Let me be clear: libertarians have not always been the best when addressing the rights of gay people. While most libertarians are against a federal ban on gay marriage, many vote against gay marriage in their home states. This is done under the paper-thin veil of “states rights” (because we all know that territory drawn out in arbitrary borders can have rights). I would like to argue that anyone who calls themselves a libertarian and votes against gay marriage is a hypocrite. Libertarians, when abiding by libertarian philosophy, must support the right to associate.
I thought this was old news until I read Pocket Full of Liberty’s embarrassment of an article, “The Libertarian Case For Traditional Marriage.” The guest author, Mike Gannon, runs through a litany of tired, neo-conservative arguments opposing gay marriage. When shuffling through the rambling defense, it becomes clear that Gannon sees himself as Gannon the God, the holy man who will deliver the magic pill that will cure society of government and social ills: legislating marriage.
Gannon is quick to point to dystopian literature as evidence for declining family values equating to a larger state (because, clearly, fiction is the best place to turn for empirical evidence against gay marriage). For example, he cites Brave New World, where the family “has been replaced entirely by casual sex and cloning vats.”
As someone who has actually read Brave New World, I know that casual sex in the novel was used as escapism from the cold, calculating world that Huxley had created. It was certainly not the root of that London’s problems. If Gannon hopes to use literature to back his claims, he should at least do so correctly.
Next, Gannon tries to enforce the “collective psyche.” You read that right—Gannon, the supposed libertarian, tries to collectivize all of Western society, and argue that we all “know” that the traditional family is what’s “natural.” He writes,
“As previously stated, there are many ways in which Man organizes himself in a free society, many grouping and associations into which he may enter. What defines his family, though, rests on our traditional understanding of marriage: one man and one woman coming together in a lifelong commitment out of which children may naturally arise.”
Okay, so “Man” (let’s try “people”—men consist of less than half of the world’s population) can organize himself into many groupings and associations, and they don’t all look alike. For example, there have been countless instances of matriarchal societies. Polyamory, including in the Old Testament, has a long and rich history. And, most damningly, there have been accepted homosexual relationships internationally, all the way back to ancient Egypt. The nuclear family that Gannon defends is largely a cherry-picked historical concept. Indeed, people in many different societies have chosen to associate in a variety of ways, to their heart’s content. There is no “natural” form of association—and, as a libertarian, Gannon should know better than to advocate state intervention to enforce his vision of a perfect society.
The true irony in Gannon’s piece is that he writes, “family remains as the last line of defense between the naked exercise of state power over the will of the individual.” He is trying to use traditional marriage as a way to fight the state… but he wants to use the state to enforce traditional marriage. If the state is defining what marriage is, then the individual loses his or her sovereignty to define it for his or herself. In defining marriage for everyone, Gannon is advocating for the state to grow.
Gannon believes that he knows what is natural and right for society, and he wants to enforce his ideas. This makes him no different than those throughout history who have used power to enforce their personal utopia. What Gannon needs is a humility check. He does not know what is best for each individual, gay or straight, what is best for the family, what is best for society, or what natural order even looks like. For him to claim that his argument is libertarian, he would have to address the knowledge problem, the right to associate, and the right for private institutions to marry gays if they wish. None of these issues arose in his article.
“The Libertarian Case for Traditional Marriage” is a piece that shames libertarianism as a whole. There is no libertarian argument against gay marriage; freedom cannot be enforced by coercion of the state. If Gannon regards himself as a libertarian, he should become more educated on the system he is propagating.