Marriage: it’s not really a ‘right’

Let’s be very clear up front: I do absolutely support the fight for same-sex marriage. Given that marriage is a valuable set of privileges that a government is in the business of offering to its citizens, it is absolutely necessary that those privileges be equally available to all citizens. What I’m not always clear on is *why* the government is in the business of granting marriages and the accompanying privileges and status that are part and parcel with a marriage license, or whether it should necessarily be a thing at all.

What really bothers me is the way that things like marriage, in the context of LGB politics, are talked about as “rights”. I honestly don’t think that marriage is a right. I don’t think that governments are obligated to recognize marriage at all, and I wouldn’t necessarily be against the abolition of the civil institution of marriage altogether (I’m not really for the abolition of marriage either; I’m somewhat of a marriage agnostic in many ways, though I also acknowledge that I have taken advantage of the institutions privileges and its availability to me). The actual right that we should be talking about when we discuss same-sex marriage or whatever other government-granted privileges from which LGB people are discriminatorily excluded is simply the right to equal treatment. People don’t have a right to have a government that grants marriages, to them or to anyone, but if a government is granting marriages, then everyone should have the equal right to attain that privilege.

So, as long as governments continue to issue marriage licenses, I am absolutely in favour of those licenses being available to all forms of (consenting adult) couples, regardless of the relative sexes of those involved, and I believe that LGB people have an absolute right to be included in that institution as long as it exists. But I still don’t think that marriage, in and of itself, is a right.