Gary Johnson Comes Out in Favor of Gay Marriage

The former New Mexico Gov. and perennially frustrated GOP candidate for president, who is currently flirting with the notion of a libertarian run for president, officially declared his support for gay marriage at a online town hall meeting. Johnson was previously more wafflely, with the old support of "civil unions" standby. Now he's going for broke and saying he really is for gay marriage.

Johnson's statement:

As a believer in individual freedom and keeping government out of personal lives, I simply cannot find a legitimate justification for federal laws, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, which ‘define’ marriage. That definition should be left to religions and individuals – not government. Government’s role when it comes to marriage is one of granting benefits and rights to couples who choose to enter into a marriage ‘contract’. As I have examined this issue, consulted with folks on all sides, and viewed it through the lens of individual freedom and equal rights, it has become clear to me that denying those rights and benefits to gay couples is discrimination, plain and simple.

Certainly, religions and people of various faiths have the right to view marriage as they wish, and sanction marriage according to those beliefs. Just as government shouldn’t interfere with individual rights, government should not interfere with how marriage is treated as a ceremony, a sacrament or a privilege within a set of religious beliefs. However, when it comes to the rights of individuals and couples under the law, government’s promise should be to insure equal access to those rights to all Americans, gay or straight.

For a very long time, society has viewed gay marriage as a moral and, yes, religious issue. Today, I believe we have arrived at a point in history where more and more Americans are viewing it as a question of liberty and freedom. That evolution is important, and the time has come for us to align our marriage laws with the notion that every individual should be treated equally

It's hard to argue with Johnson here if you dig liberty. Unless, that is, you want to make the purer argument that the government shouldn't have anything to do with people who are engaging in what should be a religious ceremony or a contract whose terms concern only the two people involved. That is more or less what Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has said; even when he starts with a federalist argument, his rhetoric often sounds a lot like pure voluntaryism.

Johnson's pro-choice stance was probably always going to be a bigger deal-breaker for the mainstream GOP, anyway. But this declaration further hints that Johnson may finally be turning his back on the party that has barely acknowledged him as he seeks their nomination.

The Libertarian Party platform says people can make arguments in "good faith" on both sides of the abortion debate, meaning government should just keep out. It also says "government should not deny or abridge any individual's rights" on various grounds, including sexual orientation. The Republican tome of a platform is of course much less laissez-faire. Changing the GOP from the inside is a grand idea, but Johnson might just be too much of a libertarian after all. There's no shame in that, buddy. Come on over.

Reason's many articles on Johnson, as well as a July Reason.tv interview from Freedom Fest.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "It's hard to argue with Johnson here if you dig liberty."

    So if you're a wedding photographer, you have nothing to worry about, unless of course you photograph only opposite-sex marriages. In that case, you will be driven out of business with fines unless you change your business model.

    And you have nothing to worry about if you're a private employer either, so long as you either drop spousal benefits altogether or extend them to same-sex couples (I wonder which option they'll take in this economy?)

    And you have nothing to worry about if you're a landlord, so long as you rent equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Otherwise you'll be driven out of business with fines.

    Other than that, it's a perfect libertarian idea.

  • ||

    Where does Johnson say anything about fines?

  • ||

    private property rights =/= government endorsed discrimination.

  • Tony||

    Equal rights of gay people > right of bigots to discriminate.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Yes and no.

    Yes in terms of how the government ought to be treat citizens.

    No because the "equal rights" of gays should NOT trump the rights of private citizens to discriminate against anyone they choose in the private sphere.

  • ||

    Growing up is an option...if you so choose. Good luck

  • Tony||

    Yes it should. People collectivize whether you like it or not, and lots of individuals discriminating leads to big problems for other individuals who happen to be in the target group. Isn't the freedom to physically move about your society more fundamental than the freedom to discriminate? Freedom of expression is not prior to freedom from physical assault.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Did you ask every single person against gay marriage/not all that fucking concerned about gay marriage, as to their bigotry levels, Tony?

    Hint:

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bigot

  • ||

    Dude, are you STILL pissed that you're required to take wedding pictures of mixed race couples?

    It gets even worse than that! I thought my neighbor was an upright Evangelical Lutheran, but then she went and married some guy from the Missouri Synod!

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Fining wedding photographers for their business practices is not libertarian. It may be a great idea ("the interests of fighting bigotry require some suspension of business freedom"), but it's not libertarian. Tony's endorsement of the idea shows that.

    Tony is aware that SSM will lead to these kinds of regulations of private behavior. He's cool with it, since he's not libertarian. But he's aware of it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Why *shouldn't* wedding photographers have the right to confine themselves to photographing same-race marriages? Are they interfering with anyone's legitimate rights?

  • Tony||

    Just to be clear, this is something you made up in your head, and not a regulation anybody's actually talking about implementing, right?

