I Agree with Santorum … Well, Sort Of

“Is anyone saying same-sex couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?” – Rick Santorum

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum made headlines by nearly winning the Iowa Caucus, coming from way behind; perhaps on the backs of some endorsements by recognizable (in Iowa anyway) evangelical leaders. Santorum has a bent of mild theocracy that tends to play well amongst the evangelicals (a group that includes me – though not-so-much with liking Santorum).

For instance, Rick Santorum opposes gay marriage. Now, to say that I don’t oppose gay marriage would be misleading – I oppose it in a different way. From a moral perspective, of course I oppose gay marriage. I’m a Christian. The Bible is unabashedly clear on this issue. If one wishes to ignore the scriptures that declare homosexual acts untenable then one may as well throw out the whole of the Bible.

But this is not the same as supporting a public policy banning gay marriage. Remember that in a democracy, “the government” is “the people” – and any policy promoted by the government is a policy promoted (perhaps indirectly) by the people. So any time the people get together and declare that this or that behavior is illegal, they are actually dictating to their neighbors what they may do in their own lives. I find it much safer to tell my neighbors that the only constraints placed on them are in regards to the fundamental human rights of others (life, liberty, property) and that the government will enforce the rights of all (including contract rights, which may apply on the topic of marriage).

For the government to do more than that is to elevate “the people” from equals to judges of one another. We are then subject to casual interpretations of various moral or religious edicts. (Consider prohibition, a progressive ideal coupled with religious fervor. The whole scheme believed the nation would be better off if we outlawed alcohol. First: we weren’t. Second: the interpretation leaves something to be desired religiously – Jesus drank wine. Better for all if we just stayed out of such decisions when they don’t cross the human rights threshold.)

Having laid out a disclaimer that I prefer a system of government in which the people do not oppress one another and do not enforce moral decisions for the lives of others, let me go on to say that I still agree with Santorum … sort of.

You see, we do live in a system where moral decisions are enforced all over the place. Let us take a small example from the world of marriage. Those of us who work for a living, pay taxes into the common coffers. We do so presumably to afford the government the ability to perform its basic functions. (We also do so for the purpose of government benevolence and largess – but that is not the purpose of this post.) Yet we do not all pay equally into this system. This one pays more taxes than that one. (If one wishes to “normalize” payment in by something like wealth or income then fine – but even with these normalizations the payments and receipts are not equal.) Any time the burden is lessened on one it is necessarily increased on another; even if the tax policy doesn’t directly dictate that the other is burdened more.

Consider: I am a married man. Because I am married, my tax brackets are different than those of a single man. Further, there are various laws that require my employer to provide health insurance for both myself and my wife and kids. These are benefits to me. My employer is no longer as free as he would like, and compelled to provide me medical benefits. Further, my neighbor who is single is forced to make up the gap in tax policy because of my lower tax rates.

Now, because I believe in freedom I would rather see both of those policies disappear (and I would prefer a flat tax, while we’re at it). But until we have such freedom, then I will absolutely support a continuance of the tax policy that shifts burden away from me. This is not simply greed, mind you. The tax policy is unquestionably unfair to me in that I receive a paltry benefit for doing the hard work of raising the next generation of taxpayers and social security slaves. The small marriage benefit is the least they can do … the least you can do.

It’s more than just policy fairness though. As Peter Drucker said “authority implies responsibility and vice versa.” If I have a responsibility toward you then I must have authority to accomplish it. If I have authority then I also have a responsibility to use it for its intended purposes. If I do not have authority I cannot be held responsible, and if I do not have responsibility it is quite dangerous to give me authority.

My point? In our current system of government you and I have a responsibility to make up shifts in tax burdens due to wrong-headed government marriage taxation policies. Further, you and I have dictated that employers must provide benefits to spouses. (That decision has cost us a lot, by the way, but we’ll talk about that latter.) As long as we have this responsibility, then we have authority. To that end, yes I oppose a policy that allows gay marriage.

I oppose a policy that allows gay marriage while there is one shred of federal or state benefit payout, direct or indirect, to marriage.

This is not an isolated indecent. I oppose open borders as long as there is one shred of federal entitlement. I support mandatory drug testing and physical/mental evaluation for anyone receiving welfare. If I have a responsibility to pay your bills then I have the authority to tell you how to live your life.

But … we can make a deal. Let’s roll back the marriage benefits (e.g., taxation and spousal benefit enforcement). In fact, let’s roll the federal government out of the marriage definition business altogether. The government’s only purpose here is contract enforcement, nothing more. Do that, and I don’t really care if you call it “marriage” or not. While we’re at it, let’s roll back the federal entitlements – and then if we want to talk about an open and free immigration policy I’m all ears. Let’s roll back all of the entitlements, and you’ll never hear a peep out of me regarding drug testing or any of your personal behaviors. Well, you’ll never hear a peep when it comes to government policy – you will hear me preach the gospel and declare the good news that you can be free from these chains. But you won’t see me use the government to rain down moral enforcement on you.

So I agree, holding my nose, with some of the theocratic missives of Rick Santorum – but only on a technicality. I’m not endorsing Santorum. I’m not even saying I’d vote for him in a pinch (I haven’t decided). I honestly hope it doesn’t come to that.

On that note, I will say that I hope Ron Paul has a huge showing in New Hampshire tomorrow, and encourage all of my New Hampshire readers to get out the vote.

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3 Responses to I Agree with Santorum … Well, Sort Of

  1. I am curious how Leviticus 20:13 plays here. This is a religious mandate to kill… but as you have discussed and sidestepped this before, this was a part of a covenant with a group of people during a period of time, in neither of which you currently reside, so it does not apply to you now.

    But what about those to whom it *did* apply, *when* it applied? Presumably (hopefully?) the principles described above are timeless (“the only constraints placed on them are in regards to the fundamental human rights of others (life, liberty, property) and that the government will enforce the rights of all”). How would someone– how would you– reconcile this principle of freedom with this order to kill?

  2. Pingback: Levitical America | Freedom at Bethsaida

  3. Malcolm says:

    A failed attempt to sound respectiveful and less hateful about opposing treating people equally before the law. As courts have held, there is nothing rational, moral, just, or constitutional about treating same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples before the law just because of the gender they love and build a life together with. That is invidious, irrational discrimination, opposed by people of good will.

    Further, as a Christian, I object to your notion that all CHristians must find same-sex marriage objectionable. The fact is many, many Christians, churches, and some denominations support same-sex marriage today. Stop equating primitive fundamentalist religion with all of Christianity; it is NOT. My Lutheran church, as well many Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, and United Church of Canada churches strongly support and bless same-sex marriages today. Thankfully, my generation of Christians has a much more enlightened and just view of this issue and don’t try to use religion to justify bigotry.

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