LTE: Libertarians & the Marriage Pledge

(Submitted to the San Francisco Chronicle, 23 February 2002; unpublished.)

I was pleased to read Rob Morse's comments on Sunday about the Campaign for California Families's "Marriage Protection Pledge". He notes that four Libertarian candidates for partisan office have signed the pledge, and that they "ought to be ashamed."

He's right.

Members of the Libertarian Party have all signed a pledge renouncing the initiation of force as a means to achieve social or political ends; government interference in private family arrangements constitutes such a use of force. All I can suggest is that these four candidates have not thought through the implications of the principles represented by that pledge.

It is important, however, to note that only four Libertarian candidates signed the pledge out of 101 partisan candidates running statewide. They clearly do not represent the majority Libertarian position on this issue.

Chris Maden
Chair, Libertarian Party of San Francisco
Libertarian Candidate, State Assembly, District 13

Editors & Mr. Morse: I am enclosing a copy of the letter that I sent to the CCF instead of signing their pledge; please feel free to reprint it, excerpt from it, or contact me for more information.

Mr. Thomasson et al.,

I am unable to sign your "Marriage Protection Pledge," but I feel that I owe you an explanation, and I hope that I can suggest another approach to protecting values you hold dear.

As part of my platform in my campaign for State Assembly, "Legalize Love - Legalize Health - Legalize Work," I propose a true "Defense of Marriage Act." Why is the government involved in marriage at all? Marriage is a compact between individuals - usually a man and a woman, and often entered into before God. It is especially this kind of religious marriage - this "sacred institution," as you call it - that benefits most from being independent of government interference. If the man, woman, and clergy involved are satisfied with the compact, where is the justification for government interference? The First Amendment and the California Constitution suggest that the government has no business judging which religious marriages are acceptable and which are not.

Moreover, activists will continue to struggle to have same-sex relationships placed on an equal footing with opposite-sex marriages. By giving special government recognition to heterosexual relationships, you require that these activists seek that same recognition for homosexual relationships. That recognition would amount to a blessing by proxy on behalf of all California citizens of these relationships. And while I do not share your opinions on the illegitimacy of these relationships, nor do I wish to force you to endorse them.

You very nearly hit the nail on the head in the third point of your pledge: "various 'domestic partnership' and 'civil union' benefits... can be obtained by responsible people through inexpensive legal contracts and other private arrangements." This is true regardless of the gender of the participants; I urge you to consider this approach as a solution to all debate about marriage legitimacy, ending attacks on your dearly-held values and those of others.

Christopher R. Maden
Libertarian Candidate
California State Assembly, District 13