Something many people don’t realize is that gay marriage has been legalized by state legislatures in just three states, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. Given the popular support for gay marriage nationwide, it is simply deplorable that so little has been accomplished so far. More states have decriminalized marijuana than extended the equal rights (and privileges!) supposedly protected by our Constitution to same-sex couples.
This brings me to the libertarian role in same-sex marriage reform in the states that have legalized. Politico reported yesterday that David Koch, the libertarian-leaning, but GOP-financial backer, openly backed gay marriage during an event held in his honor at the Republican National Convention. “I believe in gay marriage,” he said, and when it was pointed out that Romney opposes it, Koch simply said, “Well, I disagree with that.”
This shocked the Huffington Post and other news outlets who quickly picked up the story. Even Politico’s headline “Koch breaks from GOP on gay marriage” might mislead some into believing that this is a new position. It’s not–it’s been well known and reported on since as soon as the Tea Party hit prime time. In fact, Koch’s fellow New York libertarians were critical to the passage of the state’s bill legalizing gay marriage. As The New York Times reported:
Two of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s most trusted advisers held a secret meeting a few weeks ago with a group of super-rich Republican donors…. The donors in the room — the billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay, joined by the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Daniel Loeb — had the influence and the money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure. And they were inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views. Within days, the wealthy Republicans sent back word: They were on board. Each of them cut six-figure checks to the lobbying campaign that eventually totaled more than $1 million.
New Hampshire’s gay marriage bill passed by just 7 votes, and it took the aid of thirteen brave libertarian Republicans, like Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, to get the bill passed. When the Republican House of Representatives in 2012 tried to repeal the act, it was the libertarians, now a much stronger voice, who prevented the repeal. Rep. David Bates, the bill’s sponsor told The New York Times, “It really became sort of a circus. The majority of the opposition there was essentially people who are very libertarian-minded.” The Concord Monitor reported on the dissent from the new “Republicans” (In Name Only?):
“I’m for liberty and freedom, leaving people alone so long as they don’t harm or defraud other people,” said Rep. Steve Winter, a Newbury Republican who opposes the repeal. Winter… considers himself a “fiscal conservative and a social libertarian. I believe what people do with their lives, how they select their mates, is none of my business and none of the state’s business,” Winter said. Rep. Seth Cohn, a Canterbury Republican who moved here as part of the Free State project, a libertarian movement to relocate to New Hampshire, is also against repeal… Cohn said he plans to introduce an amendment on the House floor that would take government entirely out of marriage.
The Wall Street Journal similarly reported Republican Rep. Phil Greazzo, saying, “It’s the ‘Live Free or Die state. As long as you’re not hurting yourself or others, you’re supposed to be able to live your life… it didn’t affect my marriage.” The repeal effort failed spectacularly after GOP leaders failed to unite the party.
And this is exactly why electing libertarians, not conservatives, actually matters. In part, because libertarian initiatives often hinge on Republican support, but also because without actual libertarians in Congress (i.e. not Paul Ryan), who vote libertarian, liberal news outlets can still act shocked every time that libertarians come out in support of social equality, as if it’s a rare thing.