Liberty Traditional Marriage

Published on May 12th, 2012 | by David Housholder


Marriage in a Free Society

A Libertarian Looks at President Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Proclamation

May 2012

Our president’s views on marriage have “evolved” and now he has come out in favor of “same-sex marriage” (hereafter named “ME” for “marriage equality” in this essay).

This comes on the heels of a crushing defeat to ME advocates at the hands of the citizens of North Carolina who voted 61% to 39%, the previous day, in favor of a state constitutional amendment defining only “traditional marriage” (hereafter named “TM” in this essay) as legal.

The two Billys (Clinton and Graham) weighed in with full-page ads in North Carolina newspapers advocating ME and TM, respectively.

America is not of one mind on this issue.

I am writing this in an airport, about to fly to Mammoth Lakes, California, to perform a marriage. Fitting that I write this now.

Let me lay my cards on the table. Please don’t jump to conclusions based on this short list. My conclusions from this essay are going to surprise you:

  • I am a strong advocate for TM (traditional marriage). Some will say “I am for TM too, just that it is for everyone.” That is not what I mean by TM (one man and one woman) and no one gets to vote on what I mean.
  • I am also a strong advocate for a free society, where coercion is only used to stop aggression.
  • I operate from the assumption that our government’s natural tendency is a “benevolent drift toward a total state.” Our government and leaders generally mean well and end up growing the government and its control over our lives in order to help us. Of course, I believe this generally does more harm than good.

So. On to the discussion…

I am amazed that the advocates for TM and ME are operating under an unhelpful assumption: That the government (federal or state) has the power to license adult relationships.

Marriage licenses are a relatively new thing. For most of our history marriages have been a contract (formal or informal) between individuals and/or families. A religious sanction has been seen as helpful and/or optional in most societies. A “priest” or someone of similar social standing often (but not always) presides.

For much of American history, because we are such an under-populated nation (the topic of another essay), men and women have simply found one another and moved in. They would start referring to each other as husband and wife. Priests/clergy were scarce (perhaps an occasional circuit rider) and the magistrate may well have been the equivalent buggy distance away and expense (in today’s travel time and real cost) of flying to India.

This was also true in Bible times. “He took her as his wife” is a common phrase. The main “social marking” event was a feast/reception and no mention is made of a “judge” or a “priest” showing up. Most Bible people more or less followed the pattern of Adam and Eve and just started the marriage up at their own discretion.

Marriage licenses, unfortunately, came into widespread use after the Civil War, in an effort by racists to control or end “mixed marriages” with newly freed slaves (which in fact had been happening constantly throughout our entire history going back to Jamestown).

When people perceive a “problem,” government is always all too ready to dash in and help “fix” things, and they typically end up with more control over our lives in the end. Just think of the TSA if you want an example.

Thus the widespread custom of marriage licenses (especially after 1870 or so) was born.

Fast forward to 2012. The culture wars have latched on to the TM vs. ME battle, reinforcing Caesar’s (my favorite term for government power) hold on the role of  “decider.”

Both sides, in feverishly trying to get their view adopted by 100% of the public, are playing a gigantic chess game of “Mother May I” with plebiscites and court cases.

Truth is, the opponents are taking their partisan case to a “casino” where the house (government) always wins.

It’s as if two kids get into a playground argument and, unable to settle their dispute, take it up with the school principal. After generations of this appealing to authority, the principal eventually would control all playground activity at the smallest level of detail.

Free and unsupervised playgrounds (think basketball on the public park courts of the South Side of Chicago or sandlot baseball in the Dominican Republic) always produce better athletes than over-managed and over-parented suburban youth sports (think Little League dad syndrome). Liberty works.

So back to the TM/ME debate. As a strong supporter of TM (I think of it as the Creator’s “plan A.”), you may be surprised with what I am going to say.

In short, get rid of marriage licenses. Altogether. While you’re at it, get rid of equivalent licenses for barbers, real estate agents and the like. Even business licenses. I pay $100+  a year to the City of Huntington Beach for my little private S-Corporation license and $800 annually to the State of California so they can keep me on some “register.” I get nothing of value in return for either payment. Yet no one questions the right of the government to demand/coerce such money from us. We obediently write our checks.

So, what business does the government have in registering and charging for voluntary adult relationships? What’s next, a friendship tax?

The whole TM/ME argument is base on a false premise; that the “school principal” is the decider. Both sides seek exclusive permission to define marriage aligned to their opinion and then impose that opinion on the other side, with Caesar’s blessing.

Let me suggest a better way.

In a truly free, non-coercive society, people can do as they please as long as they are not aggressing against others or their property. In a state of liberty, all would be free from physical, social, legal, economic, and intellectual aggression.

