Against State-Sponsored Gay Marriage

Column by R.K. Blacksher.

Exclusive to STR

In an 1877 essay titled “Against Women’s Suffrage,” Lysander Spooner wrote, “Women are human beings, and consequently have all the natural rights that any human being can have.” These natural rights, Spooner argued, do not include the “right” to use the power of the state to engage in theft and coercion against other human beings. He concluded:
“If the women, instead of petitioning to be admitted to a participation in the power of making more laws, will but give notice to the present lawmakers that they (the women) are going up to the State House, and are going to throw all the existing statute books in the fire, they will do a very sensible thing, – one of the most sensible things it is in their power to do.”
Similarly, anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman wrote, “Yet woman clamors for that ‘golden opportunity’ that has wrought so much misery in the world, and robbed man of his integrity and self-reliance; an imposition which has thoroughly corrupted the people, and made them absolute prey in the hands of unscrupulous politicians.”
Spooner and Goldman were not misogynists. They were just very keenly aware of the destructive effect that the state has on everything with which it becomes involved. Since gay marriage is in the news again, their insights should be kept in mind when considering this issue.
It is not surprising that nearly all individuals, movements, and institutions seeking to control others always attempt either to undermine or to regulate people’s relationships with their spouses and families. Examples of movements and institutions that have sought to undermine and destroy people’s relationships with their spouses and families include Marxism, Leninism, the Khmer Rouge, and a variety of different cults.
Most movements and institutions, recognizing the difficulty of successfully undermining familial and spousal relationships, instead try to control and regulate these relationships. In tribal societies, parents often control the relationships of their children. Arranged marriages are very common, and the marriages are often arranged for the benefit of the parents (hence the ubiquity of dowries and bride-prices). In societies dominated by religion, people’s relationships are controlled and regulated by religious institutions. And in statist societies, people’s relationships are controlled and regulated by the state.
In some respects, early Christianity was an example of a movement that sought to undermine the family. In Matthew 10:34-37, Jesus is quoted as saying:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -- man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Early Christianity was, of course, not as anti-family and anti-marriage as Marxism and Leninism. Indeed, there are other passages in the New Testament that present a positive view of marriage and the family. Regardless, marriage among early Christians was typically considered a private affair.
As Christianity became more widely accepted and as the church became the dominant institution in medieval Europe, the Church began to take steps to control and regulate people’s relationships. In “How the Mind Works,” Steven Pinker discusses some interesting examples of the ways in which the Catholic Church (along with other institutions) used rules regarding sex and marriage to protect its own interests and the interests of those running it.
For example, Pinker notes that in medieval Europe, parents typically bequeathed their estates entirely to their oldest son. The other sons then often went off and joined the church. The church thus became “filled up with disinherited younger sons, who then manipulated marriage rules to make it harder for owners and title-holders to bear legitimate heirs. If they died without sons, the properties and titles passed back to the disinherited brothers or the church they served” (page 440).
The state first began to get involved in marriage around the time of the Protestant Reformation. In an effort to undermine the authority of the Catholic Church, some of the Reformers enlisted the assistance of the state. Marriage, in the words of Martin Luther, was “an estate of the earthly kingdom . . . subject to the prince, not the Pope.” According to scholar John Witte, Jr., John Calvin believed that “marriage required the coercive power of the state to preserve its integrity. But it also required the spiritual counsel of the church to demonstrate its necessity.”
Indeed, England’s break with the Catholic Church was precipitated in part by Pope Clement’s refusal to annul the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The English Parliament subsequently passed legislation transferring the payment of certain taxes from the Pope to the English Crown, and Henry VIII declared himself supreme head of the church in England in 1534.
Since that time, the state has gradually taken on a larger role in regulating people’s relationships with their spouses and their families. In 1792, the French Revolution “introduced the compulsory civil marriage. Germany followed suit in the 19th century when Bismarck diminished the influence of the Catholic Church. Eventually, marriage before some magistrate or government official became the only valid form of marriage in most of the Western world.”
The growth in the state’s role in marriage has been accompanied by an increase in the size and power of the state in general. When marriage was regulated by the church, marriage was viewed as a three-way covenant between a man, a woman, and God. As the state, both in the minds of its custodians and in the popular imagination, began to be viewed as a quasi-divine institution, marriage came to be seen as a three-way covenant between two individuals and the government.
Homosexuals have long been an oppressed minority. In modern history, the primary oppressors of homosexuals have typically been the state and people working through the state. In addition, as Thaddeus Russell points out in A Renegade History of the United States, most of the major victories that have been achieved by the gay rights movement have been achieved by private individuals fighting against oppression by the state.
Just like the state co-opted the civil rights movement after many of the major victories had already been achieved by private individuals, the state is now trying to co-opt the gay rights movement. The state wants people to believe that it is their protector, their redeemer, and the guarantor of their liberty.
In a free society, relationships would be entirely voluntary interactions between free individuals. Homosexual couples should, of course, have the same freedom of contract as heterosexual couples. To the extent that the state restricts the freedom of homosexuals, those restrictions should be removed. And the state should not grant any special privileges to heterosexual couples.
Needless to say, the conservative “defenders of traditional marriage" are incredibly foolish. They seek to protect the "sanctity of marriage" by expanding the role of the state in controlling and regulating marriage. Frankly, I can think of no better way of completely undermining marriage and the family. One could be forgiven for speculating that the self-proclaimed “defenders of traditional marriage” might actually be closet Marxists.
In her widely derided column about Ron Paul and privatized marriages, Ann Coulter delivered the following litany of reasons to support government involvement in marriage:
“If state governments stop officially registering marriages, then who gets to adopt? How are child support and child custody issues determined if the government doesn't recognize marriage? How about a private company's health care plans -- whom will those cover? Who has legal authority to issue ‘do not resuscitate’ orders to doctors? (Of course, under Obamacare we won't be resuscitating anyone.) Who inherits in the absence of a will? Who is entitled to a person's Social Security and Medicare benefits? How do you know if you're divorced and able to remarry?”
Although Coulter is an ignorant buffoon, she does unintentionally hint at a very important point here. Why would anyone, homosexual or heterosexual, want the government that intimately involved in regulating so many important aspects of people’s private lives?
“Democracy,” H. L. Mencken famously said, “is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it, good and hard.” To avoid the prospect of getting it good and hard, advocates of same-sex marriage should think twice before asking the state to enter into a three-way covenant between them and their loved ones.
Instead, gay rights activists should, to quote Spooner again, “throw all the existing statute books in the fire.” Everyone would benefit as a result of that.

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R. K. Blacksher's picture
Columns on STR: 9

R. K. Blacksher is a writer and musician. He maintains a blog at


B.R. Merrick's picture

"Needless to say, the conservative 'defenders of traditional marriage' are incredibly foolish. They seek to protect the 'sanctity of marriage' by expanding the role of the state in controlling and regulating marriage. Frankly, I can think of no better way of completely undermining marriage and the family."

Nor can I. Gay marriage will have little effect on an institution that has been made comatose by the state, and by the state's embrace of feminist/misandrist policies. Now men can be wrenched from their children without being able to pay the exhorbitant fees necessary to defend themselves. Family courts are owned by feminists and misandrists. Now these same nasty sorts are coming after gays. We should be far more careful about what we wish for.

Brilliant and informative article. I'll be digging into this for more writing in the future.