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Libertarians and the Gay Marriage Issue - by Kent Van Cleave

Written by Subject: Marriage
This is a good example of how screwed up things get when people forget (or ignore) the difference between _freedom_ and _license_. This proposition is NOT about increasing freedom for gays. It is about placing them on an equal footing with the heterosexuals who are routinely granted _permission_ to marry. It's about reducing the harm done to gays without honoring their rights -- or the rights of heteros -- to run their own lives. Get the state out of the business of regulating personal affairs and everyone will be truly free, at least in that respect. Doing so is not full anarchy, for it doesn't affect the areas of government to which libertarians grant legitimacy. Laws regulating marriage are no different from the Jim Crow laws; they're all about denying rights to a minority by turning rights into privileges that can be (wink, wink) doled out by gatekeepers the majority trusts to leave THEM alone. Victims are so incensed at the unequal treatment that they focus on winning equal privileges rather than on restoring their rights.

Once again, we see people clamoring for comfier chains rather than freedom.

It's helpful, as usual, to observe the difference between means-oriented and goal-oriented approaches. Libertarians are properly means-oriented, demanding only that the means people use to attain their goals be peaceful and honest (no initiation of force). Statists of all stripes are goal-oriented, which leads them to use coercion in pursuit of their goals. When Libertarians become goal-oriented, they lose sight of the ball. They focus on reducing specific harms caused by government, rather than on eliminating the power of government to inflict those harms.

As I've pointed out again and again, there's a win-win approach available. Libertarians can both press for restored rights and be effective in reducing harm in the interim. The way to do this is not to _advocate_ harm reduction, but to embarrass politicians into reducing harm on their own. To use the current example, it might go like this:

"Look, Mr. R and Ms. D, if you're determined to deny people the right to peaceably and honestly run their own lives, and insist on requiring people to get state permission even to get married, the very least you should do is stop using such policies to persecute unpopular minorities, denying them treatment equal to what members of the majority enjoy. We all know you needed to claim authority over everyone in order to seem fair in controlling minorities however you like, and we all know politicians don't like to give up power once they have it ... but do you _have_ to be so hateful?"

You make it clear that the real solution is to cure the disease rather than medicate the pain -- but you rub their noses in the pain they're causing.

Kent Van Cleave