The misguided backlash to the Senate advancing gay marriage legislation

If people want to get the government out of marriage altogether, I’m all for it. But don’t use that as an excuse to block people’s rights in the meantime.

This week, 12 Senate Republicans voted to advance the Respect For Marriage Act, essentially ensuring it will eventually become law. The law enshrines gay marriage into federal law and requires states to honor gay marriages conducted in other states.

This is great news for the millions of LGBT Americans who felt their marriages, or future marriages, were in jeopardy after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the US Supreme Court earlier this year. That fear was not altogether justifiable, as my BASEDPolitics colleague Brad Polumbo explained here. But, the court decision that legalized gay marriage across the country (Obergefell) was based on shaky legal foundations, and such decisions really should be made by the legislature and not the courts. Courts rule on the constitutionality of laws, they aren’t meant to make the laws. 

Therefore, it is good and proper that Congress is actually doing its job for once and passing legislation to codify the rights of gay Americans to access marriage, so that if Obergefell is ever overturned, the rights of these individuals will not be overturned with it. 

Not only that, but the Respect for Marriage Act is a pretty solid bill. It goes to great lengths to ensure religious liberty is still upheld (aka that pastors and churches cannot be attacked for choosing to not participate in same sex marriages), and it basically just ensures the 14th Amendment—which demands equal treatment of the law—is upheld.

Make no mistake, marriage is a right. The government has no business determining which classes of people may be married, especially when it also confers special privileges for marriage. But, the actions of these 12 Republicans were still unfortunately met with a decent amount of backlash from socially-conservative circles.

The increasingly populist and nationalist think tank, the Heritage Foundation, went on the attack over the issue.

These are largely the dying cries of an ideology that few hold to anymore. The country is thankfully pretty based on individual liberty in most instances, and on this one in particular, over 70% of Americans support marriage equality.

But a far more common reaction to this bill came from libertarians who have long argued the government should not be involved in marriage to begin with.

I don’t disagree with this sentiment. The government shouldn’t be determining who gets married at all. Marriage is traditionally a religious sacrament which should not be mixed with government. I frankly find it unethical that the government has inserted itself into this institution, and moreover, that it confers special privileges on people who enter it. 

Why should the government treat and tax people differently based on their marital status? It obviously should not. Plus, by entering the picture as it has, the government has made it more expensive, and it has threatened the First Amendment and its religious liberty protections.

Churches should be in charge of determining who they want to marry. And if you aren’t religious, there would be no need for marriage were it not for the government granting special privileges for it. Do you see how they created a serious conflict between religion and individual rights here?

But all that being said, I also find it a bit disingenuous that people only seem to raise the issue of getting the government out of marriage on the one day a year we’re talking about treating gay people equally under the current laws. Sunday through Saturday, literally every other week of the year, you won’t see this brought up, nor will you see a finger lifted to get us there. There’s no group seriously working towards this end and no serious campaigns to overturn marriage laws outright.

As long as the laws exist, people must be treated equally under them. I actually find this to be even more true when the law is bad, like in this case or when applied to something like the draft. The more people who are negatively impacted by a bad law, the more motivation there will be to get rid of it.

If people want to get the government out of marriage altogether, I’m all for it. But don’t use that as an excuse to block people’s rights in the meantime.

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Hannah Cox
Hannah Cox
Hannah Cox is a libertarian-conservative writer and co-founder of BASEDPolitics. She's also the host of the BASEDPolitics podcast and an experienced political activist.