As it was with the case of interracial marriages 50 years ago, same-sex marriage is a hot issue. More and more, state laws forbidding the recognition of such ceremonies are deemed unconstitutional by courts. But despite such decisions, no one was ever forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies… until now.
An Idaho couple from Coeur d’Alene (north of the state) was convicted by the city for refusing to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony at their Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel. Kootenai County officials claim that the elder couple must perform the ceremony or face fines and/or jail time. The case is now before courts.
Conservatives and liberty lovers are right to be outraged at such a move. Whether the chapel is for-profit or not makes absolutely no difference -- catholic churches charge fees for weddings, too. This goes beyond freedom of religion and conscious, which is clearly involved in the matter. It also affects the freedom of commerce of consenting adults to do business or not with other people. Would we force a Jewish butcher to sell halal meet? A black photographer to film a KKK wedding? Besides, why would someone sue a business for not being serviced? We don’t have a right to someone’s product.
In this story, Evelyn and Donald Knapps are supposedly the foolish ones since they turned down an opportunity to make money. It may or may not affect their business, but it’s their problem. They are the masters of their business and they will face the consequences of their decision, whatever they may be.
Separating State and Marriage
In addition, conservatives should follow their limited-government creed to its logical conclusion and ask what libertarians have been asking for a long time: Separate government from marital affairs. Other than making sure the wedding contract (if there is one) is respected, governments have no business recognizing any unions.
By regulating marriages, all sorts of perverted incentives spring up. For example, for couples where there is only one income earner there are tremendous tax benefits if they file together; whereas for couples where both earn a substantial income there are penalties if they file jointly. In fact, thanks to Obamacare, there may even be an incentive to divorce/not get married in order to save substantial amounts of money.
Besides, why would there be an encouragement for weddings? Even though studies suggest that married couples are more stable, it is not the government’s business to decide which kind of union should be encouraged and/or discouraged. Females in my immediate family have not married -- one of them waited fifteen years before doing it -- and yet they are living happily (and even have children).
If the federal government still needs to be in the marriage business, it should at least scale back... like Canada. The northern neighbor gives common-law and married couples exactly the same benefits, i.e., a tax credit should one of the spouses be earning less than the standard deduction.
In short, the Knapps’ case is the perfect example of what happens when a government grows too big: It can take away peoples' rights.
Let consenting adults decide their living arrangements on their own. If they want to consolidate their union, they can either get married or sign a contract before a lawyer. This will reduce state intervention in that domain to a mere arbiter rather than an actor.
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