Picture a society where adult citizens could live with whomever they wanted and enter, freely, into any covenants they choose with others, on whatever terms they should select.

Any attempt to hinder free people from doing so is a restriction of their liberty.

It is also, and this is often left out, a restriction of intellectual liberty to impose a viewpoint on others. Unfortunately, “liberals” often don’t see their shortcomings in this area. In pushing for marriage equality (ME), they see themselves as the defenders of liberty and forget that they are aggressively redefining marriage and hoping to force this new definition on those who hold to TM (traditional marriage) views. It is not enough, for liberals, to have ME become the law of the land, they fully intend for TM supporters to embrace it, or label them as bigots.

In a free society, we would not be free to foist our definition of marriage on those who choose to think otherwise. This goes both ways.

In other words, requiring someone who strongly supports TM to call same-sex marriage a “marriage” is a form of intellectual aggression and has no place among free people. People have a right to their own viewpoints, definitions, and opinions. Even if it is uncomfortable or even offensive to others. We don’t need a First Amendment to protect comfortable speech. Quite the opposite.

I am a supporter of TM, and my mind is not for rent on this issue. I also have no desire to control the non-aggressive actions of others.

Conversely, TM supporters like me have no right to tell ME folks that they cannot consider same-sex marriage a marriage. The truth is, they already do consider it same sex “marriage” a marriage. And I don’t get to vote on what other people think. And ME supporters don’t get to vote on what I think.

As Johnny Cochrane said at the OJ trial, for me: “Saying it’s so doesn’t make it so.”

Appealing to Caesar is inappropriate among free people who disagree. We need to work it out on the playground for ourselves. No one has to play jump rope. No one has to hang on the monkey bars. No one has to play tetherball.

Respect for the freedom of another person does not require validating his or her opinion, just his or her right to have that opinion, and agreeing not to aggress against it.

Let’s make this more personal. I am a staunch supporter of TM. However, I realize that there are tens of millions of people who have their minds made up that ME is the way to go. If they want to call same-sex marriage a marriage, that is up to them. I, however, do not have to consider it a marriage or call it one. I can find polite ways to avoid that word (marriage) when discussing the issue. Much as atheists in a free society do not have to believe in God, name him, or pray to him, but they are obligated to let others do so.

First of all, however, we have to get the government out of marriage. Adults would be free to enter into any contract with each other. A new private business would spring up: relational contracts. There could be standard and custom-made contracts. It would be similar to the wills and trusts business so common today—no judge or priest is needed to make it so. These contracts could be cheaper than current marriage licenses, and much more customized to suit the needs of the contract parties. It could be notarized, and you could even get a little card for your wallet designating next of kin if you are found (God forbid) in an accident.

Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 6.45.50 AM

This contract can be updated or cancelled at any time. It’s not like our current way of doing things (with a huge divorce rate) is working all that well….

Next of kin can be designated by anyone. Caesar has no right to decide who your next of kin is. Can be a blood relative, can be a spouse, can be a best friend. Sexual intimacy (or lack thereof) should play no role. Having orgasms in someone’s vicinity does not give one the right to be first in line.

All this being said, one’s Facebook status (single, married, in a relationship, it’s complicated, etc) carries more weight these days than paper from the court house.

These adult, free-will covenants could be celebrated by a reception, a party, a religious ceremony, or whatever they like. They would be free to call it whatever they like. A marriage. A partnership. And those of us “looking in” would also be free to call it whatever we like. Or to attend or not attend. Or to bless or withhold blessing.

Faith communities would be free to craft their own values on the marriage issue. Some would practice only TM. Some would be open to ME. The congregations or denominations could decide for themselves. Coercion would be absent.

My own Lutheran tradition, with its “two kingdoms” has already paved the way for a dual-voluntary system when it comes to marriage. A tolerant public sphere and a voluntary church sphere. We also teach that marriage is not a sacrament (as opposed to Roman Catholic teaching), and does not need clergy present to make it “real.”

The truth is, I insist on being free to hold exclusively to the TM view, and have the right to congregate with others who agree. We have the right, as a congregation, to live accordingly, just as Orthodox Jews are free to restrict themselves to a kosher diet and set their own voluntary community standards. I also agree not to aggress against or coerce those who feel otherwise.

Can they reciprocate? I hope so. It’s the cornerstone of liberty.

A same-sex couple would have every right to call their relationship a marriage. But they would not have the right to force others to call it a marriage. They would be free to try to convince and persuade others, but not to coerce them. That would violate the free thought of others.

Free societies are not “winner takes all” societies. They are truly tolerant and non-aggressive, at every level. Valuing liberty does not mean we have to like what others or doing or to approve of any opinions or behaviors.

What about taxes?

Our taxes would have to be taken without respect to marriage, relationship, etc. One should not be taxed differently because one has a primary exclusive relationship. And the government should not hand out benefits based on relationship either.

