Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Bain Campaign Responds to My Pride Post

Libertarian congressional candidate, Stuart Bain
Well, boys and girls, the Rev. has managed to piss off the Libertarians. I can hear you all saying "Who?"

The Libertarians are one of the many third political parties that have been trying for decades to get mainstream America to overlook their wackiness and give them a chance to lead our country. They're kind of like the Mormons of politics. You may think of Ron Paul as a Libertarian, but he's actually a Republican with Libertarian leanings.

I mentioned in my Sunday night post, "Pride in the Park Celebrates 21 Years", that I had a very spirited debate with the Libertarian candidate for congress, Stuart Bain, about his stand on Marriage Equality. I got some very interesting comments from his campaign manager about my confrontational style. You can click the link above to read his remarks. I wanted to take a few minutes here to explain why I reacted the way I did to the convoluted logic of Mr. Bain's non-position on marriage equality.

In the interest of full disclosure, a couple of months ago, my friend Len Rogers, of The Stonewall Society, suggested that I contact the Bain campaign to arrange an interview. He's running against Bob Goodlatte for congress and Len thought it would be good for people to know there was another guy running.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the Libertarians. Although I agree with a lot of their principals, like smaller government and a more equitable tax system, some of their positions just aren't realistic. For example, the Libertarian free market position dictates that when corporations get "too big to fail" and they do fail, they should be allowed to, without government interference. Looks good on paper, but if they were in power during the economic meltdown that greeted President Obama last year, we'd all be standing in line at the soup kitchen.

I checked out the Bain website to do some preliminary research and found nothing that specifically addressed the concerns of the LGBT community, so I went to the Libertarian Party's website. They believe that government should not interfere in the personal relationships of consenting adults, which sounds good on the surface. To be honest, as hard as I tried, I couldn't find anything on the party's website that specifically says that gay couples should have the right to marry. They do have a lot to say about striking down laws that discriminate against the LGBT community, like DADT and DOMA and they are against constitutional amendments defining marriage, but nowhere on the site does it say "we support the right of same-sex couples to marry."

So I dug deeper and found a few other sites that attempt to explain their position. What I found is that the Libertarians believe that the state should not be involved in marriage in any way, shape or form. It was at this point that I decided that I wasn't really interested in doing an interview with Bain, but I was still interested in finding out more.

I found a piece written by freelance columnist Garry Reed, himself a Libertarian, called "Libertarianism 101: What's the Libertarian Position on Gay Marriage?"  Reed writes, in part, "wanna get married? So get married already. Get any kind of married you want. Same sex, different sex, indeterminate sex. Marry early and marry often. Get married in a church, in a chapel, in a private ceremony of your own devising. Government has no legitimate place in the marriage of free and sovereign individuals."

I also found a column by Stephan Kinsella on LRC Blog that does a fairly thorough job of trying to define the Libertarian position on same-sex marriage, which is not easy to do. Kinsella writes, "In any event, the libertarian can say that 'the' libertarian view is that the state should get out of the way and out of the business of decreeing marital status, but [is] that all he can say?"

This all brings me to the conversation I had with Mr. Bain when I stopped by his booth at Pride last Sunday. I didn't even know he was going to be there. I introduced myself as a gay blogger and activist and asked him for his position on same-sex marriage (after all, there's not a single word about it on his site). He proceeded to explain the Libertarian's Fair Tax plan, which is structured so that each of us would be taxed more fairly and on an individual basis, regardless of marital status. This plan would somehow magically make us all equal.

I asked him about repealing DOMA, DADT and passing ENDA. He said that if any of these things got to his desk, he would sign them. I asked him what measures he would initiate. "We have this tax plan", he said. I have to admit that this is the point where my bullshit detector went into overdrive. It's bad enough watching politicians sidestep a direct question on TV, but this was the first time one was doing it to me and I was not about to let him get away with it.

I pressed him further, asking how this tax plan would grant same-sex couples the right to marry. Bain and his campaign manager, John Reed Braden, stated the party position that the state should get out of the marriage business altogether and that the church should take over in that department. As I wrote in my earlier post, I reminded them both that marriage has always been a civil contract intended to ensure the legitimacy of children, to convey property and inheritance rights and that there are over 1,100 legal rights and reponsibilities that come with marriage that the church does not have the authority to grant to anyone. I also brought up the constitutional separation of church and state.

Mr. Braden, who is gay, explained that under the Bain plan, everyone, straight or gay, would be able to have a civil union, but marriages would be done only by the church. I found myself once again having to remind these two how things work on planet Earth, when I responded that it's the churches that don't want us getting married. Braden suggested that I could join MCC. Mr Bain added that he and his wife were married in a church and it worked out fine for them.

"So, if I want to get married, I have to join a church?", I asked.

"Yes", Braden said.

"What if I'm an atheist?", I asked.

"Uhh...," was his snappy retort.

I told Mr. Bain that his platform was based on restructuring the entire U.S. government, which was never going to happen. He said, "I quit smoking this year. If I'd had your attitude..."

I cut him off, saying, "Yeah, I quit smoking this year too."

At this point I felt like my head was going to explode from all the twisted logic, so I decided it was time to stop. I thanked him for the chance to discuss his positions and went off to enjoy the rest of the Pride festival.Did I get a little too worked up? Yes, of course I did. In the words of Judge Judy, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."

