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.
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.