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Free Expression: Love, Honour, and OBEY!

Love, Honour, and OBEY!

Free Expression
By Bernard Darnton,
Leader, Libertarianz Party.

In a few weeks I will be heading off to get married. People will travel great distances to see us. People we see every day and people we don't see for years will be there. It'll be a huge raucous party. Even the government will give us a big tick, because we have chosen to formalise the "approved" type of relationship. One man, one woman, no problems.

Which is a fairly odd thing for the government to be interested in when you think about it. We're all familiar with the traditional jobs that government does: run the police, run the army and the navy (air force optional), search our bags for nasties at the airport. What are they doing sanctioning personal relationships? If a man and a woman ask the Department of Internal Affairs for a permission slip to get married, no problem. If two people whose wobbly bits don't fit together in the prescribed manner ask for the same thing, suddenly there's a problem. Two men, two women, not interested.

There are still plenty of people who can't help interfering in what other people get up to in private. Many of them think that homosexuality is disgusting. They're welcome to their opinion; no one's going to ask them to get involved. They say that homosexuality is unnatural, sharing with environmentalists the confusion that "natural" means "good". And ignoring that homosexuality is observed in many species. They say that marriage is for reproduction, but never call for infertile couples to divorce.

Let's ignore fear and ignorance for a moment and just accept the argument.

How about a polygamous relationship? It's twice as heterosexual as a normal marriage and could involve plenty of reproduction. Internal Affairs will still turn you away and the preachers will still tell you how sinful you are. It is left as an exercise for the reader to come up with further scenarios.

OK, well done, that took longer than expected. Are you back with me? The point is that, as far as a government is concerned, a marriage is a contract between consenting adults dealing with the structure of their relationship.

The role of the state is to record that contract and provide a legal framework to deal with breaches and termination of the contract. Its role should not be to sanction or to veto any particular arrangement.

The upcoming civil union legislation is a step in the right direction as it begins to address the state's discrimination against some forms of relationship but it is still only a baby step. The state should allow any relationship contract amongst any group of people and limit its involvement to roles mentioned above. It should not bestow special rights upon one group that conforms to a particular arrangement.

There will undoubtedly be plenty of noise from the churches as marriage laws are liberalised. They're entitled to their views. In the same way that the state mustn't give homosexual couples different rights than it gives heterosexual couples, it mustn't coerce churches to do things they don't believe in. While the state will recognise a marriage between any consenting adults, it must not coerce a church into endorsing it. Freedom, as always, requires tolerance in both directions.

Do I believe in a society that allows consenting adults to do whatever they like in private and allows them to celebrate it as they please in public? I do.


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