Homosexual Marriage and Libertarianism

Most libertarians see homosexual marriage as a simple case study – i.e. it should be made legal. But is the problem so simple? Civil marriage, an act of matrimony recognised by the state through an official of the government[1], was introduced into England and Wales in 1753. The ceremony was required to take place in a religious setting (a provision dropped in 1836) recognised by the state, i.e. the Church of England, the Quakers or in a Jewish ceremony. Needless to say, a Catholic sacramental marriage was forbidden. Indeed, the drive for civil marriage was widely seen across the continent as a way to undermine the Catholic Church (in France religious marriage are still not recognised by law). Previously, marriage had been left entirely to civil society but it, like so many aspects of life, came to be absorbed by the Planners in the interest of uniformity and rationalisation. So when we say we are legalising homosexual marriage, we mean that we are extending civil marriage to include same-sex couples. In other words, simply making such arrangements legal still leaves the government as the presiding officer over the institution of marriage. It is entirely conceivable that leviathan may one day wield this power so as to compel dissenting churches to recognise homosexual unions (see the way the argument over homosexuality more broadly has progressed – from its legalisation in the 60s, to civil partnerships to marriage. At each stage the next step was ruled out but happened all the same). I suggest it makes more sense, from a libertarian perspective, to say that marriage should be removed from the state’s grip altogether. That is to say, once again, matrimony should be the preserve solely of civil society – thus granting homosexuals the negative right to marry whilst enabling orthodox churches to defend their ancient practices.

[1] http://marriage.about.com/od/marriagelaws/g/civilmarriage.htm

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