Conservative v Libertarian Marriage Argument

The Supreme Court of the United States, also called SCOTUS, is going to hear a case involving gay marriage. This sparked a great debate at work between me and a friend because it seems that the court must define marriage to rule on the case. My friend is a left-libertarian and I took the conservative position. There is no single argument on either side. Both sides have multiple points and I will review them as best I can.

The Libertarian Arguments

  • Government should not be involved in marriage, but if it is going to be involved it should allow anyone to declare themselves as married because this will maximize individual freedom.
  • The constitution guarantees, or should guarantee, equal rights for all Americans.

The Conservative Arguments

  • Government should not be involved in marriage, but if it is going to be involved it should do so at the state level as provided by the 10th amendment.
  • If the government is going to rule at the national level, which is unconstitutional to begin with, it should at least rule correctly.
  • Ruling correctly means at least ruling that marriage is defined as a relationship between a man and a woman.
      • Marriage is defined by God as between a man and a woman. This is observed in The Bible, as well as through nature.
      • Marriage is traditionally between a man and a woman throughout history going back to Adam and Eve.
      • American law in particular held that government shouldn’t regulate religion as shown in the first amendment and elsewhere.
      • American law in particular is descended from English law. Under English law marriage was both religious and legal because England had a national religion. Anglicanism held that marriage was between a man and a woman.
      • Government does not grant marriage. English law recognized a person’s status as married or not in the same way that it recognized a person’s status as blind or not. It was not granting or establishing such status, it was legally recognizing or enshrining a status that already existed.
      • English Common Law also held the same, and American law takes its tradition from English Common Law.

    Marriage as an English word traditionally means a marriage between a man and a woman. The phrase ‘homosexual marriage’ is a 20th century development.

    • The constitution doesn’t and shouldn’t guarantee marriage equality.
    • There is no such thing as an inalienable right to marriage. Marriage is a contingent privilege and a multiparty agreement.
    • A gay man can marry a woman just like a straight man can. There already is equality, although it is not equality of rights as neither a gay, straight, or any person has a right to marry.

The libertarian argument is appealing from the economic view prima facie, while the conservative argument seems not to be consistent with an efficient outcome. On second thought, the libertarian argument, ironically, empowers government. Particularly, it allows government to regulate ideology. Growth of government is one of the most serious threats to any economy in the first place, but because ideology is particularly important because every decision a person makes is related to or outright determined by their ideology.

The libertarian argument furthermore necessitates dissemination of misinformation. Misinformation damages an economy while accurate information is a form of technology which improves the economy. Correctly defining and implementing marriage as a social institution may benefit the economy as a kind of technology.

In conclusion, I think the ancap solution is the efficient solution. I think the libertarian and conservative solutions are both inefficient, but it is not clear which is more efficient. When it is not clear which solution is better from the economic view, we must look to a different philosophical framework in order to establish a justified preference.

In my view, Christianity is the best candidate among the available worldviews. The Christian view on marriage is complex in many ways, but regarding gender is it very clearly a heterosexual endeavor.


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