government out of marriage, and that’s all fine and good, but it’s better this way because it ends discrimination by the government against same-sex couples.” I suppose that it’s not bad that the government will be ending its discrimination against same-sex couples in the realm of marriage licenses, but I hesitate to celebrate the ruling because I don’t see those celebrating understanding what is actually going on. Forcing states to extend marriage licenses to gay couples does not end discrimination; it only reinforces the incorrect idea that the government is justified holding some people under the law differently than others.
Think of it this way: you’re in the time period when slavery was still legal. Congress passes a law that says that it’s illegal to kill one of your slaves and everyone is celebrating it as a win for human rights. You’d hate to say that you’re against the new law, but wouldn’t it bother you to know that no one seems to be interested in solving the actual problem?