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A Libertarian Looks at President Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Proclamation

May 2012

Our president’s views on marriage have “evolved” and now he has come out in favor of “same-sex marriage” (hereafter named “ME” for “marriage equality” in this essay).

This comes on the heels of a crushing defeat to ME advocates at the hands of the citizens of North Carolina who voted 61% to 39%, the previous day, in favor of a state constitutional amendment defining only “traditional marriage” (hereafter named “TM” in this essay) as legal.

The two Billys (Clinton and Graham) weighed in with full-page ads in North Carolina newspapers advocating ME and TM, respectively.

America is not of one mind on this issue.

I am writing this in an airport, about to fly to Mammoth Lakes, California, to perform a marriage. Fitting that I write this now.

Let me lay my cards on the table. Please don’t jump to conclusions based on this short list. My conclusions from this essay are going to surprise you:

  • I am a strong advocate for TM (traditional marriage).
  • I am also a strong advocate for a free society, where coercion is only used to stop aggression.
  • I operate from the assumption that our government’s natural tendency is a “benevolent drift toward a total state.” Our government and leaders generally mean well and end up growing the government and its control over our lives in order to help us. Of course, I believe this generally does more harm than good.

So. On to the discussion…

I am amazed that the advocates for TM and ME are operating under an unhelpful assumption: That the government (federal or state) has the power to license adult relationships.

Marriage licenses are a relatively new thing. For most of our history marriages have been a contract (formal or informal) between individuals and/or families. A religious sanction has been seen as helpful and/or optional in most societies. A “priest” or someone of similar social standing often (but not always) presides.

For much of American history, because we are such an under-populated nation (the topic of another essay), men and women have simply found one another and moved in. They would start referring to each other as husband and wife. Priests/clergy were scarce (perhaps an occasional circuit rider) and the magistrate may well have been the equivalent buggy distance away and expense (in today’s travel time and real cost) of flying to India.

This was also true in Bible times. “He took her as his wife” is a common phrase. The main “social marking” event was a feast/reception and no mention is made of a “judge” or a “priest” showing up. Most Bible people more or less followed the pattern of Adam and Eve and just started the marriage up at their own discretion.

Marriage licenses, unfortunately, came into widespread use after the Civil War, in an effort by racists to control or end “mixed marriages” with newly freed slaves (which in fact had been happening constantly throughout our entire history going back to Jamestown).

When people perceive a “problem,” government is always all too ready to dash in and help “fix” things, and they typically end up with more control over our lives in the end. Just think of the TSA if you want an example.

Thus the widespread custom of marriage licenses was born.

Fast forward to 2012. The culture wars have latched on to the TM vs. ME battle, reinforcing Caesar’s (my favorite term for government power) hold on the role of  “decider.”

Both sides, in feverishly trying to get their view adopted by 100% of the public, are playing a gigantic chess game of “Mother May I” with plebiscites and court cases.

Truth is, the opponents are taking their partisan case to a “casino” where the house (government) always wins.

It’s as if two kids get into a playground argument and, unable to settle their dispute, take it up with the school principal. After generations of this appealing to authority, the principal eventually would control all playground activity at the smallest level of detail.

Free and unsupervised playgrounds (think basketball on the public park courts of the South Side of Chicago or sandlot baseball in the Dominican Republic) always produce better performers than over-managed and over-parented suburban youth sports (think Little League dad syndrome). Liberty works.

So back to the TM/ME debate. As a strong supporter of TM (I think of it as the Creator’s “plan A.”), you may be surprised with what I am going to say.

In short, get rid of marriage licenses. Altogether. While you’re at it, get rid of equivalent licenses for barbers, real estate agents and the like. Even business licenses. I pay $100+  a year to the City of Huntington Beach for my little private S-Corporation license and $800 annually to the State of California so they can keep me on some “register.” I get nothing of value in return for either payment. Yet no one questions the right of the government to demand/coerce such money from us. We obediently write our checks.

So, what business does the government have in registering and charging for voluntary adult relationships? What’s next, a friendship tax?

The whole TM/ME argument is base on a false premise; that the “school principal” is the decider. Both sides seek exclusive permission to define marriage aligned to their opinion and then impose that opinion on the other side, with Caesar’s blessing.

Let me suggest a better way.

In a truly free, non-coercive society, people can do as they please as long as they are not aggressing against others or their property. In a state of liberty, all would be free from physical, social, legal, economic, and intellectual aggression.

Picture a society where adult citizens could live with whomever they wanted and enter, freely, into any covenants they choose with others, on whatever terms they should select.

Any attempt to hinder free people from doing so is a restriction of their liberty.

It is also, and this is often left out, a restriction of intellectual liberty to impose a viewpoint on others. Unfortunately, “liberals” often don’t see their shortcomings in this area. In pushing for marriage equality (ME), they see themselves as the defenders of liberty and forget that they are aggressively redefining marriage and hoping to force this new definition on those who hold to TM (traditional marriage) views. It is not enough, for liberals, to have ME become the law of the land, they fully intend for TM supporters to embrace it, or label them as bigots.

