Several days ago Republican Sen. Rob Portman, in a major switcheroo, came out (in support of gay marriage). Good on you, Senator.
People often accuse me of being a conservative, or even a Republican. I understand their confusion, but I am neither. I hew to an antiquated definition of liberalism. I am a Lockean. Much like the majority of the Framers, the guiding star of my political firmament is John Locke. I try to conduct my political commerce according to his creed:
“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign Master, sent into the world by His order, and about His business; they are His property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during His, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our’s. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.” – John Locke, from Two Treatises of Government
At it’s barest essence, I hold that government exists for no other purpose than to perfect and enforce Locke’s law of reason. We band together to institute governments simply because no one person is strong enough individually to ensure through their own devices that the law of reason shall prevail. Q.E.D.
When viewed in this light, many of the political stances adhered to by both the Democrats and the GOP are internally inconsistent. For instance, progressives of the left insist that it’s very progressive indeed to take away your right to defend yourself by the most effective means available. A quick consultation of the Lockean creed will soon put paid to this foolish notion. The right to keep and bear arms is the foremost means available to you to preserve your life, limbs and goods in the event you are accosted by an “offender.” Calls to take away our guns are not the language of liberty; they are the language of tyranny.
Similarly, the GOP’s stance against gay marriage is inconsistent with our heritage of liberty. The right of free association is the most basic of individual freedoms, even more so than the right to self defense. Choosing who to spend your life with is the most basic expression of free association. If I truly stand for the preservation of the life and liberty of my neighbor, who am I to say who can and cannot marry?
Let us posit, for the sake of argument, that I personally find homosexual practices physically and morally repugnant. It signifies nothing. If such conduct is not harmful to me or mine, and if those who desire such relationships do not regard such conduct as harmful to themselves, then who am I to stand athwart their wishes? If I am to stand for my neighbor’s liberty, and he or she for mine, then we must all be free to make such basic choices for ourselves, and have our neighbors honor, or at least tolerate, those choices.
The GOP’s stance against gay marriage, while simultaneously touting putative support for individual freedom, is a prime example of GOP cognitive dissonance. Young people tend to be sensitive to social issues, so the GOP’s dismal support among young people in the last election should surprise no one. Those very same “impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms” derided by Sen. John McCain, who should be voting Republican, are also the first to recognize Republican hypocrisy for what it is.
While Locke’s law of reason compels my support for that which tends to liberty, it certainly does not compel me to overturn tradition and long held norms of conduct lightly, or without trepidation. To be more exact in my political self definition, I’m a Lockean empericist. As such, I am generally dismissive of the progressive left’s rationalist ambition to constantly remodel society in a relentless pursuit of nebulous perfection, with little or no consideration of potential consequences. Hume put it best, “Custom, then, is the great guide of human life. It is that principle alone which renders our experience useful to us, and makes us expect, for the future, a similar train of events with those which have appeared in the past.”
In other words, if we are going to remodel our society to support and affirm marriage for gay couples as a civil institution, we had best do so gradually, soberly, cautiously, and above all, by vote, not by federal dictate. Under original intent, the several states are to be the laboratories of democracy in our republic. Let the question of gay marriage be decided at the state level, on a state by state basis.
Just as respect for the right to free association impels me to support my gay neighbors’ desire for marriage, it must also impel me to affirm those private organizations and institutions that choose not to support gay marriage. No religious institution should be compelled to support or conduct gay marriages simply by virtue of the fact the state implements the civil institution. Our churches, synagogues, temples and mosques must be free to say yes, or no, to gay marriage as they see fit.
On a personal note, I do regard the rampantly promiscuous, hedonistic, bathhouse version of the gay lifestyle as morally repellent. I can say the same for sexual hedonism of the hetero variety, as well. In my experience, there is an alarming dearth of genuine love in this world. Given this shortage, I would be shocked to discover upon my demise that God really favors one flavor of love over another. To any couple, of any flavor, who desire to commit their lives to a lifelong loving relationship, to building a home together, to raising a family, to stemming (if only a little) the tide of brokenness in this world, I can say only this:
Knock your lights out! Rock on! God bless you, and Godspeed to you!