The state should not be involved in marriage. But libertarians who think that this is all that need be said are wrong, argues Sheldon Richman. To see this, imagine that the government declared that blacks could not use the interstate highways. Would it be enough for libertarians to say that the government should not own and operate highways, remaining agnostic on the particular policy? Of course not, because that's not all there is to the matter. Libertarians should say that as long as the government does own and operate highways, it must not discriminate irrationally or invidiously in their use.
Why is that a proper libertarian position? It is so because libertarians, pending abolition of the state, should want to limit as far as possible its power to commit injustice, to mistreat people, or to deprive people of their dignity, writes Richman. One way to do that is to eliminate or at least restrict its power to discriminate irrationally. Government should not have the power to issue marriage licenses, but when it exercises that power, it should not be free to deny them to gay and lesbian couples.