In a free society, we would not be free to foist our definition of marriage on those who choose to think otherwise. This goes both ways.

In other words, requiring someone who strongly supports TM to call same-sex marriage a “marriage” is a form of intellectual aggression and has no place among free people. People have a right to their own viewpoints, definitions, and opinions.

Conversely, TM supporters like me have no right to tell ME folks that they cannot consider same-sex marriage a marriage. The truth is, they already do consider it same sex “marriage” a marriage. And I don’t get to vote on what other people think. And ME supporters don’t get to vote on what I think.

Appealing to Caesar is inappropriate among free people who disagree. We need to work it out on the playground for ourselves. No one has to play jump rope. No one has to hang on the monkey bars. No one has to play tetherball.

Respect for the freedom of another person does not require validating his or her opinion, just his or her right to have that opinion, and agreeing not to aggress against it.

Let’s make this more personal. I am a staunch supporter of TM. However, I realize that there are tens of millions of people who have their minds made up that ME is the way to go. If they want to call same-sex marriage a marriage, that is up to them. I, however, do not have to consider it a marriage or call it one. I can find polite ways to avoid that word (marriage) when discussing the issue. Much as atheists in a free society do not have to believe in God, name him, or pray to him, but they are obligated to let others do so.

First of all, however, we have to get the government out of marriage. Adults would be free to enter into any contract with each other. A new private business would spring up: relational contracts. There could be standard and custom-made contracts. It would be similar to the wills and trusts business so common today—no judge or priest is needed to make it so. These contracts could be cheaper than current marriage licenses, and much more customized to suit the needs of the contract parties. It could be notarized, and you could even get a little card for your wallet designating next of kin if you are found (God forbid) in an accident.

This contract can be updated or cancelled at any time. It’s not like our current way of doing things (with a huge divorce rate) is working all that well….

Next of kin can be designated by anyone. Caesar has no right to decide who your next of kin is. Can be a blood relative, can be a spouse, can be a best friend. Sexual intimacy (or lack thereof) should play no role.

All this being said, one’s Facebook status (single, married, in a relationship, it’s complicated, etc) carries more weight these days than paper from the court house.

These adult, free-will covenants could be celebrated by a reception, a party, a religious ceremony, or whatever they like. They would be free to call it whatever they like. A marriage. A partnership. And those of us “looking in” would also be free to call it whatever we like.

Faith communities would be free to craft their own values on the marriage issue. Some would practice only TM. Some would be open to ME. The congregations or denominations could decide for themselves. Coercion would be absent.

My own Lutheran tradition, with its “two kingdoms” has already paved the way for a dual-voluntary system when it comes to marriage. A tolerant public sphere and a voluntary church sphere. We also teach that marriage is not a sacrament (as opposed to Roman Catholic teaching), and does not need clergy present to make it “real.”

The truth is, I insist on being free to hold exclusively to the TM view, and have the right to congregate with others who agree. We have the right, as a congregation, to live accordingly, just as Orthodox Jews are free to restrict themselves to a kosher diet and set their own voluntary community standards.

A same-sex couple would have every right to call their relationship a marriage. But they would not have the right to force others to call it a marriage. They would be free to try to convince and persuade others, but not to coerce them. That would violate the free thought of others.

Free societies are not “winner takes all” societies. They are truly tolerant and non-aggressive, at every level. Valuing liberty does not mean we have to like what others or doing or to approve of any opinions or behaviors.

What about taxes?

Our tax code would have to be changed to “filing individually” and “filing as a legal collective.” Much as the tax code is free of religious labeling, it would have to be neutral on this issue too, so as not to side with a partisan group. And the truth is, coercive income taxes have no place in a free society anyways. But that’s another story.

Caesar has become such a huge part of our lives that we have forgotten the ground rules of liberty.

Let me be clear. I am not advocating ME. I am advocating for my right to hold to TM within a (much) freer society which is neutral on the subject.

Let’s move toward living freely. And thinking freely.

Visualize liberty.

Adam and Eve were given the Garden of Eden. Their job was to manage it and mind the boundaries.

Israel was given the Promised land, VERY conditionally. If they remained faithful to the plan, they could keep it. If not, they would lose it.

In essence, both parties were homesteaders.

The basic rule is:

1) Get land/property for free.
2) Prove it up.
3) Protect it.
4) Keep it.

Mess it up, and you lose it.

The art of life, basically speaking, is continuous homesteading, in the broadest sense of the term.

We start with little things. Take care of these fish. Take care of this pet. Take care of your toys and your room. Jesus says that if we are faithful in little things, we will be given bigger responsibilities.

Jesus also, in his parables, talks about doubling the value of what was given us (the Parable of the Talents).

In essence, we are all gardeners.

So how is your garden growing?

Is your life a garden or a junkyard?