Much of this is being driven by a lawsuit by a lesbian couple complaining that they are being hit extra by estate taxes. Since when do we let the government take a cut of (unearned by them) of an estate? Organized theft. While playing favorites by who is in a relationship and who is not.

Estate taxes are especially insidious. You can be 85 and blow your whole net worth in Vegas but you can’t give it all to your kids. Stupid.

Caesar has become such a huge part of our lives that we have forgotten the ground rules of liberty.

Let me be clear. I am not advocating ME. I am advocating for my right to hold to TM within a (much) freer society which is neutral on the subject. The better idea will rise to the top over generations of experimentation. Put it to the test, but don’t determine the winner ahead of time.

Let’s move toward living freely. And thinking freely.

Visualize liberty.

For the most influential essay ever written on marriage (Martin Luther, 1500’s) click on the picture below:

Martin Luther, The Estate of Marriage, Vom ehelichen Leben

Click on  below and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 5.10.57 PM Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 5.06.48 PM

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

David Housholder

Believes that a spiritually-awakened non-coercive voluntary society is possible. Author of a number of books. Surfer/Snowboarder. Pastor of Robinwood Church in Orange County, California.

  • Wendy Housholder

    I’m thinking that the true issue is the government’s “reach.” Why should their hands reach into our lives as far as they do? Is this really anything more than just another “money making scheme” to license anything at all?

    Think about it… Since they can’t get us to voluntarily send them money (mostly because they spend it so stupidly that it is just plain poor stewardship to send them even a dime!), they try to force us. And we have let them. I wonder what would happen if, say, an entire state said “nope, not doing this anymore” and withheld their taxes, or entered into mutually-agreed-upon contracts (like marriage) without sending in any paperwork or money?

    Presto! The entire ME vs TM debate would vanish! And the government would be forced to “earn” their money the way the rest of us do – by working hard. That’s not to say that government workers don’t work hard – please don’t take this as a personal criticism if you work for the government….

    it’s just that I am so sick and tired of seeing my money spent poorly and being wasted and used for bonuses and fat retirements, etc., and yet this week I saw a video tape where an elderly lady was homeless and sleeping on the streets. WHAT? An elderly lady? What in the world are they doing with my taxes, when elderly ladies are sleeping on sidewalks????

  • Pingback: David Housholder | Spirituality | Politics | Health | Faith | Liberty()

  • Gary

    David, you are confusing the two kingdoms here. You assume there is a possibility for a non-coercive society on this side of the eschaton. Part of the idea of the two kingdoms is the proper distinction between law and gospel, where we ascribe salvation to God and God alone. What this article concerns is the restraint of evil in the world, the first use of the law, which will always be imperfect because it occurs through human institutions. I thought I’d point that out.

    • Gary, I don’t think a non-coercive society is totally possible. Neither is “the common good.”

      But I believe in my heart of hearts we should shoot for both….

  • I sure like what you’re saying in this essay. But We The People have exactly and only what We The People have freely chosen. Some of us offer an alternative (, but I’m not holding my breath for an epiphany. What we had in this country was unprecedented and precious in its scale and scope of liberty under law. Damn us all as fools for throwing it away.
    Still, we can always choose better. And we live in hope, don’t we?

  • I don’t agree with all of your “theses,” but thank you for sharing. God bless you, also. I wrote a post on this subject recently,

    • Thanks for the link, Scott, and your thoughtfulness on the topic.

  • Roy A. Harrisville

    Once upon a time Jewish and Christian attitudes toward marriage were reflected in our country’s laws. Sort of like the Middle Ages when one conceptuality dominated. That made it easier, simpler. But that day is long gone. Now Christians must address their questions without help from the outside, but the problem is that most are scholastics, i.e. have been programmed to believe that faith is formed by love, and not the other way around–which is why they get all tangled up on these cultural issues, and the two-for-a-nickle ignoramuses at the top with their tin-horn agendas take advantage of them. Like that crazy airman riding the bomb in “Dr. Strangelove,” we’re headed for total irrelevancy.. And that’s probably o.k. Luther said it was wrong to name a fellowship after his “maggoty bag of a name.” Old Roy Harrisville.

    • Blessed to hear from you, Roy. BTW, I preached at Edison Park last month.

    • Patrick Hansel

      Well, that surely cleared it up!

  • In the debate on marriage, people tend to concentrate on the two willing adult parties involved in the contract.

    Traditional marriage was about the fate of people created by the union (procreation).

    The fact that kids are dependent on the parents who produced the kids was the driving force beyond the tradition of marriage.

    Kids are not willingly and knowingly entering a contract when they get born.

    The Christian sacrament of marriage wasn’t just about the civil rights of the partners involved in the marriage. It was driven by thoughts on procreation and the children produced by a marriage.

