November 10, 2008
A war over a right?
In a piece titled "Minorities at war on Obamaland's Western shore," distinguished Canadian journalist Colby Cosh looks at the Proposition 8 conflict (including the latest nonsensical meme that gays who voted for McCain did so out of racism) and concludes,
It's enough to make you glad you live in a country where such matters are handled entirely undemocratically! Like it or not, we do avoid a certain amount of genuine unpleasantness that way.Via Glenn Reynolds, who says,
Personally, I'd like to see the separation of marriage and state, taking this stuff out of the political realm entirely.Well, licensing is, after all, a government restriction. When people speak of marriage as a "right," they really are not speaking of a right to marriage, but a "right" to a marriage license. Yet true rights (such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion) are not -- and by their nature cannot be -- subject to licensing.
If marriage were treated as a right, it would not be subject to licensing.
In the normal scope of things, activities that are licensed -- cutting hair, flying planes, driving 18 wheelers, practicing law, medicine, etc. -- are not rights at all, but occupational choices that require training, which are regulated by the state.
I don't know much about the history of marriage licensing, but this minister claims that it's a recent (and racist) development, and that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had no marriage licenses:
George Washington was married without a marriage license. Abraham Lincoln was married without a marriage license. So, how did we come to this place in America where marriage licenses are issued?Perhaps the current turmoil stems from a confusion between licensing and rights.
I'd hate to think all this fuss is over a desire for official state imprimatur, but I worry that it is. Like almost everything else (soon including the auto industry), marriage is seen as something you get from the government. Maybe it would be better to see it as something that the government cannot interfere with, the way genuine rights are.
(On the other hand, if you can't be born without a birth certificate and can't die without a death certificate, maybe all things -- including life itself -- do come from the government.)
Nah, scratch that. A birth certificate is not a license to be born, nor is a death certificate a license to die.
UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.
Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.
posted by Eric on 11.10.08 at 06:56 PM
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