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Questions For Conservatives About Gay Marriage And Sock Drawers
July 1, 2011 -- With New York the latest state to allow gay marriage and others likely to follow, this issue will continue to consume public attention. Most conservatives strongly oppose such unions.
I want to ask my conservative friends to take a quick logical trip: Help me—and you—understand your perspective.
Your Limits on Government
Let’s start with your views concerning government. Most of you believe that government should not jail consenting adults for engaging, in the privacy of their homes, in homosexual acts of which you, personally, disapprove. Most of you would not have the government bar such individuals from living together.
And most of you would not have government ban private contracts between individuals of the same gender for sharing property or granting one another power of attorney in cases of medical emergencies.
The “M” Word
So here’s my question: How would you conservatives even know if, on that contract between such individuals, laying somewhere in the bottom of their sock drawer, the letters M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E appear? How would the world existentially change as you go about your daily business, if suddenly those letters were written on that piece of paper? What earthly difference would it make?
So can you begin to see how silly your obsession with the word “marriage” seems to be? But let’s be fair and pursue your beliefs further. I know your worries are about more than words.
Some of you oppose the government “sanctioning” marriage relationships of which you disapprove. But it is sheer pretense to demand that government act as the enforcer of your judgments about how others should run their lives when those others in no way interfere with your freedom to run yours.
And you’re wrong if you think that somehow a government “sanction” confers a moral value on behavior. I’m married to a wonderful woman and we have two beautiful baby daughters. If you—as I—think that “marriage” is more than just a word, then you should understand that what moral value and sanctity there is in it lies in what the partners in marriage bring to it.
Some of you flat-out judge gay marriage to be immoral. Let me suggest that you should judge individuals not by their sexual preferences, but rather by their moral character: Are they rational, thoughtful, honest, and productive? Do they act with integrity and independence? Do they take pride in their achievements? Do they deal with others with justice, good will, and benevolence?
A Quick Generation
There have always been gay libertarians because libertarians consistently favor freedom. There are also gay conservatives who have come out of the closet: former Republican Party chairman Ken Mehlman; commentator Andrew Sullivan; former Republican representatives Steve Gunderson (Wis.) and Jim Kolbe (Ariz.). Most European conservatives have no problem with gays; British Tory leader Nick Herbert is gay, and so was Dutch conservative Pim Fortuyn, an anti-Islamist who was assassinated by a leftist environmental extremist.
In coming decades more young, tolerant heterosexuals will join the conservative ranks, and opposition to gay marriage will fade away. It is time for you, my American conservative friends, to get over this obsession with sexual preference that drives away potential allies. Get that fluke out of your brains. Welcome all who want to fight for less government, more individual freedom—both economic and social—and have serious discussions about the values at the foundation of a free society based on reason, not on prejudice or unthinking traditionalism.
Edward Hudgins writes on political and social issues. He is the editor of Freedom to Trade: Refuting the New Protectionism, Space: The Free Market Frontier, and two books on postal service privatization. His latest collection is entitled An Objectivist Secular Reader. He is director of advocacy for The Atlas Society.