There has been much written lately about the success of Proposition 8, and for the most part I have nothing to add, and I doubt anyone would want to listen to what I do have to say. But I do have to add in one important detail that I have not often read about in the discussion: the fact that marriage is a positive freedom. When society or government gives you the right or privilege of marriage, they are not refraining from infringing your liberty, they are giving you a new liberty. A liberty that is, in many ways, symbolic or nominal (although it does also give some real negative freedom, such as the ability to refrain from testifying against your spouse.)

I believe that in the United States, negative freedom is more often portrayed as the main variety of freedom, especially in popular culture. I think this is even more true in the past few decades, a lasting effect of the 1960s is a culture obsessed with autonomy. It is a definition of freedom that crosses political boundaries: men burning their draft cards were celebrating negative freedom; but so are modern day advocates of tax rebellion, such as Grover Norquist. And this goes for popular understandings as well: everyone here has, I am sure, seen that one 80s movie where a group of misfits and rebels has to stop negative, power mad authoritarian figures from squashing their right to self-expression.

Most movements towards freedom in the past few decades have been ones of negative freedom, to prevent government from interfering in people's lives. And this is where I think some proponents of gay marriage become a little bit confused, because this is not a matter of not wanting government to interfere in a person's personal life. It is a matter of wanting government to "intefere" in someone's social, not personal life. I can't rightly say that I have read everything written on both sides to know if the rhetoric of preventing interference is the prevailing mode of protest against Proposition 8's success, but based on my knowledge of American culture, I suspect it may be. This is, after all, the rhetoric that people are most used to, and the simplest to get across, so it will probably continue for a while, confusing this issue even further. I have my own suspicions about what will eventually happen, but I will keep those to myself for now.

And whoever first messages me saying that their own marriage is certainly neither positive nor a freedom gets a cookie!

Well... Yes. But at the same time, it is important that positive freedoms are granted either equally, or by some system that fairly judges an individual's worthiness of this freedom. For example, the state grants you a driver's license (a legal symbol of your positive right to drive), only if you can pass a test proving that you can be trusted behind the wheel. They do not deny this right based on race, color, religious grounds, political orientation, or for that matter, sexual orientation. All that matters is that you can drive well.

A marriage license should be granted in much the same way. It shouldn't matter if you are black or white, a good practicing Christian or a Pagan, or if you are gay or straight. There could be requirements on it -- proving your love is a bit hard, but there could be a breathalyzer test to keep you from marrying while drunk, a short written exam showing that you know the legal ramifications of a marriage, and perhaps a spoken contract binding the two spouses to care for either other for as long as they both should choose. Of course, we don't require any of that now. Any two idiots who walk into the courthouse can get a marriage license, and getting someone to preform the ceremony is just as easy.

Personally, I think it would be funny, and well justified, to vote that Christians should not be allowed to marry in my state. There are, I know, many who would support such a law, if only because it amuses them. Such a law will never come to vote, because it's just plain stupid. And, in case you haven't guessed where this is going, Proposition 8 was exactly that kind of stupid.

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