Question: What is the Objectivist position on gay marriage?
Answer: There is no established Objectivist position on gay marriage per se. However, I think Objectivism can be seen to apply to the issues at hand. The political ideal of Objectivism would permit gay marriage. Homosexuals are as morally entitled to marry as are heterosexuals.
The legal definition of marriage is an issue of practical legal philosophy and involves a variety of considerations that I cannot get into here. However, marriage is, in essence, a kind of contract or agreement between individuals. In this respect, Objectivist political philosophy has some relevance.
Like many classical liberal political philosophies, Objectivism holds that all adult, mentally competent individuals have rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. All that is done by mutual consent is within their rights, so long as no one is coerced by the use of force. This principle implies that contracts are to be presumed valid unless some reason to regard them as the result of coercion can be shown, or if the contract somehow involves the violation of the rights of a third party, as in a murder contract. Government, meanwhile, should be strictly limited to taking only those essential actions necessary to secure and defend the rights of individuals.
Gay marriage does not violate any third party's rights, and it does not involve coercion between the parties involved. And it is hard to see how the government can have any legitimate interest in controlling or regulating the kinds of relationships into which people can enter.
It is worth noting that marriage as currently enacted in American law is a complicated contract which not only involves mutual duties between spouses but also places one in a position of entitlement with regard to various government programs. One strong attraction of marriage in our current system is that spouses are entitled to preferential treatment as regards Social Security benefits and inheritance taxes. Another benefit of marriage is that spouses are recognized as each others' legal guardians in times of health emergency or incapacitation. Objectivism is for personal responsibility, not government retirement programs, and is morally opposed to “progressive” taxation as an unearned penalty on the productive. Objectivism envisions a society of individual freedom in which government has far less power generally to define social norms or enforce moral standards than it does today. Objectivists think reality is a better judge of moral standards than are politicians.
This political view says nothing as to the morality of gay marriage. Indeed, one has the political right to engage in many immoral acts. However, there does not appear to be any reason to see gay marriage as anything other than an expression of mutual love and hope for the future. Despite the often collectivist “gay rights” rhetoric that surrounds the issue, the trend toward permitting gay marriage is a positive step.
For more on the Objectivist view of homosexuality generally, see our Q&A essay on the issue .