As the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week on both Hollingsworth v. Perry - the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state - and U.S. v. Windsor - the challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which recognized marriage at the federal level as between a man and a woman – state and federal laws effecting marriage equality face their first legal confrontation with the Judicial Branch. Herein I make the constitutional case for marriage equality that respects both individual and religious liberties.
Last week, Senator Rand Paul proposed removing federal recognition of marriage - for everyone – telling Bob Costa at the National Review:
Despite having no faith of my own, I am fine with those who do. If you want to live your life according to the teachings of a holy book or religious leader, I’m fine as long as you cause me no harm. I honestly could not care less if you believe in no god or twenty, given none of those gods are telling you to hurt people. But it is a different issue entirely when you try to suggest that our laws should reflect the doctrines of your particular church.
The conservative argument against marriage equality has long been couched in talk about “harm to children” and “destroying traditional marriage”, but in reality it has always been based on a simple idea - my religion doesn’t approve of homosexuality, therefore our laws cannot condone it. As it has become more and more apparent that same-sex marriage causes no harm whatsoever, anti-equality forces have gotten more desperate.
Take this post at the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog. Ostensibly about a new marriage equality law in Illinois, the author mentions the actual law only in passing before launching in a defense of marriage buttressed only by the words of a Catholic priest (who, incidentally, had some interesting things to say when a gay pride parade was moved to pass by his church). Does this priest have any special knowledge on the subject of marriage? It doesn’t appear so. His expertise clearly lies in one thing - the teachings and doctrine of his church.
For years it has been conventional wisdom that the GOP needs the votes of social conservatives to win elections. Defined loosely, a “social conservative” is someone who has very traditional, restrictionist views on so-called “social issues” like abortion and same-sex marriage. These voters are mostly white and evangelical Christians. They support strong restrictions on abortion and oppose any recognition of gay couples. In short, they are basically anti-libertarians. As such, the moderate wing of the party has always them as a necessary but disliked coalition partner.
In recent years, though, the tide has started to turn against this strategy. The portion of the electorate that votes strictly on social issues is shrinking. Attitudes are changing on gay rights and, while the country tends to lean pro-life, it’s fairly clear that most voters are repulsed by the extreme views held by some pro-life polticians. It’s clear, then, that the GOP can’t rely on anti-gay rhetoric and severe positions on abortion to win.
The call, then, naturally is coming from those who never even liked social conservatives to push this portion of the voting population to the wayside. Some, like my colleague Jeremy Kolassa, argue that the GOP should entirely ignore social conservatives. The thinking goes that moderating on abortion and gay rights will gather enough new votes to make it possible to live without hardline social cons.
Over the last couple of years, libertarians have complained about the emphasis conservatives, particularly the Rick Santorums and Mike Huckabees their movement, have placed on social issues. We’ve noted that conservatives should focus their message on issues where they can attract agreement — such as repealing ObamaCare, lessening regulation on businesses, cutting spending, and reducing taxes.
While I support same-sex marriage and have grown increasingly pro-choice within reason, the Republican National Convention was a largely a breath of fresh air from this perspective . That’s not to say that I agree with everything said on the budget, economy or foreign policy, but the discussion of social issues was relatively mild with Republicans choosing instead to place a heavy focus on the economic record of President Barack Obama.
But watching the Democratic National Convention off-and-on for a couple of days, one can’t help but notice the heavy emphasis on social issues. There is certainly a discussion and defense of President Obama’s economic record, but abortion, same-sex marriage, and labor unions been featured heavily.
Of course, this is really isn’t surprising. Democrats have tried to change the narrative at several points since the beginning of the year; usually by complaining that there is some supposed “war” being waged against a segment of the American public.
On Sunday, my wife and I went to see Refused, a Swedish hardcore band that just recently got back together after 14 years. I’m not going to be a hipster about it, so I’ll admit that I didn’t get into them until around 2000, a couple of years after the split up, after seeing the video for “New Noise.” After listening to their last record, The Shape of Punk to Come (1998, Burning Heart Records), I realized that they were very anti-capitalist, going so far as to call it a “crime.”
So while I was at the show, I wasn’t surprised to hear Dennis Lyxzén, the band’s frontman, mention their views, even though it was incredibly brief. We paid around $70 for our two tickets, another $50 for two t-shirts, and walked into the show with a full awareness of what to expect. In fact, these viewpoints are common in the style of music to which I listen. Bands like Propaghandi, NOFX, and a slew of others all express an anti-capitalist point of view, whether it’s in their lyrics or activism. As a believer in free markets, I just happen to strongly disagree.
The same could be said of Chick-Fil-A. The Atlanta-based restaurant chain has once again come under fire over its stance on a hotly debated social issue. In an interview for the Baptist Press, Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A, expressed his company’s opposition to same-sex marriage:
In a departure from previous comments, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told a Baptist website that the Atlanta-based company is “guilty as charged” in its support of traditional marriage.
