|Libertarian congressional candidate, Stuart Bain|
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.