True Equality

Generally means we all get the same rights and privileges…..go figure.

Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men. Therefore, the people alone have an incontestible, unalienable, and indefeasible right, to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness, require it.”

~ John Adams, Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, 1780 (emphasis added by me)


When I first sat down to write this post, I was originally inclined to write about the tendency of the Constitution to produce more freedom and liberty over time.  That was, in fact, one of its original intentions.  And though the founding fathers for the most part would certainly not have for seen legitimate equal rights for African Americans, women getting the vote (well John Adams might have, his wife had bothered him to include women in the Constitution in the first place), or many other things, including the current battle over who can marry whom, the way they wrote the Constitution and our founding documents did deliberately produce these things over time.  Just because they and their generation might not have been capable of undertaking these kind of things doesn’t mean they did not realize that later generations would do so.  The Constitution is inherently and deliberately freedom increasing for a reason.  All that being said, I think the real thing the founders would be thinking about our current debate over the definition of marriage is “how the hell did this come up in the first place?”

The other main feature of the Constitution besides its tendency towards increasing freedom was its intent to restrict the scope of government.  The founding fathers would have an extremely hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that government, federal or state, was involved in making decisions on marriage at all.  They would also be more than aghast at the inequality that all those benefits given to married people simply for the sake of being married didn’t apply to single people!  The question the founders would be asking would not be “why should gays be allowed to marry,” but rather “why do married people gain benefits that unmarried people do not?”  Think about how much of a non-issue gay marriage would be if the government had stayed out of marriage in the first place!  If marriage was left to civil society and there was no benefit accrued by paying a fee at the courthouse and signing your name on a piece of paper, same-sex marriage could have been occurring all along, and the people who didn’t like it simply wouldn’t have to have their organizations participate in creating same-sex marriages.  Without the federal and state benefits that create an inequality in favor of those who are married under the auspices of the law, there would never be an issue here at all.

Everyone should be free to marry whomever they choose.  The government should have nothing to do with it.  Everyone should ALSO be free to NEVER marry if they choose.  They shouldn’t have to worry that they are missing out on benefits or that arcane laws will favor some over others in terms of their estates or in their health care in an emergency simply because they’re unmarried.  Wills, healthcare proxies, and a host of other legal papers exist so that we can all stipulate exactly how we want things to be handled if we are ill or dying or dead.  No one should get a tax break because they’re single vs married.  No one should get extra benefits that another person doesn’t get simply because they are married.  To marry another person and declare your love for them and your lifetime commitment is a fundamental right that grants amazing benefits.  But those benefits should never have been, nor should they continue to be federal and state tax breaks and automatic legal privileges into decisions made for another person.  Any law that denies marriage to two people while granting it to another two is inherently unequal and un-defendable under our Constitution, past and present.  But any law that grants two married people benefits and privileges but denies one single person the same benefits and privileges is also unequal and un-defendable.  The whole point of our government is that under their eyes, we’re all the same.  We’re all equal.  And we all get the same benefits and privileges as citizens.  That’s real liberty under the law.


Res Publica


Documentation without Representation:

John Adams, Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, 1780

Electronic Text Courtesy of The University of Chicago Press

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