When someone calls you out on your bullshit, you can't worm your way out of it by shoveling more bullshit. We get enough of that from the Democrats and the Republicans. If the Libertarians ever hope to be major players in this country, they need to understand and work within the political system as it exists in the here and now, not in some Utopian fantasy world of their own creation.

In order for the Libertarians' plan to work, they would have to convince the 90% heterosexual majority in this country to give up their right to civil marriage in favor of civil unions, just to accommodate the 10% of us that want our relationships to have legal recognition. Good luck with that one.

The primary message of the marriage equality movement is that same-sex marriage is no threat to traditional marriage. In my opinion, the Libertarian plan is a threat to marriage and to the fight for full equality in this country. Nobody is suggesting that we stay home in November or that we should support the homophobic Bob Goodlatte, but Stuart Bain is not the answer either.
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  1. With the Libertarians passivity on marriage, the government that stays out of marriage means abolishment of legalized marriage all together. Of course the Libs aren’t going to say that which would be political suicide for them. I would be all for abolishing legalized marriage in order to equal the playing field, but like you said, that’s not going to happen.

    Leaving marriage up to the churches isn’t the answer either. You will have one church who will allow gays to marry, another who won’t. This does nothing for marriage equality or civil rights and continues the cycle of hatred and bigotry against the LGBT community.

    I also checked out the Libertarians stances on issues and they just don’t make a lot of sense and frankly, I wouldn’t vote for them if they were running unopposed. I suspect they will be like all the other political parties who will sweet-talk the gay community for their vote and then throw them under the bus when the civil right votes come around. I don’t trust them. I say vote for the Independent, Jeff Vanke, in order to vote against both Goodlatte and “Wolf”-Bain.

  2. Sidney, and Steve-- we are libertarians, not "Libertarians." The capital-L is only for member of the LP itself--most libertarians are not members of the LP, and in my view, the LP itself is not completely libertarian, and certainly many members of the LP are not completely libertarian. So the LP and real libertarianism are only overlapping sets.

    Sidney, the libertarian position is very sensible. We simply oppose the use of force against other people who have not committed some kind of violent crime. What could be more sensible? Thus, libertarians oppose the modern state, or the state altogether, as an agent of violence. LGBT have long been harmed by the STATE itself, so it's a bit disconcerting for you to come to the defense of the state, which is and has always been the biggest enemy of the LGBT community--which is what you are doing if you reject libertarianism. I say this because either you oppose the state and its use of institutionalized aggression (in which case you are siding with us), or you favor the state, even though it has always harmed you and yours.

  3. Thanks for the insight, Stephan. I oppose both state sanctioned violence and oppression, but as i told Mr. Bain, washing you hands of the issue of same-sex marriage is an abdication of leadership. The Libertarian position on same-sex marriage is no solution. I did enjoy reading your piece though. It helped me to better understand the party's position on marriage equality. As I said above, both Mr. Bain's site and the Libertarian Party's site are both sadly lacking on details on the subject.

  4. The legal definition of a "license" is to grant permission to do what would otherwise be illegal. In what circumstance should marriage be illegal and require a license? That is how a libertarian looks at it and we conclude that under no circumstance should marriage in and of itself be illegal. The first marriage licenses in the US were given to interracial couples who needed them in states where interracial marriage was outlawed, in ancient England they were given to couples where the king had determined that he did not desire the female for himself. Not sure why you would be so gun-ho to support such a system, and so against those who don't think this sounds all that fair and equitable. That said most libertarians support gay marriage as long as we live under the system we currently have, but we are not vocal about it because the system we have sucks and should be abolished, the idea that you have to get government approval from the king and his men in order to get married is repugnant.

  5. Steve,

    I realized that you were linking to my OLD post on gay marriage--my latest and even more pro-gay marriage is at

    "I oppose both state sanctioned violence and oppression, but as i told Mr. Bain, washing you hands of the issue of same-sex marriage is an abdication of leadership."

    There is no official libertarian line on this since to be honest it's a "second-best" policy query. Further, the homosexual lobby has done its best to make it hard to support them, because one reason they want gay marriage is to use the state power to declare relationships as a way to force people to "accept" them and also as the thin end of the wedge to begin to push for socialistic laws like antidiscrimination laws and the like. So I undersatnd why some people are reluctant to go along with the pro-gay marriage agenda, as it has baggage.

    The correct view is to oppose the state's involvement with relationship-approval, regulation, and enforcement in the first place. In my view that is all that is required of the libertarian (again, it's libertarian, not Libertarian). It is my personal view that so long as the state monopolizes the enforcement of contractual regimes that are accessories to various interpersonal relationships, that they need to enforce all of them. If they insist that it be called "marriage" to qualify for enforcement, then that's their rule. But if the state also enforced gay union contracts without calling it marriage, that woudl be okay too--it's then up to people to refer to this union by whatever name they want.

    "both Mr. Bain's site and the Libertarian Party's site are both sadly lacking on details on the subject. "

    I have no idea who Bain is, and as I said, the LP has little to do with libertarianism.

    BTW you may want to check this one out too: by libertarian philosopher Roderick Long in favor of gay marriage:

  6. It's a clear cut argument that you gave to Mr. Bain and it's sad to see his non-answers and side-stepping.

    Handing it all over to the church would be the worst thing for the LGBT community. That should be obvious to anyone.


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