    I found the article lacking because it did not mention the kids.

  • Terry Branham

    As for my house, we will follow the Bible’s teachings. The Lord created Marriage and the purpose of marriage between one man and one woman is critical to a healthy society. Look at the stats of crime and problems in Sweden and other European nations that allowed same sex marriage and adoptions at a high rate over the past 15 years. This has nothing to do with your political party as Libertarian viewpoints when reviewed in detail always lead to financial ruin for a culture or nation not to mention the Lord wanted ‘order’ in our world and the Libertarian viewpoint destroys order in so many ways. There is no relationship as glorious as a happy healthy marriage – it takes work, but it is awesome. Thank you Jesus!

    • The Bible is anti-big government, Terry. The Prophet SO lamented when the people of Israel wanted a king. “Think it over,” he warned. “The king will rule over you, draft your sons, and lay tax burdens on you….” The Lord relented and gave them a king. But it was not his Plan A. I take it you don’t buy into the vision of the founding fathers either…. I do. Give me liberty.

      • Nicholas

        I agree with you David, on the bible being anti-government, but I disagree on the reasons. Jesus did say, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” I think the extent of Jesus’ message was mainly pay your taxes whatever they be… Other than that, the rest is God’s. In other words, honor your obligations to your country, but maintain your loyalty to God first.

        As for the founding fathers. I’m curious if you’d read about the Whiskey Rebellion. I don’t think that they were as adamant about things as you believe them to be.

        • The render unto Caesar quote is the most out of context rabbinical smack-down of them all. Jesus also, by going to dinner with a short guy, inspired him to give back taxes he had coerced from people, four fold. Jesus even called it “salvation.”

      • Terry Branham

        I know the Lord’s hand is all over the creation and success of this United States of America and i do see a change to radical rise in crime in Sweden after the surge of same sex unions and adoptions. The adolesent crime rate is a big deal in debate in europe. I love the founding fathers and hate big government. Praise our Lord!
        He did want ‘order’ on this earth and tribes are not the way so some forms of government is necessary.

      • Nicholas

        David, I remember that story… Zacchaeus, was his name correct? Yeah. He wasn’t inspired to return the tax money. He was inspired to return the money that he made for himself through fraudulant means.

        I did some reading up on the Render unto Caesar stuff. I now believe that it wasn’t even refering to taxes. One, for the fact that they were being occupied by a foreign force. Two, that the foreign force wasn’t really the one doing the taxing which Jesus was being asked about. And three, that it wasn’t really a tax in the general sense of it’s use (i.e. for the common good and as an obligation as a citizen of the country). It was a tribute to Caesar. It was essentially a protection racket. The tribute wasn’t so much a tax as it was Caesar’s way of enforcing loyalty and worship. In that sense, it wasn’t about taxes at all, but about not bowing to a man that considered himself a god. In other worlds, not worshipping any other gods (1st commandment, I believe… it’s been a while since I’ve actually looked at the order). Because of this, I don’t believe Jesus really concerned himself with politics. He really only concerned himself with the religious aspects of life. In fact, from the article I read that debates the meaning of that phrase, every act of subtle sedition that Jesus performed (that they claimed was directed at the “big-government” was in direct response to Caesar’s (and Rome’s) boasts. As if to say that every act that Caesar claimed highlighted his godhood was something God could easily do (as if what Caesar was boasting about was no big thing). So, it’s very much possible that Jesus was neither anti-, nor pro-government.

        As for Terry’s response, I’m still not seeing the correlation you’re making between the rise of crime in Sweden and the legalization of Same Sex Marriage. The reported crime rate per capita for Sweden has been on the rise for the past 50 or so years. Same Sex Marriage has only been legal for the last 3 years. From the looks of the statistics, Same Sex Marriage is not the cause for rise of crime in Sweden.

    • Nicholas

      What exactly are you inferring, Terry, about Sweden and other European nations crime rates? And which other European nations? From what I can find scouring the net for statistics, is seems that same-sex marriage has had little effect on crime rates. Granted, I’ve found articles that seem to attribute the decline of marriages and traditional family in Sweden and Denmark, but the articles are bologne. The decline of traditional marriage was happening before Sweden and Denmark passed laws to allow same-sex marriage. The passing of the law allowing same-sex marriage had no effect on the already declining marriage rate. It neither increased its decline nor slowed it. The bigger picture, though, is that relying on any kind of statistic is honestly useless. There are so many other factors which can affect it (i.e. rise in population which leads to over-crowding, decline in the world market which cause lost jobs and which could lead to a willingness to commit crimes, additional new laws that require jail time, etc.) that attributing the changes to any particular reason is nigh-impossible.

