Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gay Marriage: A Special Interest Victory

Yesterday, New York became the largest state to recognize marriages of gay and lesbian couples. Many people haven't thought the same-sex marriage issue through much further than "The government should let any couple get married." But same-sex couples aren't lobbying simply to be granted a marriage certificate or to be allowed to love- they're fighting for special treatment from the government.

Wanting to see what that special treatment was, I came across a New York Times article that summed it up (appropriately in the Business section). It begins:

Couples may marry for love, but the partnership is also an economic one. And now that New York has become the sixth state to perform same-sex marriage, couples who tie the knot here will gain a variety of financial benefits and legal rights.

Note: what same-sex couples are gaining are privileges granted by the state; not rights. I guess without the financial benefits and the extra "rights", same-sex marriage wouldn't even be an issue. I find it pretty funny that what's usually held up as some kind of issue of civil equality is really in large part about tax breaks to the special interest group known as married couples.

The article mentions benefits in the realms of: income taxes, estate and gift taxes, health insurance, inheritance rights, state employee benefits, and parentage. These probably aren't the first words that leap to mind when you think of what constitutes a marriage. But they're what count, and it really goes to show how much presence government has in our personal lives.

Of course, I would say that allowing same-sex couples to marry only makes this situation worse. Why? Because instead of questioning the role of government in these matters and having a debate over what gives it the right to dole out such benefits in the first place, we went ahead and gave it more legitimacy in sticking its hand into our private lives. It should treat all its employees the same, and has no business conferring special legal/financial status on couples. And while creating new rules for a specific class of people seems like a step forward, in some respects it is a step back.

But then again, I'm of those crazy people who think the government should treat us as individuals, no matter what the circumstances. If you disagree, not to worry! Mine is a vanishing minority.

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