    Pretty sure wedding photographers are free to reject business for any reason they choose, and don't even have to say why.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Not just "talking about implementing," implementing against an actual wedding photographer:

    http://bit.ly/tsIqvX

    Also, before you say "isolated instances," this is from an article in the Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy, giving examples and predicting more interference with private people and organizations.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The link is to a thread on which you commented, incidentally.

  • Tony||

    That's an interesting case. You're not wrong to be concerned about threats to religious liberty, which is what "the right to discriminate against gays" boils down to.

    But in the tension between religious liberty and minority equal rights, religious liberty tends to lose. Can you imagine a religious objection to interracial marriage? It still happens, but the churches are shunned. I don't necessarily think there should be legal implications, but only if society takes care of it on its own.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    ...said the self-styled free-speech absolutist...

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    We've gone from

    "[p]retty sure wedding photographers are free to reject business for any reason they choose"

    to

    "You're not wrong to be concerned about threats to religious liberty" and "in the tension between religious liberty and minority equal rights, religious liberty tends to lose."

    Shouldn't you look into the consequences of your own favorite policies, instead of leaving it to other people to do so and then claim they're making it up?

    And why limit this to religious freedom? What if the photographer doesn't have a specifically religious motive, they just have a thing for photographing opposite-sex marriages?

  • Tony||

    People without invisible friends speaking in their heads have no reason to hate gays... it's all about gay rights vs. religious liberty.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Considering that your definition of "hate" is "insisting on an opposite-sex definition of marriage," then your argument makes the free-market case against regulating wedding photographers.

    Following your logic, non-religious wedding photographers will photograph same-sex weddings without any legal pressure whatsoever. So regulating their behavior would be superfluous and insulting. And regulating religious photographers would, as you acknowledge, raise religious-liberty issues.

    So I imagine that you accept the free-market argument for letting photographers, employers, landlords, etc. make their own decisions as to which marriages they recognize.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "not in favor of/don't really give a shit about gay marriage despite religious beliefs/lack thereof" = "hate gays"

  • SIV||

    Gary who?

  • ||

    [sigh]
    Too true.

  • yonemoto||

    LBJ's nephew. (also great-great-grandson of andrew). Honestly, I don't think this country needs another presidential dynasty.

  • Juice||

    Gary "National Sales Tax" Johnson.

  • Chad||

    He was never switching. He was always for civil unions; the only difference now is he all in for gay marriage.

  • Joe M||

    Johnson's pro-life stance was probably always going to be a bigger deal-breaker for the mainstream GOP, anyway.

    I think it was probably more his pro-choice stance that was a deal-breaker.

  • Lucy Steigerwald||

    I don't know why I write probably so God damn much!

  • Joe M||

    Actually, it's probably the same reason I write actually so much.

  • Flex Nasty B.I.G.||

    Ah, Lucy, you think maybe you could fix the typo?

  • yonemoto||

    the typo can be retconned on the grounds that his stance on the pro-life issue is anti-pro-life.

    Keep it.

  • Lucy Steigerwald||

    Fixed, sorry kids. My brain is MIA.

  • BradK||

    It's Friday afternoon, all is forgiven.

    Well written piece.

  • ||

    "Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. " -Mark Twain

  • Lucy Steigerwald||

    That's awesome. Except Reason editors are much less likely to delete that than some.

  • ||

    He keeps referring to "couples" in his discussion of marriages which should be recognized by government, which strikes me as the very same kind of state limitation on marriage that he says he is opposed to.

    I don't see how you erase the historic/cultural definition of "man/woman" marriage on grounds of freedom of association and contract, and not allow polygamous marriage as well.

  • anon||

    Agreed, if my cultural choices tell me I should be banging five cunts and maybe a dude every once and while why shouldn't I be allowed to marry them? I can't wait for my tax lawyer to show me that return.

  • Joe M||

    Maybe he's in favor of civil unions for groups of more than two.

  • yonemoto||

    then polygamy shall we have.

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    *snicker*

    As they say, don't count your chickens... I'd be willing to bet good money cosmotrarians are a lot more likely to wind up run out of the country than they are to end up running it....

  • Another Phil||

    I don't see how you erase the historic/cultural definition of "man/woman" marriage on grounds of freedom of association and contract, and not allow polygamous marriage as well.

    Fair enough. There's no good reason why the state shouldn't recognize polygamous marriages too--polygamous gay/bi/transgendered/whatever marriages even. Gays and friends are the ones agitating for marriage now though. Just because they're not fighting for the polygamy contingent also, doesn't mean their marriage contracts shouldn't be recognized.

  • yonemoto||

    "Unless, that is, you want to make the purer argument that the government shouldn't have anything to do with people who are engaging in what should be a religious ceremony or a contract whose terms concern only the two people involved."

    I think most of us do.

  • Tony||

    But only ever make the argument when gay marriage equality comes up.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Should straight, unmarried couples have the same rights as straight, married couples?