    • Patrick Hansel

      Um, Sweden has a lower crime rate, and much lower murder rate than the US. Depending on how we read the Bible, God also sanctioned many wives for one man (David. Isaac, etc) and even sex outside of marriage (Abraham with Hagar). We don’t take the bible literally in terms of what Jesus says about money or violence. Just some things to think about

  • lylesnyder

    Nice article David. Might I add one thing to the relationship contract specialists? I hope they would include planning for nullification of the contract? In a crazy way, I think it could actually result in lowering the divorce rate. 🙂

  • Kimberly Zarley

    I’ve only skimmed the comments…but this is an interesting article (and point), especially as viewed through the lens of a single heterosexual woman who cannot access insurance through loving relationship, only occupation. This makes sense. But gets to the root of the number one playground problem: “name-calling.” Who is going to monitor that? We need God to curb the “sticks and stones” game. When the church fails to do its job, the government steps in … And there we go, our freedom slips away. Maybe more God is the answer to less government. (And as a sidebar, or is it related? – I’m also curious about your reflections on the ideas of René Girard re: violence, playground and otherwise.) Thanks!

  • Craig

    While I share you libertarian philosophy, I think your approach is wrong. This is not a battle that the Church can avoid, nor should we. The other side view TM supporters as hateful bigots with views similar to the Jim Crow Laws of the old south. Do you think for a moment that we can let something similar to Jim Crow exist in our society? If gay mariage is legalized, the next battle will be lawsuits against individual churches for refusing to marry same sex couples. The first amendment will not protect the church.

    As Christians we should know defend marriage because it is the most loving thing we can do for all people – gay and straight. We need to fight to restore marriage – i.e. ending no fault divorce too. The decline of marriage has harmed thousands. In my hometown, it’s now normal to have a 25% drop out rate.

    As Christians I think we need to be motivated by love for all, including God and what he created. It would be nice if Christians viewed this as an opportunity to be hated for our love. We need to be wise enough to see the good and not the perfect. If we allow the people to decide this issue by voting. We will likely not get perfect results, but something we can live with. I suspect many states would end up with TM protected, and CU for others.

    Marriage is one of the foundations of civilization. When it collapses we get societies like Nazi Germany. It may not happen right away. Social Security is going to crush millions of people when the bubble finally breaks but it will take almost a century for that to happen. If we get marriage wrong, we or our decendents won’t be able to avoid the consequences.

    • Nicholas

      Craig, when people can get married in courthouses, I very highly much doubt that churches with see lawsuits for not marrying same sex couples. If they do it will be few and far between. The primary reason is that, if the church doesn’t allow same sex marriages, it would stand to reason that they probably don’t allow same sex couples within their congregation. Hence, chances are that the same sex couples who want to be married will most not use that church anyway.

      As for the collapse of marriage creating a society akin to Nazi Germany… I really fail to see how that even equates. Even with marriage in the world, Nazi Germany still came about. The primary aspect of Nazism (which is the same primary aspect of Fascism, as they differ in very little) is militarism. Nazi Germany was nothing more than a bunch of bullies and thugs enforcing their view on their society through brute force and man power. It was the realization of the worst possible outcome of the “majority rules” mentality.

      Here’s something to think about. God loves you and shows his love by giving you free will… the ability to choose any path in life that you wish to take. Yet, you would show your love by not allowing the GLBT community to marry… essentially saying that they can choose any path except that one. If you want to show Christ’s love, should you not also show it by loving in the same manner in which Christ and His Father love?

    • Jo

      I agree with much of what Craig says but WOW! I am so disappointed with so many of the comments here. I am a retired nurse, a mother of two, (one of whom calls herself a lesbian), and a Christian. I am NOT a scholar, although I do study the Bible and desire to understand who God is and what it means to be a Christ-follower.

      I just finished “The Truth Project” and it put some perspective, for me, on how I already understood what God has said in Scripture about government and its role in our lives.

      I love our country and am so very grateful that I was so blessed to be born here and given so much opportunity and freedom. I still get confused, from time to time, about how to best support the democracy which has so richly blessed me, while still obeying God and honoring His LORDSHIP.

      We are called to love with God’s love, but His love is always based on truth. I can choose to “love” my daughter with human love…which would be SO EASY to do….meaning that I would cave to what makes both of us most comfortable in our relationship…..affirming her choices and pretending along with her, that all is fine. That way, we would not have that chasm the currently exists between us….her feeling as if I reject HER b/c I reject her beliefs and choices, and my continual tightrope walk of living out truth (I did not go to their “ceremony”, I treat her “partner” as I would treat any of her friends and her “partner’s children” with love and kindness but will not call them grandchildren nor have them identify me as “Mimi” like my actual grandchildren do. Those are just some examples) I have friends condemn me and look at me with horror when they understand the line I have drawn.

