My Plea to Anyone Voting “Yes”: A Libertarian Marriage Amendment Perspective

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B000EUKR2C” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”100″]On Election Day this year, Minnesotans – like myself — will vote on whether or not to add a ban of gay marriage to the state’s constitution.  This is an open letter to anyone planning on, or considering, voting “Yes”, as in, planning on voting to add the amendment to the constitution and thus ban gay marriage by law.  Even if you’ve made up your mind, I implore you to let me bend your ear (or eyes), and I promise in return to respect your choice, whatever it may be.  It can never hurt to have another perspective.  

Let me say upfront, I understand where you’re coming from.  Fifteen years ago or so, I would have absolutely voted “yes.”  My position at that time was largely informed by my religious values.  I’m not here to argue those views (if you share them) because they are unarguable.  If you hold certain religious beliefs, you hold those beliefs.   Nothing I can say here would change that, nor do I wish to try.  The debate on the merits of religion is not relevant to this issue, despite it being entwined with the issue in the media.

What is relevant is how you regard freedom, and the covenant We the People have with our government as expressed in the US Constitution.

You may say this amendment merely impacts a state constitution, but all state constitutions must adhere to the US Constitution as the ultimate law of the land.  If you read the US Constitution, you’ll note that all of the Amendments, except for the 19th (Prohibition of Alcohol), preserve the rights of the people, not limit them.  That one amendment limiting freedoms was repealed soon after it was enacted.  It didn’t work.

This is a powerful concept:  Laws limit freedoms; Constitutions preserve them. 

The US Constitution was designed so that no law could be created that limits freedoms (of the majority and the minority alike) preserved within it.  I am not going to argue that gay marriage is protected in the Constitution.  It’s not.  Not directly.  But the Founders very carefully crafted the original Bill of Rights with the intent of enabling individuals to pursue their own individual happiness without stepping on the rights of others to do the same.  That is the primary purpose of the Constitution.  

I’ll say it again in another way.  The Constitution is there to ensure you can do anything you want – anything – so long as you do not infringe on another person’s right to do the same.  

This new amendment if enacted, clearly limits the rights of certain individuals to pursue their own happiness.  This amendment if not enacted, does no such thing to any individual.  I take it as a very serious matter any law that restricts freedom for any reason.  You can disagree with a behavior and not require that it be set into law.  The creation of any law – much less one set in a constitution – should be undertaken with extreme caution, and thoughtful reason, and not merely on the basis of trying to mold the world into a single group or individual’s ideal.  We are all doomed to having our freedoms limited if we misunderstand that truth.

True freedom is messy.  True freedom requires that we live among people who do not hold our values.  True freedom requires that we work together, if not to live in harmony, then to at least leave each other alone.  Each law we add to the books tears down the fabric of true, voluntary (free) society a little more.  Would you rather your neighbor adopted your beliefs because they are beliefs worth having or because they are required by law to do so?

Another argument for voting “no” is more esoteric.  The discussion always turns to the idea that those who are pro-gay marriage want to “redefine” marriage.  The problem is that marriage has had vastly different definitions during our relatively short time as a country, much less throughout all our existence as social creatures.  If you have the time, I’d encourage you to read a fascinating book called Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz.  It is quite dense, but it is immensely thorough in its study of the history of marriage throughout human history, from ancient cultures, to our own.  One thing is certain: Marriage has never had a consistent definition.  

Marriage has been through many upheavals and re-definitions throughout its existence.  For example, marriage licenses required by states and other governments are a recent phenomenon.   Until very recently, the state had no business in “defining” marriage.  That was done by religious institutions and local custom.   In some cultures, a couple merely had to say “we’re married” for it to be binding.  Just as easily, they could say “I divorce you.”  The point being that marriage was a contract between individuals.  Some hold it as a religious sacrament, and that is fine.  Nothing prohibits you from getting married in a church, and having that recognized by God without getting a “legal” marriage certificate.  True, there are many “benefits” bestowed upon married couples in today’s law crazy world.  The stakes are high for deciding who is married.  I would solve that by saying the state should have nothing to do with deciding anything about marriage.  Leave that to We the People.  Leave that to your churches, mosques, and synagogues.  Leave that to you and your partner (gay or straight) to decide what commitment you want to have to each other and how you want that defined.   