  • ||

    Yes, but I think Johnson still shares that value. If government is involved, it should not discriminate based on sexual orientation, although I'd prefer it not to be involved at all.

    All government institutions should treat people accessing those institutions equally. Libertarians may not like public schools or roads or national parks, but as long as they are public institutions, the government should not discriminate against various groups as to their use.

  • ||

    Gary Johnson is like Ron Paul ... they both belong in the democrat party.

  • ||

    Given how both republicans and democrats love shoveling money into the vast furnace of the government, Gary Johnson and Ron Paul don't really belong in either party.

  • ||

    He's a fiscal conservative. The Demoblicans don't want him any more than the Republicrats do.

  • ||

    There's no shame in that, buddy. Come on over.

    So you're saying he should abandon the Stupid Party for the Silly Party? Sounds like a case of damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Trading GOP invisibility for a shot at 0.5% of the vote and a footnote in Wikipedia.

  • Jim||

    Yet another reason why Johnson is the BEST choice for president.

  • LuLu Rockwell||

    Have you seen this libertine in a debate? He makes Paul Lynde look like Pat Buchanan.

  • Storey Institute||

    There is a lot of dumb going around. For instance: references to the marriage photographers. That case is used to show how bad marriage equality is. Yet it happened in a state without marriage equality. Why? Because it had NOTHING to do with marriage laws. It was about the state's anti-discrimination laws. But when it's gay people you are after, what's a little truth between bigots?

    I notice that those who whine about businesses giving married gay couples benefits, never are against the benefits per se, not when they are the recipients. They only find it an issue when the businesses are "forced" to give the same benefits to gay couples that they already give to straight couples. Yet the businesses themselves have pointed out that marriage discrimination forces them to treat valuable employees differently.

    As for the idea that the marriage contract should not be government business at all. Unless one is an anarchofundamentalist then libertarians have long held that government courts and such are there to deal with contracts. In marriage that means when there are disputes, such as divorce. It is absurd to refer to it as a marriage contract if the contract has no legal validity.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    First, it was "you made up that stuff about wedding photographers."

    Then it was, "well, sure it happened, but this has no relationship to gay marriage, since New Mexico only has a gay-rights statute, not a gay-marriage statute."

    Well, it seems that New Mexico sure comes close. They certainly recognize one of the benefits of marriage - wedding photographs.

    If private businesses are this vulnerable when SSM is only partially recognized, what happens when it's fully recognized?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bigot

    Read that, and then post again, Storey. Take notes, if necessary.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Oh, and cram your blog up your ass.

  • PR||

    why should people who couple get benefits that singles don't, bigot?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Good point. Let's see if he answers it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "marriage discrimination forces them to treat valuable employees differently"

    Are you referring to some law against partner benefits? Would you furnish us with a link?

  • ||

    Govt should not authorize marriage, interfere with the right of association between law abiding citizens or promote one life style over another. Gov. Johnson for president.

  • ||

    I am all for gay marriage to be legal but this guy's argument is flawed. He says, marriage is a personal and religious issue. Government has no say in it but has to provide benefits to you once you are married. Note that the definition of marriage is a your private business and maybe your religion's. Well what if I decide to marry a goat? It's my personal, private decision in which government has no right to advise me. But now that I'm married to an object of my choice the government has to provide me with the benefits other married couples get.

  • ||

    Government provides certain benefits to married people whereas, what does your religion provide you with once you get married?? Nothing! Religion should have nothing to do with marriage. Any way you look at it government has more rights do demand something of you in matters of marriage since it provides you financial benefits for being married. Religion is not involved in any way except the ceremony which is a meaningless 15 min thing that doesn't affect your financial future.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Only 15 minutes?

    The phone call to the *caterer* to make sure they're arriving on time takes longer than 15 minutes.

    It takes more than 15 minutes for the bridesmaids to argue over what *socks* to wear.

    Even the wedding ceremony affects your financial future, not to mention the marriage itself.

    And the minister who presided over the ceremony would probably say that it's more than one's *financial* future that's at stake.

  • ||

    15 minutes?! You hired the wrong caterer Ed.

  • Um||

    his support for gay marriage

    Does the couple have to be gay?

  • Robert||

    If Johnson had been campaigning for the LP nomination all along, I'd be for him. But, I hope we learned from the Bob Barr episode that we don't just grab any old Republican loser who comes along, looking to be a big fish in our smaller pond.

  • Fixed||

    Any old Republican loser who comes along, looking to be a big fish minnow in our smaller pond puddle.

  • Aristotle||

    The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Aristotle hates gays, too!

  • BradK||

    Why to bigots always seek corroboration?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    They don't - they rely on unsupported assertions and name-calling.

  • jtuf||

    I want Johnson on the LP ticket in 2016, not 2012. Let him be Root's VP candidate in 2012. The bumper stickers would be great.

    Root & Johnson - See America Rise Again

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement