In a recent post at The Daily Caller , Kendrick MacDowell wrote that Libertarians are obliged to support same-sex marriage, and argued this on the grounds that “marriage is a government-sanctioned institution and the government has no legitimate interest in the genders of the spouses-to-be.”
I can’t say I’m really a Libertarian, and it’s precisely this sort of thing that prevents me from being one.
To be sure, I have profound respect for much of what the Libertarians have to say. And when they talk about freedom, limited government, free markets, etc., they really mean it. They aren’t merely paying lip service to these issues. When it comes purely to political doctrine, the Democrats don’t need to worry about the Republicans or the Tea Party. It’s the Libertarians they actually need to fear.
But the problem with Libertarianism is its failure to recognize moral absolutes with theistic origins, and its subsequent radical elevation of personal autonomy. They find themselves arguing about whether governments should even exist, and base limitations of personal freedom on the notion that “all individuals have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”
Which brings us back to MacDowell’s piece: Most Libertarians may well agree with his conclusion that they should support same-sex marriage, but his grounds are spurious with respect to the nature and origin of marriage.
He does rightly assert that marriage is a “government-sanctioned institution”, an assertion that some deny nowadays. But he goes on to say that the government has no business concerning itself with the genders of the participants in the institution. The obvious difficulty here is that the participants in marriage are vital to its very nature. And if the genders of the participants are irrelevant, why not the number of participants? And, worse, if the genders and number are irrelevant, why not the species?
The nature of marriage is defined by scripture. That is why the participants are one man and one woman. It’s true that there is a civil aspect to marriage. It is, after all, a legal contract. But it is inherently religious in its nature and finds its origins in Genesis 2. It is a mistake to view marriage as singularly civil or religious. It is both.
Libertarians might see no impediment to having three wives or marrying one’s cat. But the dual nature of marriage simply doesn’t allow for a purely civil view of the institution, one in which it may be redefined to suit any view an individual may desire.
Note: For a bit more on the historical development of the Protestant view of marriage, see my earlier post The Nature of Marriage.