In his April 18 column, Jonathan Zhao seeks to refute gay marriage on the basis of natural and legal rights, an intangible “morality,” an economic externality argument and, finally, a discussion of the separation of constitutional powers.
First, as a libertarian and presumed believer in federalism, it seems shocking that Mr. Zhao somehow overlooks that separation of powers might exist for the very purpose of preventing enforcement of unjust laws.
Second, Zhao utilizes a study from the University of Texas at Austin that found lower quality of life indicators for children raised in households with gay parents. Assuming these statistics are accurate, he ignores that utility is also lost every day by gay and lesbian couples legally unable to enjoy the full benefits of marriage, both economic and personal.
Third, why a libertarian or conservative would argue that an interventionist tax system is the proper way to confront the economics of personal relationships is again mystifying.
Fourth, the “morality” that Mr. Zhao believes government should enforce is somehow completely independent of the natural rights he refers to earlier. The concept that a government has the ability to enforce a morality beyond the natural rights of individuals is the very antithesis of libertarian thought. His argument that there is no legal right to gay marriage is predicated on the abandonment of a natural rights morality.
Finally, if this were not bad enough, Mr. Zhao starts his column by denying that there is any support of marriage amongst natural rights. But if marriage as an institution is a societal concept, defined by the many, why does a libertarian defend a government sanction of it? If instead, marriage is a personal contract, then all have a vital libertarian right to it. The right of individuals to create contracts is inviolate. The fact that Mr. Zhao argues against so fundamental a right indicates he is not the defender of liberty and small government that he claims to be. As a libertarian myself, I would emphatically disagree that Mr. Zhao holds the same beliefs I do.
Michael Elgart, Trinity ’14
President, Duke Libertarians