Christina Annesley writes powerfully on the topic of marriage, gay marriage in particular, and I think she has hit on something important. First she skewers the idea that this is a simple matter and dismisses the usual libertarian line that religious groups e.g. the Church of England should be free to discriminate against homosexuals by pointing out that the Church of England is the church of England. We kinda own it, or at least the state does, so this is not a case of normal people being told what to do, it is an argument between departments of Government. Also, were the CofE not the CofE but the C of… something else… it would still be using a state run system:
Much to my chagrin, marriage is currently a state licence, and it monopolises the right to grant that licence. Whilst I sincerely hope that this changes (and preferably before I can afford my own wedding), these are the facts as they stand. So the question as to whether libertarians should support the right of religion to opt-out of same-sex marriage can be rephrased as; do voluntary institutions have the right to use a state licence? It’s an interesting and complicated question, and brings up the question of – who does the state belong to?
Although the state is funded unequally by the people, it coerces against them equally; based on this argument, we could rightfully deduct that it does indeed belong to ‘us’. Equally. With no special allowances made for any system of beliefs – religion, for example. And as I have already pointed out, marriage is currently a state institution. What right, then, does a discriminating institution have to use a state licence to discriminate against other people that have an equal entitlement to that licence? Surely none at all, and the state is therefore completely entitled to revoke that licence on the basis of discrimination – on the same grounds as it could, for example, if an LGBT organisation that happened to be a provider of state marriages denied a marriage to someone based on their religion.
Of course, this is hardly an ideal situation for anyone.
Well, no. And we saw that coming didn’t we. We were talking for years about why the privitisation of marriage is the only good option. We were, unfortunately, crowded out by statist “liberals” who wanted to permit the state system to be used by gay people and they got their way, they got a compromse. The result is, predictably, (and Paul Marks for example did predict it) a conflict between those who see themselves as having a right to marry religiously, and those of a religious institution that dissapproves. Binding people together, as in so many bad movies, inevitably leads to friction.
It is worth remembering though, that while the sensible quiet and lightly enumerated voice of libertarians was ignored and easily defeated, we have been vindicated. We have another shot at articulating this argument now as the Drewitt-Barlows fight to have a ceremony in a church against the will of it’s owners. Let’s see if we can make a more audible contribution this time.