Monday, January 30, 2006

More infringement of property rights

Washington state lawmakers approved "civil rights legislation" that forces private property owners to allow others to use the property in ways against the owners' wishes. As this AP article notes, "First introduced in the 1970s, the measure adds 'sexual orientation' to a state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance, making Washington the 17th state passing a law covering gays and lesbians. It is the seventh to protect transgender people."

I wrote last March in "The non-issue of gay marriage" that I see it in terms of private property rights. If a landlord doesn't want to rent to a certain couple, and if an employer doesn't want to extend "spousal benefits" to an unmarried partner (gay or straight), then as the property owners, it is their right to refuse.
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 we're talking about property issues like common ownership (from real estate to bank accounts) and inheritance, a formal contract should more than suffice. It should be irrelevant whether people are heterosexual couples (married or unmarried), homosexual couples (married or unmarried), or unmarried platonic friends living together for life. However, "gay marriage" activists seek the passage of new laws not for "civil rights" or "equality," but so they can force conditions upon unwilling property owners.

I like a certain suggestion I recently read, via Maggie Gallagher's e-mail newsletter: privatize marriage. I'm a Christian and considered very conservative, but I say it's time for the state to get out of the marriage business. If anything, why should people apply for a marriage license? Yes, it's a source of tax revenue, but a "license" is fundamentally asking the state for permission to engage in a purely private endeavors. I wrote last June on how municipalities require licenses not just to build or expand homes, but to demolish them, and the lengths to which government thugs and neighborhood busybodies go to harass homeowners.

We would have far fewer headaches, and far more real social justice, if only the state stopped defining marriage, if it stopped requiring licenses for when someone wanted to open a business or when two people wanted to enter into their own marriage contract, and if it let property owners actually retain the right to use their property as they see fit (without harming others, and that does not include refusing to let others use the property).

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