      I LOVE my daughter. I would give my life for her. She and her friends and many of MY friends, cannot understand that I can love her so deeply and not just “accept” her choices. But I cannot get around what I see over and over in Scripture. If I believe the Bible I can’t pick and choose about which parts I must obey. And neither can my daughter, if she is honest. I truly believe that God gave her this trial b/c He has and will give her all the strength and courage to deal with it in a way that will ultimately honor Him and be for her good. And I am praying to that end….for her and for myself. The love I offer her must rise above my own desire for her love in return….I must love her with love that is as close to Christ’s love as He gives me the strength to offer…which would propel her toward His TRUTH and not the transient “happiness” or “equal rights” of this earth, but rather an intimate relationship with Christ leading to eternal life and glorious joy in heaven that is beyond any joy here on earth.

      Supporting ME, as you refer to it, only joins in the lies of Satan and agrees that something less than marriage is equal to marriage. It only assists my daughter and others like her, in deceiving themselves. How, as a Christian, can I participate in that, REGARDLESS of what it means to our country?

      But getting back to our country and democracy. I don’t think any of you here, even the libertarians, would say they believe there is a perfect type of government. The outrageous “experiment” of America has been, for over 200 years, the best of the best. Why? Because it would founded on the principles laid out in The Bible, with the people who were in power largely agreeing to the the moral principals that were that foundation. And as the electorate grew, that consensus remained…..even with the ugly issue of racism. It was that consensus of belief that God is who decides what is right and what is wrong, that overcame slavery and has been a continual push against racism in general. And it was the functioning of the government, largely based on those principles (although imperfectly!) that garnered God’s protection and blessing.

      With humanism in control now, and I believe God’s blessing and protection is as well. There is NO standard of right and wrong…NO consensus of belief……our country is hopelessly splintered int myriad belief groups that CANNOT just “peacefully coexist” (don’t you just love those bumper stickers?!) b/c they are antithetical to each other! A democracy cannot exist in this environment. Period. (Did I mention that I also have a degree in political science?)

      Those of you here who don’t think your church will be sued for not being willing to admit gay members of to ordain gay pastors or to perform gay marriages… you not read more than the NY Times? or listen to more than CNN and MSNBC?

      Just take a look at what has happened to the Boy Scouts! There have been numerous lawsuits aimed at ANYONE or any institution who dare to try to maintain a Biblical stand on homosexuality and with each new law won by the gay-lesbian activists, those lawsuits are empowered and growing in number and breadth. I have asked my daughter if she will visit me in jail.

      I am sickened and saddened by what I see happening to my beloved country….but that is not the primary motivation for my stand against ME. I want the best for others….not some cheap, fake substitute. I especially want that for my daughter. I am not going to join in the fraud.

  • Timothy Brown

    One of the benefits of a society with licensing processes is that it protects the weak. And while we can’t control what people think, there is something to be a said for a society that won’t allow, at least on paper, people to be discriminated against.

    It’s nice to think of a “totally free” society, and while what you write pretends to be intellectually sound, it’s actually delusional. What you define as “coercive” is actually protective. And while you might not think that you need protecting, it could be that the State licenses people to protect folks not only like you, but from you.

    We must remember that we are not the center of the universe. Your worldview seems to take for granted that a person is an island unto themselves. It’s simply not true.

    • Please, tell me about how people are safer under Caesar than living in a free society where aggression (including current widespread government coercion) is the one thing that is truly not tolerated. A big state seeks to protect. Yes. Protect itself first.

      • Nicholas

        David, I think you spelled it out right there, the government seeks to protect itself first. Of what is the government comprised? People. It’s people protecting themselves, first. Even if we attempted a Libertarian society, we’d still have to deal with the those that seek to protect their interests (read beliefs, as well as the usual property, business, etc.) first (some, I’d even say a lot, would resort to violence). This in turn would require the state to grow again (to protect those that cannot protect themselves), and we’d be in the same situation we are now.

        The best you’ll get out of a Libertarian society, in the world in which we currently live, is a “majority rules” mentality. Which is what the Civil Rights movement had to combat (taking nearly one hundred years to see the freed slaves actually have their human rights given to them).

        The problem is not, in and of itself, big government. It’s that the government is controlled by people who maintain their biases rather than thinking about things objectively.

        • Thanks for your views. If it is true that government is self feeding, then we have to work hard to have an every-generation reformation.

          And by the way, democracy is not that important to libertarians. Protection of rights is way more vital.

          People tend to vote themselves benefits. Thus the constitution did not set up a pure democracy. Nor did the right to vote end up in the Bill of Rights.