Laws never succeed in changing behaviors as much as social pressure and good ideas do.  True democracy comes from the bottom up – from us – not from the top down via mandate.  Prohibiting alcohol did not eradicate its use, and alcohol abuse has arguably done much more to destroy the fabric of society and family than gay marriage could ever dream of doing.  I am not asking you to give up your beliefs about gay marriage.  As I said when I began this essay, I once believed as you do.  I understand why you hold those beliefs and do not wish to demonize them despite having significantly changed my own beliefs on the topic.  But I implore you to not be part of setting something in near stone because it does not conform to how you believe your life should be lived. 

The beautiful thing about this country and the ideals upon which it was founded is that people with vastly differing opinions and beliefs about how life should be rightly lived can literally live side by side in peace.  Thomas Jefferson was speaking of religious tolerance when he said the following, but I think it equally applies to the idea of marriage:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  

The only way to ensure that one day your own ideals won’t be made illegal is to preserve the rights of others to be different — even if you don’t agree with their lifestyle — as long as they do not hurt you, take your property, or infringe upon your own rights to purse Life, Liberty, and Happiness.  Voting “Yes” on this Amendment is about far more than gay marriage or marriage in general.  Voting “yes” sets us down the path to giving up on this Great American Experiment and deeming it a failure.  

That is the ultimate tragedy. 

I doubt I have convinced you to change your vote, but I hope I have at least given you something to consider.  Thanks for reading.  Vote “No!”




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  • Dave

    Dearest Persephone,

    Having read your dissertation multiple times, I have found my emotions running the gamut. On the one hand, I feel a glimmer of hope that perhaps civil discourse, rational debate and logical thought may still be possible. On the other side is the observation that people generally grasp at whatever supports their emotional need, whether grounded in sound principles or mere sophistry. Indeed, a letter such as this must be dissected and scrutinized from a position beyond the barriers of the emotion and bias that a topic such as this naturally ellicits.

    Please know how much I have, and continue to, cherish your friendship, your uniqueness, your many gifts and independent spirit. It is my fervent desire that you and I would continue to share the positive bond cultivated lo these many years past. I find myself stumbling over my emotional and intellectual feet as I strive to express my thoughts to you without inflicting damage upon our friendship. I guess I will beg you to take this in the spirit given as I plow forward.

    Having a discussion on a topic such as this is difficult because of the layers and layers of beliefs which precede and shape the argument. I liken it to cleaning my shop or doing a remodelling project on my home. I can stand in the doorway and say “I want to accomplish ‘A’. Then I realize to do that I must first move out and access ‘B’. The problem is that ‘C’ is in the way because I was waiting to build ‘D’ to have a place to set ‘E’ because it is in the way! To do the job right is a lot of time and effort. We have to make a choice, do we do it correctly or just compromise and do a temporary half-assed job and say “it’s not right but oh well!”?

    In your article you write the following: “The debate on the merits of religion is not relevant to this issue, despite it being entwined with the issue in the media.” I disagree with you while understanding why you would say it. The misunderstanding of ‘church and state’ doctrine has long been used to undermine the foundation of this county’s freedom. Our first president understood the role of Judeo-Christian beliefs in the preservation of freedom in this new country, and what would happen when/if those beliefs were cast aside.

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars…. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them…. Let it simply
    be asked, ‘Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert?’ …And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
    (George Washington, 1796, Farewell Address.)

    The question each of us must ask ourselves is “what is our own weltanschauung?”(german word for ‘world view’)
    By this I do not mean are you a socialist, libertarian, conservative, liberal, centrist etc. Rather, I would ask you to go back further, to ask yourself the fundamental philosophical question: what is the prime mover?, the uncaused cause?

    It is only when we understand our fundamental beliefs that we can test the validity of our views on topics such as this. Our founding fathers believed in an intelligent, providential, involved creator. To say it was something other than the God of the Jews and Christians requires some serious manipulation of the facts. Consequently, when we look at libertarianism in America, we must view it through the lens of that belief system.

