Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex marriage is legally protected in all 50 states. This is obviously a huge win for the LBGTQ rights movement, and more generally for fans of equality under the law. It is a moment to celebrate an often-preached, rarely practiced tenant of American society: That one private citizen should not be unwillingly subject to the will of another.
Likewise, the decision to adhere to the language of the first section of the 14th amendment is a huge victory for personal liberty. It is conversely a blow to the state-sponsored discrimination as well as those who would seek to use legislature to place limits on their fellow citizens. It is not, as some would and have argued, a blow to religious liberty, you are still free to practice any religion you want, you just can’t cite it as a rationale for denying people their rights. Nor is it a change that threatens to bring society to its knees. (Even if it were, forcing people to forgo their personal happiness and rights for the sake of society or a special interest is something that only a fanatic nationalist or fascist could possibly support.)
I would not be doing the ruling justice if I didn’t name it for what it is: An advancement in the larger cause of freedom and a stride forward for those who seek to live their lives as they see fit, with minimal or no interference from coercive powers.
Opposition to same-sex marriage represents the worst kind of social architecture-that which seeks to control private, peaceful interaction and serves the happiness of some through government while depriving others of the means to achieve happiness on their own. When the desire to control meets the power to do so, freedom suffers.
Though it may not be apparent to opponents of same-sex marriage, this victory represents a win for them too. Consider the adage: A government big enough to supply you with everything you want is big enough to take everything you have. Perhaps a more apt (and certainly more contemporary) metaphor is Jon Snow’s misgiving that magic is sword with no hilt-potentially as dangerous to the wielder as the target. Coercion only tastes sweet when you are on the side of those doing the compelling. While they may have enjoyed thwarting same-sex couples, they are ultimately freer in a society that does not use coercive legislation to limit its members’ (non-criminal) private actions.
Ideally, we would live in a world where the peaceful actions and commitments undertaken by consenting adults were free from regulation. Personally, I look forward to the day when marriage and the state are…well, divorced. I see no compelling reason why a consensual partnership entered into by private citizens need warrant the involvement of a governing body.
But hey, that’s for another time. For now, we should take satisfaction in knowing that we have taken another step forward in the ongoing human quest for freedom.