Fifteen years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart. Since the topic of marriage is at the front of my mind, I thought I’d write about an issue of double standards that surrounds the whole marriage argument. The issue of marriage is, to say the least, a very sensitive topic, and this post might end up being one of my posts that steps on some toes. You’ve been warned.
My wife and I were married in a small church in Warner Robins, Georgia. Our wedding was a ceremony committing our lives to each other before God and our friends. We had a state-issued marriage license, but Georgia’s stance on our marital stance was (and is) inconsequential. If Georgia were to revoke our marriage license and declare us single, we would still be married in the eyes of our church because our union is a religious union.
As with most things, the problem with marriage comes when government gets too involved. Since marriage is a religious partnership, the government has no place defining – or redefining – what marriage is. That is the role of the religious institution that administers the wedding; it is not the role of government.
To take it a step further, government has no right to dictate to a church who it will or will not allow to be married. It’s very similar to the issue of a church’s qualifications for pastors or priests. Some churches forbid women pastors while some allow women to serve in that capacity. Some require celibacy, while that’s not an issue for other churches. Each church enforces the qualifications according to its own doctrine, and the government – state or federal – has absolutely no business dictating behavior to a church.
Libertarians constantly face the preeminent struggle to form and implement strategies to gain political relevance. The party has never achieved a result better than 1% on a Presidential Election. Adding to our frustration is the failure of the Libertarian Party to capitalize on the opportunity Ron Paul’s groundbreaking Republican Primary campaign, which gained new ground for the libertarian philosophy in terms of visibility. Bob Barr’s campaign failed to crack 500,000 votes in an election cycle in which Ron Paul earned more than 1 million votes in Republican primaries and caucuses.
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1816, Letter to Charles Yancey
I’ve come to the conclusion that Dante, in writing his classic “Inferno”, actually missed the final level of Hell. Or rather, I have not so much concluded that, as discovered it. The deepest level of Hell is to be forced to watch the news and read the printed and online media, and see falsities, half-truths, and outright lies perpetuated ad nauseum, and be completely impotent to get people to realize the truth. You can convince a large majority of the people to believe just about anything as long as you say it in a serious, contemplative voice, or preface it with the statement “Experts agree” or “A new study has discovered…” I don’t mind people disagreeing with me (indeed, there are few things I enjoy more than debating against someone that is informed and well-prepared) but it drives me berserk at the absolute stupidity that some people are willing to believe.
So, as we head into the new year, my last column will be dedicated to correcting oft-repeated fallacies, in the hope that it will create a spark that leads to a reassessment of things that people believe, but just aren’t so. In no particular order, here is the truth about some common fallacies that I wish could be corrected once and for all…
Okay, so I lied. I have no particular reason why a conservative, especially an evangelical conservative, should support gay marriage. Well, I do, but those arguments have all been rejected time and time again, no matter how much validity I believe them to have.
However, there is a reason why conservatives should support the government at least getting the hell out of way.
My Facebook feed is routinely peppered with people who claim that the idea of seperation of church and state (which they note has no specific mention in the Constitution) had absolutely nothing to do with keeping the church out of government, but existed solely to keep government from having any sway over what churches do or say. Now, I personally adhere to the belief that it’s really a two way street, but that’s neither here nor there.
So, Christian conservatives do not want Uncle Sam telling the First Baptist Church of Podunk, Mississippi what they can and can’t do, correct? Well, guess what? I agree with that completely. I can’t think of a single contributor to this site that doesn’t feel the same way. So, we’re all on the same page, right?
Now that we’re at least looking in the same basic direction, I’m forced to ask why conservatives are comfortable letting the government determine which ceremonies performed by a church are valid, and which aren’t?
You see, there are churches in this country that don’t seem to have any issue with performing marriage ceremonies for gay or lesbian couples. However, the government of the United States refuses to accept those ceremonies as valid, even in states where the law allows them. In is insinuating itself into the internal actions of a church by declaring its sacraments less valid in some circumstances than others.
This post is a reminder about tomorrow’s new media lunch at the Cato Institute.
This year’s election served as a shock to Republicans, and now they’re scratching their heads trying to figure out what went wrong. With more Americans expressing viewpoints consistent with personal liberty — including marijuana legalization and support for gay marriage — the conservative movement, which makes up a chunk of the Republican-base, must now adapt to the changing political atmosphere or continue to suffer at the ballot box.
So what is a path forward for the Republican Party? In short, they need to become more libertarian. Tomorrow, our friends at the Cato Institute will host a new media lunch, featuring a panel on this very subject at its Washington, DC campus.
Panelists will include:
- Walter Olson, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute
- Alex Nowrasteh, Immigration Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute
- Jason Pye, Editor at United Liberty (that’s me!)
- Rob Kampia, Executive Director at the Marijuana Policy Project
The event begins at noon and will run until 1:30pm. Zachary Graves, Director of New Media at the Cato Institue, will moderate the discussion.
You can RSVP and check out the details by clicking here.