Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Libertarian Question

That's the title of a piece at NRO by Stanley Kurtz. Kurtz's purpose is to explore the bearing of libertarian philosophy of the question of gay-marriage. He begins by posing the libertarian question(s):
    Why should any form of adult consensual sex be illegal? What rational or compelling interest does the state have in regulating consensual adult sex? More specifically, how does the marriage of two gay men undermine my marriage? Will the fact that two married gay men live next door make me leave my wife? Hardly. So how, then, does gay marriage undermine heterosexual marriage? Why not get the state out of such matters altogether?
He then sets out to show that the libertarian mindset has difficulty finding a place for social taboos, specifically those concerning consensual sexual relations.

More importantly, Kurtz argues that in fact certain forms of consensual sexual relations do impact negatively on marriage. Although seeing a gay couple may not prompt me to divorce my wife (as the "libertarian question" puts it), Kurtz argues that what once were called "non-typical" sexual relations impact society's understanding of marriage, negatively so. At one point, Kurtz states,
    But what, exactly, does the taboo on homosexuality protect? There is more than one way to approach that question, but the short answer is: The taboo on homosexuality protects marriage. Or, to look at the same problem from a slightly different angle, the institution of Western marriage, in its most traditional form, has been protected by a many-sided taboo against all sexuality outside of its confines — and against non-procreative sexuality within it. Just as the taboo on incest reduces the temptation to child abuse, the taboo on non-marital and non-reproductive sexuality helps to cement marital unions, and helps prevent acts of adultery that would tear those unions apart.
Later, he elaborates further on how gay marriage is detrimental to monogomy:
    First, gay marriage threatens monogamy because homosexual couples — particularly male homosexual couples — tend to see monogamy as nonessential, even to the most loyal and committed relationships. [...] Even more powerfully, gay marriage threatens monogamy through its tendency to lead, on a slippery slope, to the legalization of polygamy and polyamory.
Kurtz thus addresses the libertarian question head on:
    The libertarian asks, Just because two married gay men live next door, is that going to make me leave my wife? In a way, the answer is "Yes." For one thing, as a new generation grows up exposed to gay couples who openly define their marriages in non-monogamous terms, the concept of marriage itself will gradually change.
This is a powerful piece, well worth reading.


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