On August 2, the Executive Committee of the Libertarian Party of California unanimously endorsed a vote of NO on Proposition 8, which would amend the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.
The “NO on Prop 8” Campaign Committee's ballot argument includes the following phrases:
- “equality, freedom and fairness, for all”
- “would deny lesbian and gay couples the same dignity and respect”
- “just not fair”
- “only marriage provides the certainty and the security that people know they can count on in their times of greatest need”
Libertarians, while sympathetic to “equality, fairness, dignity, respect, security in times of need,” etc., typically do not consider it the role of government to provide these things to individuals. So, why should libertarians oppose Prop 8?
Because Prop 8 is un-libertarian.
Libertarians oppose the use of government for social engineering. Taxing everyone, including gays and lesbians, but then only giving the benefits of those taxes to straight people, is nothing short of a redistribution of wealth from a disfavored group to a favored group.
Some people mistakenly believe that same-sex couples can easily replicate the benefits of marriage via private contracts. But no private contractual equivalent of marriage exists. Same-sex couples who attempt to go the private contract route must spend thousands of dollars on legal and filing fees, to get only 90% of the way to where opposite-sex married couples are after paying just $50 for a marriage license.
This is the “redistribution of wealth and social engineering” aspect of government marriage. This alone should convince any libertarian to vote NO on Prop 8.
But there's also the “equal protection” aspect to consider, because some things are more important than the immediate net size of government, even to Libertarians.
Regrettably, just a week after the LPC ExCom voted to oppose Prop 8, Adam Summers of the Reason Foundation wrote in his Libertarian Perspective op-ed: “gay rights activists are wrong to petition the government for 'equal' marital status. This demand merely perpetuates the politicization of what should be a private issue. Gay rights activists would better serve their interests by arguing that the government should not be in the marriage business in the first place.”
See: Summers Op-Ed
To understand why Summers is wrong, consider this thought experiment: The year is not 2008, but 1948. The issue is not whether to grow government by allowing gays and lesbians into government marriage, but instead whether to grow government by allowing black children into government schools.
Now change Summers's statement to read: “black civil rights activists are wrong to petition the government for 'equal' government schools. This demand merely perpetuates the politicization of what should be a private issue. Black civil rights activists would better serve their interests by arguing that the government should not be in the education business in the first place.”
Despite being opposed to government schools, most libertarians would be horrified to see such a pro-segregation argument coming from the Reason Foundation. Yet they are less surprised when a nearly identical argument is made regarding gays and lesbians.
Clearly, just a few libertarians (including at least one columnist at NolanChart.com) still have a blind spot on gay civil rights issues.
Nonetheless, California libertarians can oppose social engineering — and simultaneously improve libertarians' image in the gay and lesbian community — by visiting NoOnProp8.com and signing the “Vow to Vote No” petition.
Also, we'll be having Libertarian NO on 8 house parties as fundraisers for the NO on 8 Campaign (San Francisco on October 11, Los Angeles TBD). Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
There will even be a “Libertarian Night” at the “NO on Prop 8” Campaign phone banks. Libertarian volunteers can phone registered Libertarians to oppose Prop 8, while also showing gay and lesbian voters that they can count on Libertarians to defend their equal protection under the law.
That's how you build a “big tent” political party.
Please volunteer for the campaign, and vote NO on Prop 8 this November.Tweet