Monday, March 14, 2005

The non-issue of gay marriage

I consider gay marriage, in and of itself, a non-issue. Being quite conservative in my Christian beliefs, I have a particular religious stance against homosexuality. It is not, however, something where I protest against "gay pride" parades or preach on street corners. I avoid such conflicts because they're just not constructive.

That aside, ideally it shouldn't matter to me what the state says or does not say on an issue like this. Today's ruling by a California judge really shouldn't affect my life in the least, even in this rare case of Article VI seeming to trump the Ninth Amendment. But it does. "Gay marriage" strictly as a social issue does not really concern me. Personally I'd rather President Bush and Congress work on slashing federal spending, not worrying about a Constitutional amendment to "protect" marriage. However, today's ruling was dangerous, not because it basically approved gay marriage in California, but because it was the latest manifestation of judicial activism overstepping its authority, just as Thomas Sowell wrote one year ago. The second way that "gay marriage" affects me is that a minority uses the courts to exert its will over the majority's private property rights. That's right, I look at gay marriage as a private property issue.

When gays and lesbians get civil marriages, they can use that government sanction to force a private company to give them the same benefits as heterosexual married couples. When government uses its power of law to compel a private company to give spousal benefits to someone it had heretofore deemed unqualified, that's an infringement on the company owner's/owners' property rights. The right to private property must necessarily include the right to prevent anyone you want, for any reason or even no reason at all, from not using it. (Even if I'm not an owner or part-owner of any affected company, it can affect me as a customer of that company.) Some say it's morally wrong for a company to deny such benefits based on a "lifestyle choice." No, I say the moral wrong is when government forces the company to dispose of its private property as the government dictates, when the company is not violating the rights of others. It is not your "right" to be employed anywhere by anyone, nor to demand a certain level of compensation for your work that exceeds what the company deems you are worth.

If your employer won't give your partner the same benefits as someone else's legally wedded spouse, that should be the company's choice. If you don't like that, then don't work for the company. The free market, as usual, will provide a simple but effective solution: when Disney, for example, started offering benefits to "domestic partners" (straight or gay), it naturally prompted more gays and lesbians to seek employment with Disney. If you're gay, lesbian or a supporter of "gay rights," and you disagree with a company that doesn't provide benefits to a same-sex or unwedded partner, then it's perfectly within your rights to boycott it and give your patronage to a competitor.

Conversely, if a company doesn't provide such benefits, it will not have many gays and lesbians apply for employment. Now, one thought of political economy is that "discrimination" (racism, sexism, etc.) can cause an employer to forego hiring someone who's better qualified than the rest. A competitor, then, will hire that person and do better. Therefore, a company will want to hire someone based on sheer ability and skill, as long as the person is sufficiently "nice" and "sociable" for the job, and disregarding factors like gender and skin tone which have no bearing on job performance. The company may also offer health benefits to partners, same-sex and/or unwedded, in an attempt to attract the best possible candidates. That is the company's right, and also the company's right to shoot themselves in the foot by not hiring qualified candidates. It is also their right to refuse to hire someone who is qualified, but not sufficiently so as to be worth the cost of full benefits.

There is a very valid financial reason for companies not wanting to offer insurance benefits to same-sex partners. Homosexuality is euphemistically called a "lifestyle choice," but it is an inherently riskier one. Studies have shown that male homosexuals tend to have more mental health issues, including depression and suicide, than heterosexual males. These studies also said male homosexuals are more likely to be alcoholics and heavy smokers, which places them in a significantly higher-risk category than a typical wedded heterosexual. The American Journal of Public Health and other highly reputable medical journals have noted that compared to heterosexual males, homosexual males have much a greater risk of HIV and other STDs, hepatitis, anal cancer and gastrointestinal infections. Simply put, this makes their health coverage more expensive.

Nothing personal, Andrew Sullivan. Of course, there might be someone who's so well qualified that it's worth it for the company to hire him and give full benefits to a homosexual partner. But that should be strictly the company's choice, not some nosy court that decides life, liberty and property in their reality-shielded ivory tower.


Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

The real problem here is that government is infringing on property rights at all, not that they're limiting it to traditional marriage.

Restrict the government to its legitimate purpose, and the question goes away.

Frankly, I think the whole problem is that the government is trying to codify marriage too much to begin with. Let there be a civil arrangement to handle next-of-kin and other issues normally associated with marriage. Call it a civil union, not marriage. Let the churches handle marriage, and keep the state out of it as much as possible.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005 1:08:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Very true. At the suggestion of a friend, I was going to tackle that tomorrow. Should the state have anything to say about marriage?

Every time I go to a religious wedding service, the "and by the power invested in me by the state of" line really, really sticks in my throat. Just where does the state get the power to bestow authority on a religious official?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005 1:17:00 AM  

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