  • James Krauser

    No one [TM] should have to call a ME relationship a marriage. Sounds simple, sounds fine. Except that we do not live in discrete bubbles. I could be tempted to agree that no one should be forced to call it a “marriage” but in the end to refuse to call it (or worse to refuse to regard it as a) marriage is offensive and foolish—I might think some people have odd first names too, but it would be absurd for me to refuse to call someone by their own name. One might not advocate such [ME] relationships or attend a celebration of one, or put those couples on your Christmas card list, but everyone should have to acknowledge and yield to the prerogatives that belong to such a relationship out of respect for the decision made by the couple to be in that relationship. It isn’t just a matter of leaving them alone; it is also not actively interfering in their relationship. I’m not just talking taxes here. The government’s involvement in marriage probably leans more to protecting/balancing rights between parties, than in trying to control or foster certain relationships. For example, what happens when one spouse in a ME couple is in a sudden accident and needs medical treatment without the benefit of a designated health care proxy? Or dies intestate? Both the ME spouse and a TM sibling could assert “next of kin” status. Both could be equally sincere in their belief that they are the rightful next of kin? But is that simply a matter of personal opinion? The TM sibling might refuse to recognize the ME marriage, but which should the doctor, the hospital recognize? Should the doctor’s personal view of marriage TM or ME count? Legal marriage provides the answer. A big role for government often undervalued is that of impartial umpire in disputes between parties. That’s why we have marriage licenses and benefits codified into law. What clearly isn’t government’s role is to yield control of a word or concept or “institution” to one segment of society (as if marriage could be copyrighted or trademarked) when others can use, benefit and be served by that same system of law..

    • In a free society people can choose their next of kin and so designate. Could do it on a free downloadable form. It’s no one else’s responsibility. Not the government’s. Adults need to designate their heirs and those they see as closest. Why should an estranged brother have preference over a men’s group prayer partner of 20 years? The government doesn’t pick your family. You do.

      • James Krauser

        Of course the government doesn’t pick your family, but it has established a system for identifying heirs and such if your wishes have not been declared on paper. Marriage is one way, indeed the most common way to make such a declaration to a person not related by blood, another is adoption, another is a health care proxy, another is a will. And even if you do make such declarations it is the government that assures that those wishes have force should someone dispute your choice. As I say in most wedding homilies, marriage is the only relationship in your life most people choose, the only one for that can name the date of its beginning, the only one that requires the full willing assent of both parties.

  • Randy

    The problem with explaining libertarian ideals to a 21st century American is that we are currently thousands of miles away from that possibility and hurtling at ever increasing speed in the opposite direction. I have been an idealistic libertarian ever since my Hillsdale College days. The libertarian society was first defined (to me anyway) by Murray Rothbard in his book For A New Liberty, published in 1973. I still have my hardbound copy around somewhere, but it is currently available for free at

    Hous’ description of how M (TM or ME) could work in a libertarian society makes sense once you understand what a libertarian society means and I encourage everyone to read Rothbard’s “Libertarian Manifesto” to gain that understanding. Unfortunately I assume that very few will undertake Rothbard’s 400+ page journey leaving Hous trying to explain M in a libertarian society the equivalent of explaining penguins to people who have only lived at the equator. (A poor analogy I know, but I needed something.)

    The problem as I see it is the equating of “marriage” with “rights”. This really began (IMHO) when the church allowed the state to usurp marriage in terms of the tax code. Actually the abdicated the term “marriage” since the church saw the immediate benefits to having differences in tax status codified in the tax code. The tax code was the first step in the journey which led us to where we are now, where “marriage” and “rights” (medical, inheritance, etc.) are bound together. I believe that the answer is to separate marriage in terms of church and state. If a couple wishes to be recognized as married by the state (with all the rights and obligations involved) then they would have a “state marriage”. If the same couple wished to be married in the eyes of some other group (i.e. the church) that other group would have its “marriage”. Thus the state could have its definition of “marriage” (and argue about what body – federal, state, local – would codify it) while the church would be free to define marriage in its way. It would, of course, be easier if the two (church and state) used different terms. I suggest that the church be allowed to keep the term marriage, since it was theirs to begin with, and the state develop another term, most likely a long involved acronym of some sort.

  • Social Gadfly

    Why do we need the government to determine the legality of marriage at all? People should just do what they want. Everyone acts like this is some huge social problem, but the divorce rate suggests that straight people aren’t doing a very good job with marriage themselves.

  • Patrick Hansel

    In our history, we’ve tried to go the “libertarian” ways of not licensing businesses, so we have a lot of data to rely on. Up until the first few decades of the 20th century, hardly anything was licensed, and the result was to put it mildly, not that great (read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair, if you’d like to go back to the time before food production and worker safety was not overseen by a governmental agency). The idea that if we just get government out of the way, and let people use their freedom sounds good when you say it, but it’s based on an assumption that human beings will do what is good and moral without any kind of external sanctions. To me, that overlooks the pervasive ability of sin to touch every aspect of human life–it ends up being as utopian as communism. There is a balance between individual rights and initiative and the commons, exercised in various forms, including the government. I’ve travelled to countries that had very few protection for individual rights (like the Soviet Union) and countries that had very little oversight of business (most of Latin America in the 80s and early 90s). It’s hard to say which was worse.

