The Logic of Marriage, Part 2

The following letter appeared in today’s Opelika-Auburn News:

To the Editor:

Bruce Murray argues [Tuesday] that gays’ right to marry has not really been violated, since they have the same right to marry that straights do – namely, the right to marry someone of the opposite sex.

This is a statue of Constantine, who admittedly is not the Roman emperor best suited to illustrate my point, but his pose is perfect

With equal logic, a Roman emperor could have argued that Christians under pagan rule had the same religious freedom that pagans had – namely, the freedom to worship Jupiter.

How would Mr. Murray feel if the government were to permit only same-sex marriage, and to assure him that straights have the same marriage rights that gays do – the right to marry someone of the same sex? Would that be genuine equality?

Oddly, Mr. Murray complains that “homosexual unions are far from monogamous.” But if this is a bad thing, as he clearly supposes, then why further discourage monogamy by denying to gays access to the institution of marriage? That seems inconsistent.

Mr. Murray points to the supposedly harmful effects of same-sex marriage in other countries to bolster his support for special rights for heterosexuals; but then he admits that the same effects are occurring here without same-sex marriage, thus undermining the plausibility of the putative causal connection.

Finally, Mr. Murray maintains that the purpose of marriage is to “encourage mating couples to establish a permanent home for their children.” This claim raises several questions.

First, why are infertile or aged couples allowed to marry, then?

Second, gays have children too. Why does Mr. Murray seek to discourage them from raising their children?

Third, since when is social engineering a proper function of the law? The Declaration of Independence limits government’s legitimate powers to the protection of individuals’ rights to control their own lives. Encouraging particular patterns of family structure is none of the
government’s business.

Roderick T. Long

, ,

8 Responses to The Logic of Marriage, Part 2

  1. Todd S. March 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    Pity poor Mr. Murray. Blind ideology is such a poor foil to logic.

  2. TomG March 19, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Unfortunately, Murray and people who agree with him refuse to admit the weakness of their arguments.
    A long time ago, I read an article (in a Liberty collection, perhaps) by Benjamin Tucker where he argued that the only way to find out which kind of marriage worked best was for the government to get out of the way and allow many different forms to be legal. Only after they competed would society truly be able to compare them. Do you recall seeing this?

  3. Mark Uzick March 20, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    It’s strange that we value the approval and the privileges of the state so highly that, as libertarians, we find ourselves in the position of demanding equal rights for everyone to have their marriages licenced and regulated by the state.

    It’s like the New York naturopaths demanding the same right to be licenced and regulated by the state as other doctors.

    • Mark Uzick March 20, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      Sorry. My comment was meant for “The Logic Of Marriage” thread.

  4. Nathan Byrd March 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    IMHO, the best parallel to use against the “same right to marry” argument is inter-racial marriage. What would those who oppose gay marriage say was the legitimate objection to restrictions on inter-racial marriage? It couldn’t be equality since everyone had an equal right to marry (someone of their own race and opposite gender). So what was the legitimate objection? (I’m assuming here that they can’t say that there was no legitimate objection. No doubt there are some who do believe that, but I take it that they’re a small minority in the anti-gay marriage group.) Whatever it was, that’s the legitimate objection to restrictions on gay marriage.

  5. Pfennig March 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    THANK you Roderick. It’s a good letter.

  6. Sergio Méndez March 24, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    Profesor Long:

    Do you know a paper defending gay marriage from a natural law point of view?

  7. Silvano March 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    I haven’t found yet a defense of voluntary polygamy.

    In short: marriage is a contract between privates citizens which regulates their private relationships. Government patronizes heterosexual marriage. True. Is it a good reason to claim an equal right to be patronized ? I doubt about it. A privilege doesn’t become a right simply because it is extended in its application. Roughly speaking, before assert “the right” you should prove the reason why marriage should be considered a special kind of contract without basing your arguments on the evolution of habits, customs, social ethic and so on. Without this argument, you should simply ask the state to stay far from “marriage”, i.e. a position similar to that one of Tucker (like I read above). But is almost like to ask the abolition of (government sposored) marriage and this would be not so popular like claiming an equal right to do it.


    P.s.: forgive my poor english.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes