Frequently when there is a sudden expansion of liberty, new potential problems arise and become reasons for concern. The answer to these temporary problems is always…more liberty!
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, same-sex couples gained the long-sought right to marry – something libertarians have been working on for decades. Most libertarians celebrated this as a great victory for liberty, a landmark. (Libertarian writer Sheldon Richman has an excellent article on why libertarians should welcome this decision.)
- This decision emphasizes the fact that the government is in the position of granting permission for marriage. True liberty demands that there be no government involvement in marriage at all.
- Government may now attempt to use anti-discrimination laws against people who don’t support gay marriage. Business owners who object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds may face government violence if they refuse to provide services to gay couples or otherwise discriminate against them. Indeed, the ACLU has indicated it will support some compulsion along these lines.
- Some voluntary sexual arrangements are still illegal (prostitution, polygamy, etc.).
Why are they not equally protected under the law?
Libertarians need to be ready to argue that the answer to any and all such concerns is… more liberty.
That’s true on every issue. On this issue specifically:
- Government should be removed from the issue of marriage altogether. People should not have to get government’s permission to engage in peaceful voluntary personal relationships. We should reject what Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) accurately calls “the false premise that government licensure is necessary to validate the intimate relationships of consenting adults.”>
- Libertarians should be ready to defend the rights of business owners and others who peacefully object to recognizing same-sex marriage. As Reason writer Robby Soave notes, “If religious freedom does not include the freedom for individuals to peacefully decline involvement in private commercial activities they find objectionable, it’s a meaningless concept.” We should learn to do this in a way that emphasizes that our concern is not with one side or the other, but rather with liberty. We should show people the value of liberty and true tolerance — how only liberty offers an answer to the concerns of people on every side of this issue.
- We should prepare to further explore and expand the principle behind this decision. If gays are free to marry, why aren’t all people free to do any peaceful things they want with their own lives, bodies, and possessions? Why aren’t people free to, for example, smoke marijuana, start a business without government permission, and so on?
Libertarians will gain from all this in several ways.
- We win new people to our side, and demonstrate that libertarians are always consistently on the side of individual liberty.
- >We show that liberty — always — is the answer to political problems.
- >We have the opportunity to raise the “Overton Window” on some key issues: that is, we have the chance to bring currently little-discussed libertarian positions — like legalizing prostitution and ending all government involvement in many other peaceful personal lifestyle decisions — into the mainstream political debate. (The Overton Window is a major communication concept. Learn about it in my article “Raising the Overton Window.”)
Legalization of gay marriage is a great step forward — and the controversies ahead will give us valuable opportunities to advance liberty even further.
As always, do this with the key rules of great communication the Advocates has taught for 30 years (and collected in my book, available in e-book format here, How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty): use soundbites, proper presentation, and documented facts. And always do it with friendliness, kindness and compassion.