Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Marriage privatization, hate crimes

One of the interesting ideas surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage is marriage privatization. It's one of those libertarian ideas, based on the idea that the less government is involved, the better. Therefore, it would be better if the government wasn't involved in deciding what is "marriage" and what isn't. The government would provide people with the right to civil unions, or allow them to create their own relationship contracts, but that's it. This does not mean that marriage would be outlawed or anything like that. It just means that private individuals will choose for themselves whether to call it marriage or not.

I think it's not a bad idea. If it were a proposition on the next ballot, I'd probably vote for it. Of course, it's not on the ballot, not as far as I know.

What has been on the ballot is the legalization of same-sex marriage. Now, what's really strange to me is when I see it argued that we shouldn't vote for the legalization of same-sex marriage because no kind of marriage should be officially recognized by the government. That's just silly! There are two completely separate issues going on, and there's no need for conflict between them. There's the matter of private vs government recognition of the term "marriage" and then there's the matter of equality vs inequality. If we allow same-sex marriage, that is a step towards equality. It is not a step away from privatization of marriage.

I mean, it's not as if the legalization of same-sex marriage will somehow make it harder to privatize marriage. It's not as if we'll then have to pass two separate propositions, one to privatize opposite-sex marriage, and one to privatize same-sex marriage. It will be no easier nor harder if and when it happens. In the mean time, we have equality to think about.

Anyways, I was thinking about this, because I saw a very similar argument being made about hate crime laws. From this article: "Why GOP leader opposes hate crimes protections for gays". Rep. Tom Price opposes the extension of hate crime laws to sexual orientation, because he opposes even the existing hate crime laws protecting race, color, religion, and national origin. But when I see this argument, I think it's rather silly. It's one thing to oppose hate crime laws. But since we have them, why should we be unfair about them? If hate crime laws start to protect sexual orientation and other categories, this is neither a step towards nor a step away from the removal of hate crime laws.

However, if you thought that argument was stupid, here's an even worse argument from House Republican Leader John Boehner, from the same article:
In an email, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner "supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics."

Boehner's position, then, appears to be grounded in the notion that immutable characteristics should be protected under hate crimes laws. And while religion is an immutable characteristic, his office suggests, sexual orientation is not.
That's so self-evidently stupid, I don't even know if I need to comment any further.