How to make trouble over marriage

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.

Fox letter shows equal marriage is not the problem

In a letter, Liam Fox writes that Cameron’s equal marriage policy is “social engineering” and that:

The principle of altering the accepted legal status of the majority of the population in order to satisfy what appears to be a very small, if vocal, minority is not a good basis on which to build a tolerant and stable society

fox-wedding-cakeThe reason Fox is so off-base is that he believes that the law defines language, and therefore what marriage is. For him changing legal marriage to include homosexuals changes the “legal status” of the majority; as if at the stroke of a pen happy marriages will break down around the country. There is no mention in the letter of the moral status, or the objective status or the actual health and vitality of individual marriages. The problem is not the policy, but the idea that the law defines human relationships. As I said before, a superior policy is to remove the state from the picture entirely, marriage should be a lawful but not a legal institution, not defined by anyone apart from the people involved, and whomever they choose to help them with the details.

Marriage, in particular the wedding ceremony, is a form of communication. It is how a couple communicates and celebrates that it is in union. By seeking to define marriage, the state alters what it is possible to communicate, and radically alters the economics of that communication. If a couple want to be married in a way that does not match the expectations of society then it is forced into a compromise. It can rebelliously define itself as married, but will then face a lifetime of asserting that definition and occasionally explaining “oh we’re married, but not legally, I don’t recognise the authority of the state to define my relationships” or, for homosexuals “yes that’s my husband, whatever the law says”. In the end, the act of speaking your mind is made more expensive. And so the state’s use of law and punishment at the edges of the issue, to ensure a relationship is or is not permitted, forces the majority of it’s people into a specific legal institution, simply to ease the process of communicating what they feel. It is the state’s assertion that it defines marriage that is social engineering; that it has been doing it for 200 years does not excuse it.

However, the real problem right at the core of this, is when the culture allows its language to be defined by something without and above itself. Words are the servant, not the master, of the speaker and the Government should be the servant, not the master, of it’s people. The people should not put up with this kind of thing – yet sadly they do.

When it comes to marrying my beloved, I have booked the legal ceremony for the day after the proper ceremony. My friends and family will celebrate a very real marriage that many will regard as a sham, and then to ensure we are using terms society understands, we will reluctantly tick the legal boxes the next day. The fact that this happens afterwards, and not first, is important. It’s meaning: up yours – you do not define us.