Gay Marriage

Libertarian Leads Effort for Gay Marriage Recognition in Arizona

Ballot initiative signature-gathering gets underway


Warning: Initiative does not promise gay weddings will be as pretty as stock photos suggest
Credit: © Purmar |

Marriage recognition is currently a man-and-wife only affair in The Grand Canyon State, thanks to a constitutional amendment passed in 2008.

But as gay marriage recognition is seeing increasing public support, there's a new effort in Arizona to modify the state's definition to allow for same-sex couples, and this new effort is being led by a libertarian and a Republican. Equal Marriage Arizona, co-chaired by libertarian blogger and business owner Warren Meyer and Arizona Log Cabin Republican caucus chair Erin Ogletree Simpson, filed their petition Monday and have begun collecting signatures to bring it to a vote.

The wording of the initiative is very simple: It changes the definition of recognized marriages in Arizona from a man and a woman to two people, gender neutral. An added section declares that religious organizations will not be obligated to solemnize or officiate at such ceremonies.

I spoke with Meyer briefly earlier today about his involvement. He said he worked with Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson's campaign and had gotten involved with the Our America Initiative, the pro-liberty group Johnson formed prior to his run for president. Meyer said the group contacted him to see if he would be interested in taking on leadership of an initiative effort in Arizona, and he agreed. Johnson, too, has declared his support for the effort and is listed as an honorary chairman for Equal Marriage Arizona.

Asked whether Arizona's conservative political reputation meant this push had a better chance succeeding if it came from the right, Meyer agreed, though emphasized this is a nonpartisan effort.

"This is an individual liberty issue, and we're hoping to get to the point in Arizona that people are okay with this with addition of some liberty protection," he said.

He attributed federalism as a key reason why attitudes toward gay marriage are evolving.

"I think the federalist experiment has helped," he said. "These other states have done it and things turned out of fine. It helped people have comfort to discuss it and it all worked in our favor. I think we've permanently moved to the point where Arizona is in support of equal marriage."

A poll from April by the Behavior Research Center backs up Meyer's claim. Despite passing a constitutional amendment a mere five years ago, 55 percent of Arizona voters now say they support gay marriage recognition.  

Asked about the libertarian argument that we should eliminate government licensing of marriage entirely, Meyer agreed that it would be the preferred solution in an ideal world, but in the absence of that outcome, he'll push for equitable application of policy.

"I went through the Arizona revised statutes, he said. "For just spouses, they're mentioned 1,135 times in more than 350 separate pieces of legislation. We've embodied special privileges for marital status throughout the legal code. … We live in a world where recognized marriage carries all sorts of responsibilities and privileges under the law and the only way to equalize that is to have marriage recognition."

Equal Marriage Arizona will need just shy of 260,000 signatures by July 3 to make the ballot, but Meyer said they're shooting for 400,000, just to be sure.

Meyer was interviewed by Reason TV in 2010 for a completely unrelated matter: His business is responsible for privately managing parks in Arizona. Watch our interview with him here about the privatization of parks management and visit his blog here.

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  1. Gay marriage “recognition”? My boy Shackford knows that, in a debate of ideas, words matter.

    An added section declares that religious organizations will not be obligated to solemnize or officiate at such ceremonies.

    That seems pretty hateful. I should have known this wasn’t a genuine push but more backdoor shenanigans.

    1. You know who else engaged in “backdoor shenanigans?”

    2. What you did there, I saw it.

    3. Not really. The Government shouldn’t compel any non-governmental organization to do something against their beliefs.

      If there were a gay only church, I wouldn’t want them compelled to “solemnize or officiate” the marriages of straight couples if they didn’t want to (though I doubt such a circumstance will ever come about).

  2. “An added section declares that religious organizations will not be obligated to solemnize or officiate at such ceremonies.”

    OK, so this is a ballot initiative written and set up by avowed libertarians, and the best they can do is exempt “religious organizations?” Have they been paying the least attention to news stories from other states about dairy farms, tour companies, florists, photographers, T-shirt makers, bakers, etc., etc. being required to assist at same-sex wedding ceremonies?

    An avowed libertarian had the chance to protect freedom of conscience, and decided that it was more important to have the state force its definition of marriage down everyone’s throat.

    1. Does Arizona even include sexual orientation in public accommodation laws?

      1. No.

    2. Is it weird to anyone else that gay marriage opponents seem to be preoccupied with things being shoved down their throats?

      1. Is it weird that the regulars on this board are aligning with Tony on this issue?

        1. In their defense, it’s an exceedingly simple issue.

        2. I assume that I also agree with Tony that the world being hit by a gigantic meteor would be a bad thing.

          I’m not sure what agreeing with someone I normally don’t agree with says, besides the fact that even idiots aren’t always wrong.

          1. That makes you worse than Hitler Irish.

            Worse. Than. Hitler.

