Libertarians Led Charge for NY Gay Marriage

The historic victory for individual liberty in New York, as it became the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, was only made possible by behind-the-scenes maneuvering between parties. By appealing to the common ground — and more specifically, libertarian instincts — of both Republicans and Democrats in New York, the state legislature was able to create a bipartisan coalition in favor of the expansion of liberty.

Unfortunately, whenever “bipartisan” legislation is passed in the U.S., it is usually the worst of both parties coming together to expand government power and control. The PATRIOT Act, the expansion of foreign wars, and the TARP bailouts are the most obvious examples. But, in the case of same-sex marriage in New York, the exact opposite was true.

As a recent piece for the New York Times points out, it was the invocation of “personal freedom” from Republican donors that got the GOP to rethink their traditional position on gay marriage. According to the article, wealthy Republican donors could afford to insulate senators from conservative backlash and “were inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views.” These donors “cut six-figure checks to the lobbying campaign that eventually totaled more than $1 million.”

This represents the influence of libertarian ideas not only in the GOP, but also in mainstream American politics. Thanks to the internet, the ease of access to alternative media, and the Ron Paul presidential campaigns, freedom is beginning to have the appeal and audience it deserves.

As we saw in this recent New York measure, when you stop framing issues in terms of Left vs. Right or Republican vs. Democrat, and instead use liberty over government control, more people come on board to build honest coalitions. What is gay marriage about, other than personal freedom? Marriage is fundamentally a private contract between consenting adults. Why should this be any of the government’s business?

Perhaps I am a little biased, but I tend to think that everyone (especially our generation) takes a libertarian stance on at least some issues where they feel that government has no right to intervene and intrude. The problems and conflicts come from the notion of “liberals” and “conservatives” fighting over control of the government to restrict some liberty. This only leads to horizontal quarrelling, and ignores the many issues in which traditional conservatives and honest progressives can agree on (like scaling back the empire, cutting corporate welfare and subsidies, and focusing on domestic concerns). It does not take a Rothbardian libertarian to see that economic and political freedom, decentralization, and “the little platoons” of the market order all go hand-in-hand.

Legalizing same-sex marriage in New York is a victory for freedom and justice in this society. If the methods that achieved this legislative success — appealing to our sense of decency and our instincts for liberty — expand and are duplicated in states and in Washington, then this can only be seen as a welcoming trend in America.

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