In my book Governing Ourselves, I lay out what I call the “four institutions of society,” which are: government, the economy, religious and non-profit organizations, and the family. I stressed the risks to a free society that occur when any one of them becomes too dominant over another.
This came to mind as I was reading about the Chick-fil-a kerfuffle. We get into trouble when we mix politics, religion, and business. The Left has a strong tendency to mix politics with business when they call for boycotts when businesses or their CEOs do something they do not like. (Social conservatives do the same thing when they call for boycotts of sponsors of television programs they find offensive).
In a free society, Don Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-a, is free to say whatever he wants about gay marriage; and most people will still go to Chick-fil-a or not, depending on how much they like the product, the service, and other factors relating to the restaurant business. In other words, what Don Cathy says in the political arena should (and usually does) have little to no influence on the success of Chick-fil-a as a business.
On the other hand, the homosexual community wants the unions of its couples to be blessed by society as a whole – which realistically will not happen as long as a substantial portion of society believes that such unions are contrary to their religious beliefs. However, having no mechanism at all for recognizing their partnerships has a discriminatory effect against them for purposes of health insurance, divorce, and probate.
From the libertarian perspective, a solution suggests itself. Uncouple marriage from a voluntary process I call “household registration.” If you live with another adult in a committed relationship – man/woman (whether married or in another committed relationship), gay/lesbian partners, or even non-sexually as parent/adult child or adult siblings; you can register that relationship. The purpose of such registration is to ensure that each individual can receive “family” benefits and is fairly treated following a separation, whether voluntary (equivalent to divorce) or by death (probate). Household registration requires no blood test and no “solemnization” by clergy.
Far from “threatening,” trivializing or dishonoring marriage, household registration elevates marriage to the sacred union envisioned by the scriptures of every major religion, by concentrating on the spiritual significance of the vows that are taken. It also acts to reduce the moral confusion that comes from the ability to “marry” too casually (for example, by a justice of the peace in Las Vegas).
Whether or not homosexuals may actually marry is a question for religious organizations to decide. At least, my proposal for household registration will relieve political pressure to satisfy the legitimate needs of gays and lesbians by trampling on the conscience of the faithful.