      2. It’s even weirder that libertarians forget about freedoms of conscience and association whenever The Gaze are involved.

        1. Only in your demented mind

    3. Take it up with antidiscrimination laws. Letting gays have equal marriage rights is a separate civil rights issue.

    4. Meyer would prefer to get the state completely out of marriage but is picking and choosing his battles.

      The idea is to put this on equal footing with everything else.

      Anti-discrimination is a separate issue.

      Personally I think that gay marriage proponents screwed up by taking the easy option of seeking government allowance for gay marriage rather than the harder but better road of ending government involvement in marriage completely.

      1. It’s not a hard road, it’s an impossible road, both because it will never happen in our grandchildren’s lifetimes, and because marriage that is not a government sanction is just a word. People can already use the word if they want to.

        1. Tony, you are just speculating that the state will still be involved in marriage in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.

          Look at the speed with which East Germany and Soviet Russia collapsed.

        2. “because marriage that is not a government sanction is just a word.”

          Well, *I* can see a whole slew of ways that “marriage” can be more than just a word without direct government sanction.

          Marriage, on the secular level, is just a set of contracts. Why should government have the unilateral authority to both define what’s in that contract and be able to change the contract at-will?

          Oh, and contract law doesn’t require government to exist.

          1. Top Men have written otherwise.

        3. I normally dont feed the trolls but your comment is just beyond ignorance and begs for a coherent response.
          “and because marriage that is not a government sanction is just a word.”
          Specifically to the statement above. Marriage was intended to keep whites from interracial relationships in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, even by the 1920’s only 38 states required marriage licenses.
          For many thousands of years there was no such thing as government involvement in marriage, it was between two people their god and their community and to say its just a word without the state isnt even an argument against the state sanctioning of marriage.
          Furthermore your argument would also indicate that nothing sanctioned by the government is illegitimate or “just a word” to use your phrase, which is a horrid idea if there ever was one and really shows us your true character deep down.
          Now I know I shouldn’t let slimes like you get under my skin, you havent btw, and i shouldn’t even dignify your post with a response but as i said before; I couldnt help it.
          That is all.

  3. Dog bites man.

  4. Meyer has a very good blog ( that (mostly) talks about his dealings with the public recreation/parks bureaucracies in multiple states (he runs a business that manages campsites and other outdoor recreation facilities for various states).

  5. Well… it’s interesting that a libertarian is still taking a restrictive approach:
    “The wording of the initiative is very simple: It changes the definition of recognized marriages in Arizona from a man and a woman to two people,”
    Why remove the gender-based restriction but keep the numeric restriction? That doesn’t sound libertarian to me.
    I’m not advocating for one or the other but it is odd that while removing the no.1 condition of family-building (i.e. being able to have children) it’s still OK to keep condition no.2 (i.e. it has to be two people).

    I respect Warren for his work and his opinions but I’m not sure what is he trying to do on this one? Is he planning to run for office one day?

    1. I think he is just being a “direction” libertarian rather than a “destination” libertarian, and is therefore taking relatively small steps in what he perceives to be the right direction. Are there good arguments against that kind of political activity? Sure. Privatizing in the wrong way can be worse than leaving something, which should be private, public. Meyer himself would tell you that. Abolishing the Federal Reserve could, if done incorrectly, cause an economic catastrophe. Unwinding welfare and retirement programs can be grossly unfair to recipients because of economic planning. Etc., ad infinitum.

      1. Good points, but I don’t think any of those comparisons are relevant here. Gays getting marriage licenses wouldn’t affect polygamists

        1. I don’t disagree, actually, but I commonly hear the argument that full “marriage equality” will be the death knell for the greater libertarian/liberal goal of depoliticizing marriage (something that I do indeed advocate), no doubt due to the dissipation of political momentum. Being something of a Burkean or Hayekian, I tend to piss off most self-described “libertarians” with my marginalism and advocacy for moderate reform, so I try to approach these discussions in a more ecumenical fashion. I hate to think of driving away people just because they disagree with theories of second best, third best, etc.

    2. In Colorado City, AZ, they are already violating the numeric restrictions.

  6. As an Arizona libertarian who is also an elected Republican State Committeeman, I genuinely hope this succeeds. I will sign it and I will say as much to the people in my legislative district, and suggest they support it as well. Our area GOP is surprisingly libertarian. Our area Libertarian Party is ridiculously Randian, being chaired for a long time now by a County Attorney who is also the head of the local Objectivist Society.

    Members of the local Ron Paul presidential campaign, who have done a fantastic job of organizing (they recruited me from the donor list), are wresting this party away from the Santorums and McCains (who is now roundly despised by the party’s rank-and-file), and grooming the Pauls and Amashs for future success. It’s the only way. Our state just enacted a ballot access law that effectively bars 3rd parties from ever competing electorally.

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