    Libertarian ideology in and of itself is not a viable belief. To be viable one has to cast aside reality and trust in the humanist dogma that man is innately good and will make ‘right’ choices if given the option. The libertarian ideals that our country is founded upon are based on the ‘rights’ endowed by our creator. With these rights also come responsibilities. Our founders understood that we live under a covenant with our creator. The fact that words such as morality are used indicate an understanding that our freedom is dependent upon our actions toward that covenant.

    Part of my wetanschauung is the plurality of the physical and the spiritual. As such, I firmly believe the scriptures which talk of spiritual warfare. What is satan’s goal for the perversion of all things created good? To enslave us!

    Let us look for a moment at the logical consequences of the libertarianism without responsibility that you support with your statement: I’ll say it again in another way. The Constitution is there to ensure you can do anything you want – anything – so long as you do not infringe on another person’s right to do the same.

    Let’s look at what you must support if you exclude the caveat of God’s law.

    We must not restrict the right of sisters, brothers, cousins etc to marry. Without God’s mandate against incest, you must support it or risk hypocrisy.

    Who are we to say that someone must be a certain age to decide whether to enter into a sexual relationship. No doubt NAMBLA could parade a substantial line of healthy, successful men and women before a task force to talk about how healthy they are because of the love of an older man or woman in their life when they were a pre teen or early teen. Without God’s law about fornication and homoeroticism, laws pertaining to pedophilia are anti libertarian.

    Joe, the farmer has a great relationship with his goat, Stella. Who are we to say they shouldn’t be married?

    The point is that without boundaries, true freedom does not exist. We have always used God’s boundaries in this country and the freedom and blessings we have enjoyed are a testament to it being right. In recent history we have deviated from that standard and replaced it with man’s idea of what are correct values. As our blessings diminish and our freedoms recede we must ask ourselves the age old question. Whom will we serve?

    We apparently learn nothing from history. Time after time God blessed the Jews. They would obey for awhile, then the world would creep in and seduce them into disobedience. God would remove his hand of blessing and protection and they would suffer until they repented again.

    The real question we must ask ourselves on election day is ‘what or whom do we worship? Is it God, libertarianism, lust, immorality, political correctness etc.’

    My prayer is that the words of Joshua would be heard by every christian voter, “choose this day whom you will serve…” And that God and America will come out the winner.

  • PersephoneK


    Thank you so much for taking the time for such a thoughtful response to my blog. You win a cookie for being my first non-spam poster! I have a lot on my mind as a response, but I’m not entirely certain I have the mental energy at this point in time. Perhaps this isn’t the best forum either given our personal relationship and long friendship, (but mostly, I just need time to process).

    The only thing I wanted to respond with right away is in response to one of your final comments about needing boundaries. I would say, from a Libertarian perspective, one should not confuse not wanting government imposed boundaries with not believing there should be boundaries for behavior at all.

    Generally, Libertarians (and really I’m more of a skeptic and free thinker than a shill for Libertarianism–it just best fits my world political view in a single word), believe that boundaries should be imposed by family and community norms and bonds, not by the government. Though there are some fringes of Libertarianism that would disagree. I’m not dogmatic so I take each position on its own based on my world view… The government imposes its “morality” via force. I’d rather allow the marketplace and social pressure impact us far more. After all, is it freedom to be forced to behave a certain way with the threat of a gun or imprisonment? Shouldn’t we strive instead to convince each other of our moral values by the power of our arguments and words and actions instead? That is one of my Weltanschauung(s) (German nouns are capitalized, my HS german teacher would be proud, LOL!). Being allowed to engage in any behavior so long as you don’t infringe on other’s (and for the record, by “others” I and Libertarians typically mean consenting adults) rights to do so doesn’t mean one necessarily should engage in all behavior. There are some behaviors that increase human well-being and some behaviors that decrease it. Additionally, behaviors like marrying one’s sibling or a goat… honestly, I’m not super concerned about things like that. While perhaps a few people out there would want to do so, by in large, we’ve evolved to not want to engage in certain types of behaviors. They tend to be “icky” for a reason.

    We need boundaries, but the government is a clumsy, blunt tool to achieve a moral society. The more laws we allow ourselves to be ruled by will eventually lead us to no freedom at all, including religious freedom. Maybe not in my lifetime, but someday, unless we lose our obsession with legislating morality, that will be what happens generations down the road.


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