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February 28, 2013
Gay-rights activists and supporters are gearing up to push for a change to state law, seeking to end the ban on same-sex marriage. As the legislature gets ready to tackle this divisive issue, the LPMN is proposing a new solution.
In May 2011, the Libertarian Party of Minnesota was among the first organizations to take a stand against the anti-liberty Marriage Amendment, recognizing that marriage is a fundamental human right and should be a private matter between individuals. Shortly afterward, the LPMN joined the Minnesotans United coalition which mobilized a year-long statewide campaign to defeat it. In October 2012, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson added his voice, condemning the attempt to enshrine discrimination into the state constitution.
|Libertarians joined other same-sex marriage supporters for a rally at the Capitol on February 14.|
Even after the Amendment’s defeat by voters, the LPMN has continued to work with its partners at Minnesotans United. State statutes still ban same-sex couples from becoming married, so there is more work to be done.
Minnesotans United, now spearheading the effort to change the statutes, is likely to act under the advisement of its attorneys, proposing legislation similar to what has passed in other states where statutory recognition of same-sex unions was enacted. However, Libertarians recognize several drawbacks to that approach. Initially, it creates an opening for the opposition, who are likely to criticize attempts by the GLBT community to “re-define” marriage or to “twist” it into something it has not been. This sets the stage for another polarizing public debate, making legislators wary of supporting same-sex recognition for fear of alienating their voting bases, reducing the odds of success. Even if enacted, same-sex recognition could be repealed by a hostile legislature in the future.
Thus, LPMN officials suggested a different strategy. The institution of marriage has come to be controlled by government in only about the last 100 years. Before then, the state had little or no involvement, with marriages performed by religious institutions or as a ceremony conducted privately in the company of family and friends. Government’s encroachment into marriage has made it vulnerable to the shifting political winds and open to manipulation by legislators seeking political gain.
Rather than simply rewriting the statutes to specifically allow same-sex marriage, the LPMN proposed that new legislation be modeled on the following:
The State of Minnesota shall recognize all marriages performed by religious institutions or arranged as private agreements between two individuals, when signed in writing to this effect in the presence of witnesses, for purposes of determining inheritance, child custody, decisions by probate court, visitation rights by spouses at state-run hospitals, and all other legal purposes, in lieu of a marriage license.
This language would effectively remove the state from marriage. Same-sex marriage supporters could now respond to critics that the institution of marriage is simply being returned to the churches and to the people. It would then be up to each religious organization to decide which marriages they wish to sanction, and as an alternative, individuals would also regain the ability to be married by private agreement when a religious marriage is not desired.
Because the state would automatically recognize religious and private marriages as legal, all couples would receive the same legal treatment regarding inheritance, child custody, and other areas where gays now suffer from unequal treatment by the courts. Liberty would be expanded for traditional couples as well, allowing them to opt-out of a marriage license.
“People need to ask the question that’s not being asked, why does any loving couple have to obtain permission from the government to get married?” stated Andy Burns, LPMN Executive Director. “The fact is, in this polarizing debate, Libertarians are the only group offering a sensible solution that works for all Minnesotans, not just those on the Left or the Right. This is yet another example of how liberty can bring people together.”
Many might not realize that marriage licenses have a shameful history. They were first enacted by state governments in the segregationist South to prevent people of different races from becoming married or having children. As long as the state continues to define marriage, a win for same-sex marriage could later be reversed, or other groups of people might have to re-fight the marriage battle for themselves in the years ahead.
“Government interference in marriage began as a way to target mixed-race couples. Today, gays are the target. Who will be tomorrow’s target?” asked S.L. Malleck, LPMN Vice Chair. “This opportunity to revisit the statutes is an opportunity to end marriage discrimination, not only for gays for today, but for everyone for all time.”
Libertarians understand that political battles over marriage are wrong and unnecessary. Marriage licenses serve no useful purpose. In fact, throughout much of history marriages were simply private agreements with no government involvement at all. The LPMN’s proposal offers a permanent solution to this issue; no longer will politicians be able to turn marriage into a “political football”.
After all, what is marriage but simply a private agreement between two individuals to share their lives?
Concerned about the expansion of government control and the erosion of individual liberty? Please consider joining and becoming active with the Libertarian Party of Minnesota. Libertarians support liberty on all issues, all the time! Libertarianism is a philosophical and political movement to promote personal freedom, strong civil liberties, a genuinely free marketplace, and peace.