YOUR BODY

I talked with a doctor yesterday, interviewing him for our radio show. Dr. David Steenblock may well win a Nobel Prize someday. He talked about the bodies he treats being junkyards or gardens. It’s almost impossible to plant seeds (i.e. “do medicine”) in a junkyard body.

“Garden” bodies take daily care. Are you working on your flexibility, muscle strength, bodyfat percentage, respiratory capacity, and energy level? The more you work on these things, the more your body produces stem cells, which lead to fresh tissue repair, which works against aging.

I turned 50 recently and started doing lots of strenuous Pilates work with a trainer. First time I almost cried like a little girl. After a few months, I am doing things I never thought possible and my core strength is surpassing that which I had playing football in college.

Am also working on my breathing. Most Americans get lazy with breathing and their respiratory system atrophies. Being overweight multiplies this and many of us don’t get nearly enough oxygen.

Another expert here in California, Dr. Tony Ganem (fatburning247.com) has taught me that:

1) Eating between meals
2) Sweet and diet sodas
3) Drinking liquid during meals

can add bodyfat. Look up his work to find the reasons for this…

YOUR HOME

Is your living space de-cluttered, clean, and balanced? Is disrepair piling up? Do doors squeak and are knobs coming loose?

We were given our homes with the “homesteading” mentality. Leave things better than you found them and you get to upgrade.

My theme for my home is “nothing missing, nothing broken.”

You may need help with this, and it may cost money. But it’s worth it. Too much time is spent in front of screens while we should be “proving up” our homestead.

Is your desk clear? Is your home organized? Are your windows and carpets cleaned on a regular basis? Are your media and books in order and accessible?

Are you getting rid of the “stuff” you don’t really need? Reduce, reuse, recycle!

How does your lawn, garden, plants look? Remember. You are a gardner by birthright.

YOUR WORK

Do you have clear vocational objectives? Is your workplace cleaned up? Is your place of work “upgrading” because you are on the team?

Are you working against “wear and tear” in the workspace?

The easiest way to promotion is to exceed expectations at your current “status” and have an impeccable workspace. Chip in to buy new carpet at the office. Offer to paint and decorate.

YOUR SOUL

How are you cultivating your soul and spirit? Are you scheduling time for serious, intentional prayer and meditation?

Are you attending your church or spiritual community regularly? Forming community around your highest values and the “better angels of your nature?”

Is entertainment the core of your spiritual life? If so, a yellow warning light should be blinking.

What is your spiritual growing edge?

1) Cultivating an experiential and personal relationship with the Creator?
2) Letting go of material anxiety?
3) Learning not to hold bitterness toward others?
4) Working on getting rid of the “dark sectors” on your spiritual hard-drive?

THE PHILOSOPHY OF HOMESTEADING

All property ownership started with homesteading. Long ago, someone found an unused piece of land or a valuable object.

You, according to Natural Law, are entitled to “own” it as long as you care for it and “prove it up” on an ongoing basis. Let it unravel or rot, and you lose it.

If you claim too much land or property to handle, others around you will hold you accountable.

It’s like at the 4th of July parade in Huntington Beach, which goes right by our house.

Days ahead, people start to stake out, with chalk, their “spot” from which to watch the parade. If they take more space than they need, those around them “veto” it. If they choose someone’s front yard (a place someone else has been “proving up” all year), then that also will be pushed back.

We do the same deciding where to put our towels on the beach. Or where to put the BBQ outside the stadium during the tailgate party.

First come, first served, and you only get as much space as you can “prove up.”

We don’t need police or deeds to enforce this. It’s in our human social instinct.

In fact, the right to defend one’s self and property against aggression is the number one human right according to natural law.

THE GOVERNMENT AND THE BANKING SYSTEM

Right now, all of our property is tied up in government registered deeds and mortgages.

But the Federal Reserve/Property Taxation/Mortgage Banking system is breaking down. The cronyism in this “junta” is set up to put pressure on those who are rightfully homesteading. If you don’t pay your property tax, guess what happens to your property? Property tax is an affront on Natural Law and its corollary, homesteading.

And the banks are currently just an arm of the Federal Reserve, whereby bank profits are kept by execs and shareholders, but losses are “socialized” by government bailouts.

As that whole system collapses, be ready for a return to homesteading.

There’s plenty of land for everyone. Most of America is empty.

You start with less valuable land. Prove it up, and trade up.

Property “owners” in the rust belt who have let their buildings decay, are no longer rightful owners of that property. Anyone should be able to move in, make a claim, improve the property, and get to stay there.

Anyone should be able to occupy an abandoned building for free, as long as they prove it up.

Let a building crumble, and you lose it. Simple as that.

It’s a whole new world coming. We’re seeing thru the “stacked cards” of the current “ownership” society where the banks and the government really own all we have.

Are you ready to homestead?

It’s what we were all made to do.

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Visit Robinwood Church on Sundays at 9:30am in Southern California

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