Let's take a step away from economics for a bit. We'll be back soon, I promise. The discussion of liberty invariably comes in contact with the modern discussion of rights. While there seems to be a common misunderstanding of the word "right" and its origins, we can discuss the corruption of our language another time.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched a protest by opponents of California's Proposition 8, hoping to be able to talk with some of them and discuss what their actual demands were. In a few words, there wasn't really an opportunity to talk with any one of them. Amid the accusations of bigotry and hate, I wondered to myself why it was that gays wanted so much for the state to legally sanction their unions as marriage. What was it that they gained from having a marriage as opposed to just a civil union?
The most obvious things are protections the state gives only to married couples. These include tax credits and visitation rights etc. For these reasons, the state regulates marriage closely. In fact, you have to get a license from the state to get married. Think about it...you have to ask the government permission to perform a religious ceremony; you have to ask the government permission to marry someone.
Black's Law Dictionary defines a license as, "The permission by competent authority to do an act which without such permission [...] would be illegal." This means that if the state has the power to license you to marry, it also has the power to prohibit it. If you don't get a license, you are breaking the law.
Thus, if the state can license heterosexual couples, it can prohibit homosexual couples. The question is merely what the state's policy is. Does it allow homosexual marriages or not? In the current case, it has been both, depending on who you ask: the people of the state or the judiciary. The people voted to prohibit homosexual marriage while the judiciary declared that prohibition unconstitutional. The debate is heating up even now.
To me, it is obvious that marriage is between a man and a woman. This is simply what the word means. But personal and religious definitions aside, I think we may all be having the wrong debate. Instead of discussing how the state should define marriage, let's go back and rethink if they should define it at all.
So there it is: Should the state define marriage? If so, why and how? If not, why not? It seems to me that the debate over whether the state should define marriage at all is so far gone that it has become next to impossible to revive it. But if we could, wouldn't this be a better way to preserve our religious freedom and Constitutional integrity? How do we revive the real debate? If we can't, how do we choose sides in the current one?