Monday, December 01, 2008

Legalizing Gay Marriage: A Different Perspective

I wouldn't be a good libertarian if I didn't have a reckless disregard for the consequences of my knee-jerk public policy positions. But some people think that this is not necessarily a good thing. Go figure.

I recently wrote about gay marriage, to which Jeff the Baptist responded by linking to this post by Megan McArdle.

McArdle's very, very long post is basically this point: beware of the unintended consequences of radical public policy changes. And legalizing gay marriage would be simply unprecedented in human history. Who knows what could happen to society by suddenly changing the role of gender in marriage. Good point. McArdle writes:

My only request is that people try to be a leeetle more humble about their ability to imagine the subtle results of big policy changes. The argument that gay marriage will not change the institution of marriage because you can't imagine it changing your personal reaction is pretty arrogant. It imagines, first of all, that your behavior is a guide for the behavior of everyone else in society, when in fact, as you may have noticed, all sorts of different people react to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different ways, which is why we have to have elections and stuff. And second, the unwavering belief that the only reason that marriage, always and everywhere, is a male-female institution (I exclude rare ritual behaviors), is just some sort of bizarre historical coincidence, and that you know better, needs examining. If you think you know why marriage is male-female, and why that's either outdated because of all the ways in which reproduction has lately changed, or was a bad reason to start with, then you are in a good place to advocate reform. If you think that marriage is just that way because our ancestors were all a bunch of repressed bastards with dark Freudian complexes that made them homophobic bigots, I'm a little leery of letting you muck around with it.

I can understand this. Maybe we -- I -- don't have all of the answers, particularly to something as complex as human marriage(s). Maybe we should take a couple generations to think about it.

Why didn't I encounter arguments like this in Florida's gay marriage debate in this past election cycle?

If I had the ballot in front of me again right now, I probably still would vote against the ban. You don't get me to jump into action by shouting "Let's ban X!" But I would vote against the ban with less enthusiasm.


Anonymous said...

Legalisation in other countries hasn't mattered a tod, and Spain, Holland, South Africa and Canada are all fairly different in their population sizes, cultures, religions and politics.

The world didn't scurry off its axis when universal suffrage appeared, and that was a far bigger change. People decried integration too and I see we have a new black President without too much hassle getting him past the bigots.

I love how people talk about "policy change" as if real people are not directly affected. Divorce is clearly prohibited in the Bible (while homosexuality is mentioned tangentially at best, depending on interpretation) and by the major Christian churches but there is no movement to ban it. Divorce has a REAL affect on families, far more so than gay marriage would, or indeed more than it has in countries/states where it is legal.

Your arguments are pretty offensive. If marriage is about having kids, then ban anyone who is infertile or who is too old/unqualified to adopt. If it's about family, then ban divorce. If it's about religion, then ban civil marriages. But if it's about civil rights and the ability to have your loved one immigrate to the US, the right to protect the children you have whatever way you had them, the chance to pass on your property to your lifelong partner without them being taxed like a stranger, the simple act of visiting a loved one in hospital... then there is no choice but to give marriage equality to all.

Antoine said...

*legalizing gay marriage would be simply unprecedented in human history. *

its legaal in my country and i never heard anyone complaining.

John said...

Let me rephrase, Antoine: until very, very recently in human history, gay marriage did not exist anywhere.