Gay marriage 'rights'

Thomas Sowell
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Posted: Dec 31, 2004 12:00 AM

In all the states where gay marriage was on the ballot this year, the voters voted against it -- as they should have.

 Of all the phony arguments for gay marriage, the phoniest is the argument that it is a matter of equal rights. Marriage is not a right extended to individuals by the government. It is a restriction on the rights they already have.

 People who are simply living together can make whatever arrangements they want, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. They can divide up their worldly belongings 50-50 or 90-10 or whatever other way they want. They can make their union temporary or permanent or subject to cancellation at any time.

 Marriage is a restriction. If my wife buys an automobile with her own money, under California marriage laws I automatically own half of it, whether or not my name is on the title. Whether that law is good, bad, or indifferent, it is a limitation of our freedom to arrange such things as we ourselves might choose. This is just one of many decisions that marriage laws take out of our hands.

 Oliver Wendell Holmes said that the life of the law is not logic but experience. Marriage laws have evolved through centuries of experience with couples of opposite sexes -- and the children that result from such unions. Society asserts its stake in the decisions made by restricting the couples' options.

 Society has no such stake in the outcome of a union between two people of the same sex. Transferring all those laws to same-sex couples would make no more sense than transferring the rules of baseball to football.

 Why then do gay activists want their options restricted by marriage laws, when they can make their own contracts with their own provisions and hold whatever kinds of ceremony they want to celebrate it?

 The issue is not individual rights. What the activists are seeking is official social approval of their lifestyle. But this is the antithesis of equal rights.

 If you have a right to someone else's approval, then they do not have a right to their own opinions and values. You cannot say that what "consenting adults" do in private is nobody else's business and then turn around and say that others are bound to put their seal of approval on it.

 The rhetoric of "equal rights" has become the road to special privilege for all sorts of groups, so perhaps it was inevitable that gay activists would take that road as well. It has worked. They have already succeeded in getting far more government money for AIDS than for other diseases that kill far more people.

 The time is long overdue to stop word games about equal rights from leading to special privileges -- for anybody -- and gay marriage is as good an issue on which to do so as anything else.

 Incidentally, it is not even clear how many homosexuals actually want marriage, even though gay activists are pushing it.

 What the activists really want is the stamp of acceptance on homosexuality, as a means of spreading that lifestyle, which has become a death style in the era of AIDS.

 They have already succeeded to a remarkable degree in our public schools, where so-called "AIDS education" or other pious titles are put on programs that promote homosexuality. In some cases, gay activists actually come to the schools, not only to promote homosexuality as an idea but even to pass out the addresses of local gay hangouts to the kids.

 There is no limit to what people will do if you let them get away with it. That our schools, which are painfully failing to educate our children to the standards in other countries, have time for promoting homosexuality is truly staggering.

 Every special interest group has an incentive to take something away from society as a whole. Some will be content just to siphon off a share of the taxpayers' money for themselves. Others, however, want to dismantle a part of the structure of values that make a society viable.

 They may not want to bring down the whole structure, just get rid of the part that cramps their style. But when innumerable groups start dismantling pieces of the structure that they don't like, we can be headed for the kinds of social collapses seen both in history and in other parts of the world in our own times.