    • What’s the best regulation? The few (centralized control) or the many (a free society)? I vote for door number 2. Patrick, bless you, but you sometimea parrot, in an unreflected way, what the folks behind door number 1 taught you all the way through…

      • Patrick Hansel

        As to parroting, I think the adage is “If you spot it, you got it!”

      • Patrick Hansel

        And furthermore David, respond to my comments if you disagree, and not simplify the response: we don’t live in a world where it’s a choice between the centralized few and the libertinized many. It’s a lot more complicated than that. We are the many, and we live out as the many in various ways: family, church, community, businesses, institutions, local government, state & federal, etc. I don’t agree with all government regulations by any means (try renovating an abandoned building in Philly for a community center, as we did twice), but “the many”-as you put it, can also be tyrannical, Just look at our history in terms of racism.

        • Racism is the most anti-liberty system of all. And….it was our government that protected it.

          Which of the candidates always speak out against the institutional racism of our police/prison system and the war on drugs? Not the socialists. That would be the liberty people.

          And yes, renovating anything with “mother may I” regulations is very very trippy. Been there.

          And the things you mention are voluntary associations. The way everything can be. Visualize it.

          Imagine how long wars would last if soldiers could quit and go home if they wanted (as in any other job).

      • Lakeville

        Rev. Housholder’s might agree that the following is an example of racist government sponsored nanny state at the extreme.

        From: “The New Jim Crow” (Michelle Alexander, 2010)

        “Precisely how the system of mass incarceration works to trap African-Americans in a virtual (and literal) cage can best be understood by viewing the system as a whole… The first stage is the roundup [when] vast numbers of people are swept into the criminal justice system by the police, who conduct drug operations primarily in poor communities of color…

        Once arrested, defendants are generally denied meaningful legal representation and pressured to plead guilty, whether they are or not. Once convicted… virtually every aspect of one’s life is regulated and monitored by the system.

        The final stage… often [has] a greater impact on one’s life course than the months or years one actually spends behind bars. [Parolees] will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives-denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Unable to surmount these obstacles, most will eventually return to prison and then be released again, caught in a closed circuit of perpetual marginality.”

        – Excerpted from Chapter 5 (pgs. 180-181)

  • But since time immemorial, the community, call it the tribe, the village, the state, whatever, has had a vested interest in marriage. At least as far as recording it goes, in order to take care of thorny issues such as inheritance and things like that. I don’t see how getting rid of marriage licenses would make anything all that much better.

    Besides, you may think it would be a wonderful idea to create a free market of “relationship contract specialists,” but for most people, the $35 they pay for their marriage license pretty much does the job. I knew of a couple who spent hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars in lawyers fees in order to codify their relationship without “getting the state involved,” but that just seems to me a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    All the ME people are asking is that they be able to get the same value for $35, instead of having to pay thousands of dollars, and then possibly having some judge somewhere decide that it doesn’t really count because he doesn’t believe in it.

    And as for all those licensed barbers, hairdressers, and real estate agents that you’d like to get rid of…I’d sort of like to know that they’ve passed some minimum standard that the license indicates.

  • Richard

    It’s probably the best we can hope for, but with little chance of happening. Even if the state got out of the marriage business, we still live in a society dominated by big institutions–education, media, entertainment–that try to foist their views on everyone else. Kids would still be learning about the “diversity of families,” liberal celebrities and other elite from media, etc. will still be pontificating on their views of the family. Sure, there is more decentralization today, but there still also something called “society” which is based on some common value system, even apart from the government.

  • Paula

    How would your libertarian world (let anyone call their relationship a marriage, but don’t make others call it that) deal with the thousand assumed protections and obligations of marriage regarding property and children?

    • Great point. I Agree with David’s principle almost to a tee, but contract law is a legitimate realm of government. The duty of a government in a free society is to protect the citizen from force & fraud, that’s it. When two people enter a legally binding contract, be it a will, a loan on a car, or a civil union (which I think is how government should file all marriage contracts) it is within the government’s jurisdiction to solve disputes when necessary.

      I also think the change to the tax code should simply be a flat tax or a fair tax. The marriage deduction is social engineering, or the government coercing the citizen to participate in an action it deems beneficial. There is no room for coercion in a free society.

  • Lakeville

    Thank you for your insights on this issue. Well researched, thought out, and presented.

Back to Top ↑