My apologies to readers outside the state of Maryland for this post on a Maryland ballot question for the 2012 election. However, the issue of same-sex marriage is one that has been raised in virtually every state in the Union and will be debated in all fifty. Therefore, I hope the general reader will also find this post of interest - Publius
The state of Maryland will have the following referendum (question 6) on the ballot on November 6, 2012. A vote for question 6:
Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples
to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited
from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage
ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious
faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may
marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain
related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an
individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of
their religious beliefs.
Although I intend to vote for question 6, I do not think this represents the best solution to the issue. This issue ultimately revolves around differences of opinion between people of different orientations and different religious traditions about what constitutes a marriage. Some see it as a sacred union, made holy by God, that is meant only to bind a man and woman together to become one, for the purpose of sharing a life together and raising a family. Others see it as life-long commitment of fidelity between two people who love one another. Others still see it as both. The question is, why should the state be involved at all in this personal arrangement between two people? While marriage means much more to the couples involved, to the state it merely represents a contract between two consenting adults. The state's only role should be to mediate contract disputes (separations and divorces). With any other contract, the state does not need to approve or give a license ahead of time, but the participants do have recourse to go to the state (the courts) if there is a dispute or breech of the contract. Why does the state treat marriages differently? If the state were out of the marriage business entirely then everyone would be free to marry whomever he or she chooses, provided both parties are adults and consent, within the dictates of his or her own conscience and religious tradition. The ideal solution to this issue is not to expand state permission to marry to gay couples, but rather to get rid of state permission to marry altogether.
However, the preferable option is not on the table. Therefore, I support question 6 as the next best alternative that would still treat everyone equally under the law. This law would allow gay couples to enter in, and have legally recognized, the same type of life-long committed relationships as heterosexual couples. Those who oppose gay marriage need not have one. Churches that view homosexual behaviour as immoral need not perform them. This is a pro-liberty law on every level. It expands liberty for gay couples and protects the religious liberty of the traditionally married.
Recognizing the committed relationships of gay couples in no way threatens the time-honoured institution of traditional marriage, which remains a holy, loving, eternal commitment between a man and woman who, God willing, will start a family together. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." Similarly, it does me no injury to me for my neighbour to have a same-sex spouse or no spouse. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.