The Marriage Debate can be solved by a simple libertarian solution: divorce. It might sound drastic, but in my opinion, it is the only way to ensure that liberty is protected for all peoples. Currently there are two main camps in the Marriage Debate:
1) This camp believes in traditional marriage, or in other words, that marriage is between men and women. They usually believe that marriage is ordained of God, and that it is a covenant in which two consenting adults, male and female, come together in a holy order. They believe that this is the only acceptable forum in which children should be born and raised. They believe that the government has a duty to protect this institution from being degraded by immorality. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll call them the Traditionals.
2) This camp believes that any two consenting adults should be able to get married. They believe that it is wrong for the government to withhold legal benefits from homosexual couples that heterosexual couples are able to achieve by getting legally married. They usually believe that it is up to an individual to choose whom they will love. They often argue that homosexual couples should be treated identically to heterosexual couples in every way, being allowed to adopt and foster children, and receiving every legal and financial benefit that any other couple could receive. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll call them the Equalities.
And where do libertarians fall? After all, it seems that both sides have their opinions protected by the Constitution. If Marriage is a sacred religious covenant, then no churches should ever be forced to recognize a marriage they believe is invalid. No one should be forced to marry two people they do not believe should be getting married. A private Catholic adoption agency should not be forced to provide services to two gay “married” men if Catholics do not recognize their marriage as valid. Yet under the equal protection clause, it seems that the government has no right to decide arbitrarily that homosexual individuals, simply because of their sexual orientation, cannot obtain the same legal benefits as heterosexual individuals. As a Mormon, I believe that Marriage is a sacred covenant between men and women, and should not be desecrated. Yet as a libertarian, I believe that people have the right to make their own choices and the government has no right to intervene in someone’s personal life. How do we balance religious freedom with free agency?
The answer is to divorce the situation from the government. At the root cause of this debate is the marriage of the issue of love to government. This should not be so. Traditionals have no right to tell people who they can love, and who they can marry. Equalities have no right to tell churches whom they must marry. This is because the government should not be involved in the matter in the first place. However, it makes a lot of sense to retain the legal benefits in society that come from individuals coupling together and raising children in a nuclear family. The solution is to have two separate contracts: one with the government, and one with the Lord. The one with the Lord is entirely up to the couple, and has no bearing on legal standing within society at all. The one with the government is also entirely up to the couple, but it would come with every legal benefit currently given to married couples.
This allows everyone to pick and choose what they will keep out of this divorce. An atheist couple (gay or straight) might want the Legal Partnership but not have any desire to obtain a Marriage. A Mormon couple might want the Legal Partnership and the Temple Marriage that our Church offers to worthy members. The Catholic Church might not recognize our Temple Marriage as a marriage at all. They are free to marry whomever they choose, and recognize whatever marriages they prefer, as are we. Those who are currently legally married would be grandfathered into the new system and have a legal recognition of a Legal Partnership, and a religious recognition of whatever church they were married in, if they were married in a church at all. Everyone gets what they want.
You might say, “Well, this is exactly what the Equalities want, except that you’ve just changed the name of Marriage to Legal Partnership.” It is more than a name change, I assure you. As a Mormon, I believe that marriage is a sacred covenant made between two people and the Lord, and nothing should masquerade as a marriage that is not that sacred covenant. This libertarian solution guarantees that all who agree with me, no matter their denomination, would never be forced to recognize as spiritually significant the “marriage” or Legal Partnership of two individuals. Even though they have no obligation to recognize spiritual significance, Traditionals would be forced to recognize the legal benefits of a Legal Partnership. For instance, a Traditional attorney could not deny advertised will services to a lesbian couple with a Legal Partnership, unless he could prove that drafting up such a document would somehow cause him to violate his religious beliefs. It is unlikely that he could prove such a thing, as one person inheriting another person’s stuff is not likely to violate any sacred covenants or religious beliefs. However, a private religious adoption agency has every right to say that it violates their religious beliefs to provide adoption services to those without recognized marriages (who only have a Legal Partnership). It also prevents there from being any law that says those with only a Legal Partnership are not permitted to adopt. Equalities would be forced to recognize the sacred nature of “marriage” and the fact that those with Legal Partnerships do not, in fact, have a covenant with the Lord, unless they separately obtain such. Equalities cannot force a church to marry any two people. This entire idea is based upon the fact that our Constitution guarantees individuals the right to pursue happiness, but does not guarantee results. Nothing will stop Equalities or Traditionals from pursuing happiness, and the free market of ideas will determine their results.
Finally, as a matter of civil discourse and not a legal matter, both Equalities and Traditionals should just be nicer to each other. I mean, geez. Stop with the bullying. You are both acting like hypocrites. Equalities, proclaiming to the world how tolerant you are, are proving yourself to be anything but tolerant when you threaten to burn people’s businesses down because they are against gay marriage. You are essentially advocating for mob rule. You are on a very dangerous road that will not lead to Equality for anyone. And Traditionals, proclaiming to the world how loving and Godly you are, are proving yourselves to be anything but loving when you pen pieces about how the “love is love” culture is “shallow and narcissistic.” You are only one step higher than the Westboro Baptist Church. God doesn’t hate Gays. God doesn’t hate anyone. And neither should you. Two or three or ten people who genuinely love each other is not “shallow and narcissistic” — even if we seem to agree that it is morally and legally wrong to formalize that love with something called a “marriage.” What two people do in their bedroom is none of your business. People are going to make poor choices with which you (and I) may disagree. That doesn’t give the government a right to interfere. The government only has the right to interfere when their choices directly threaten your life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. If you teach your children right from wrong, you will have done all you can to save the true meaning of love. Focus on your sphere of influence, and stay out of other people’s. Teach your kids to love their neighbor with a Christ-like love. Teach them not to judge others who sin differently than they do. I will do the same, and if enough of us choose the right, we will save the moral fabric of society that is the traditional family, ordained of God.
It seems the only way to end this squabble is in divorce. The Government and Marriage must go separate ways. Yet there is a legal way to ensure that everyone gets what they want. Through libertarian logic, we can arrive at a solution both parties can live with.