Why Marriage Matters and Why Moral Libertarianism is a Recipe for Political and Practical Failure
For those reading this blog as we have occasionally dealt with the issue of gay marriage, etc. in this year’s session, you may have come to the conclusion that our “Premier blog of conservative and Republican politics and ideas” is a libertarian shell devoid of any positive acknowledgement of the traditionalists who are so vital to our conservative cause.
If so, let me, in the paragraphs that follow, destroy that notion. Let me also rebut the political advice of my friend Mr. Griffiths, who does not believe that our movement is served by the determined and principled defense of traditional marriage or, I expect, most other cultural issues emanating from what he politely dismisses as our “moral or religious objections”.
The determined opposition by conservatives to the most radical gay marriage bill ever seriously considered by the General Assembly is, despite my erstwhile colleague’s admonition to the contrary, both good policy and good politics.
Let us keep in mind, the purpose of this bill is not to provide homosexual couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples, something that could be accomplished by an alternative civil union. Its clear and unambiguous purpose is to redefine the institution of marriage in Maryland and make homosexuality the moral equivalent of heterosexuality. It is not in the eyes of the law alone that the “gay rights” movement has been pushing for such recognition. Their revolution has been ongoing for years in not only every statehouse but every classroom, courtroom, house of worship and in every institution from the American Psychiatric Association to the Boy Scouts. The end of this movement is not the tolerance of homosexuality, that already exists. It is the moral recognition and compelled acceptance of the lifestyle. A fact evidenced by the need to disingenuously title this bill the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Act”. The sponsors of this legislation were forced to amend their proposal obstensibly to prevent clergy from being forced to perform marriages which have never been legal in Maryland’s nearly 400 year existence. But these protections are inadequate and are not designed to prevent the irreversible damage which will be done to a great many institutions caused by the passage of this bill.
Given the radical nature of this proposal, all Republican members of the General Assembly should oppose it with all of their energies, including an attempt at filibuster. Conservatives must remember those who were complicit in allowing the institution of marriage to be redefined and the fundamental building block of our civil society to be not only further eroded but perhaps irretrievably broken. They should not allow those who claim to be against the proposal to vote for cloture only to later vote against the bill. This is an old trick and a shameful one.
The fallout from the passage of this bill will not be the glorious explosion of freedom and civil rights asserted by its supporters. Nor will it be the benign alteration of an anachronistic and individual arrangement that those, like my well-meaning friend Mr. Griffiths, believe it will be.
Look at any part of this country where the traditional family is weakest, where you have the fewest number of children raised by a mother and a father who are married to each other. Those communities are the least prosperous, the least safe and the least free. It isn’t that gay marriage will in and of itself destroy communities. It is that the degradation of traditional marriage and the traditional family unit has undeniably resulted the destruction of a great many communities and the perpetuation of this societal trend cannot honestly be expected to lead to a brighter future.
Failing to fight to defend the traditional institution of marriage is also bad politics. The passage of this legislation will spark a backlash and electrify morally conservative voters as no issue in Maryland ever has. The electoral casualties from this vote will not be Republicans who voted against the measure or who fought it tooth and nail but any member Republican or Democrat haling from anything short of the most culturally liberal of enclaves. Many a faux conservative Democrat will be exposed by allowing this measure to be voted upon. If this were not the case, the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly would not have avoided allowing such a bill to advance in the past and would not have convinced their most liberal members to hold off in hope, ultimately forlorn, that the courts would take them “off the hook.” These same leaders would not still oppose the bill being proposed.
Remember also that every state where there has been a direct vote to allow gay marriage traditional marriage has prevailed, even in liberal strongholds like California. There is no evidence that popular sentiment on this issue is so vastly different in Maryland that Republicans and conservatives should not see this debate as anything other than a political opportunity.
But Brian’s sentiments are not unique within our movement. The alternative guiding political philosophy favored by my friend, which seeks to demur to the culturally radical elements of our liberal opponents is what I will describe and term “Moral Libertarianism”. As Brian analyzes it
“1.Young voters don’t buy into it. In my position on the Executive Board of the Maryland Young Republicans I speak often with voters who are fiscally conservative, but do not buy into the idea of using the apparatus of the state to deny individual liberties to anybody, especially when two consenting adults who aren’t hurting anybody else are involved.
2.The Tea Party. Guess what? A lot of tea partiers are libertarian leaners who don’t believe that the apparatus of the state should be used to punish individuals, either. Tea Partiers are folks who believe in less government and personal responsibility, and that is their ideological lodestar. Opposition to gay marriage oft-times runs opposite of that. “
Brian is an unapologetic advocate of a secular, libertarian strain of conservatism. The Moral Libertarian sees talk of “moral issues” as a barrier to growing the conservative movement. After all, young people”don’t buy it”. By this rationale, the culture wars of today, including gay marriage, will be a quaint historical relic of the past in another 20 or so years as the Hegelian wheel of history advances a new generation not interested in such trivialities.
While it is easy to see why a political philosophy that opposes any moral restriction, that says you can do what you want with whomever you want, smoke what you want and generally opposing anything that may harsh one’s mellow would be popular in a late night dorm room discussion, it isn’t much of a basis to form a society. Legalizing drugs, prostitution, promoting abortion on demand, elimination any sexual prohibition including even the eradication of marriage itself may seem radically liberating but it ain’t a world most people would want to live in let alone try to raise children. And let’s face it, that is a major focus of the lives of most adults and they really are not interested in voting for people who are antithetically opposed to making that job a little easier.
The founders of this country believed in limited government with defined constitutional powers and checks and balances to prevent the accumulation of power. They also recognized, as Adams put it,
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” –October 11, 1798
Moral Libertarianism ignores this admonition. It is a recipe for Political and Practical Failure.