David Friedman On Gay Marriage

David Friedman has a new blog and in a recent entry he takes on the issue of gay marriage. He loses me here:

“My colleague has the right to live with his partner on the same legal terms that I live with my wife, but he does not have the right to insist that other people regard their relationship as marriage. Making laws about symbolism is not the business of the U.S. government.”

No, the colleague doesn’t have any right to live on the same legal terms as Friedman if both will be granted privileges and benefits at the expense of others. And that’s precisely what will happen. Government has no legitimate business at all, but legislating symbolism has to be one of it’s most benign activities. I couldn’t care less if the state declares that I’m a lazy-good-for-nothing-so-and-so as long as it keeps its mitts off my person and property. Wouldn’t Friedman greatly prefer a government that produced only symbolic gestures to one that produced material benefits and privileges for some at the expense of others?

By seeking to solve a problem of symbolism through legislation Friedman is confirming both sides in nonsense. It is nonsense for either side to be concerned with symbolic state gestures. There is nothing legitimate that the state can contribute to any marriage.

19 thoughts on “David Friedman On Gay Marriage”

  1. “The only way out of this dilemma is the neutral option: Get the government out of the business of defining what is or is not marriage”

    Seems to me that Friedman wants the Government to butt out. A much better proposition IMHO.

  2. Baker,

    Seems to me that Friedman wants the Government to butt out.

    DDF, in context:

    The only way out of this dilemma is the neutral option: Get the government out of the business of defining what is or is not marriage. Revise laws where necessary to define legally relevant relationships in gender neutral terms. If a state wants to give special rights to one person in regard to another based on their relationship–the right, say, to make medical decisions in an emergency –let it define the relationship by how long they have lived together, whether they share property, the existence of a public commitment, or whatever other criteria are relevant.

    Bolding mine. Seems to me that Friedman wants the government to butt out of the symbolic part of marriage but has no problem with the government giving “special rights” as it sees fit.

    Like Kennedy noted, this is bass-ackwards: a government that confined itself solely to symbolic acts would, in my book, be about the most benign sort of organization possible. I’ll gladly let the government call me married, not married or even late for supper, as long as it stops being a threat to me.

  3. Ah, that’s odd. The word “it’s” didn’t appear when I did a ctrl+F, because I think it searched the sidebar instead of the comments….


  4. Who should make medical decisions in an emergency? How would you determine such a thing? It seems no big deal to me that the government recognises the spouse as the one with the proper authority.

  5. Josh,

    The state is not a party with any legitimate interest in the matter. The parties with rights in this matter and authority to delegate are the patients and caregivers. When the state’s recognition happens to coincide with the purposes and rights of these interested parties the state may not do harm.

    But one policy doesn’t fit all so the state is bound to violate rights when it imposes one. That’s what’s wrong with it.

  6. I like this subject. As a Catholic, I must be against gay marriage. As a Libertarian, I place no legitimacy on a piece of paper provided by the state. Whatever. It�s a big non-issue to me, unless some judge decide to issue court orders forcing priests to perform gay marriages (which, regardless of that, would be invalid anyway).

    So much fight about pieces of paper provided by state bureaucrats…

    It should be all voluntary contracts, just that.

    BTW, shouldn’t it be as libertarian to defend ‘gay’ marriage as is to defend poligay? (not a retorical question)

  7. That was a fun unintentional neologism. But why not polygamy for gays? Or any number of people?

    That would bring interesting questions. A marries B. B marries C. Are A and C married?

  8. That makes for some interesting sitcom ideas in libertopia. You could have A married to B and C, D married to B, but A and D hate each other, while C and D secretly like each other, but C can’t tell the difference between A and D, who are identical twins.

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