In his lecture Love, Sex and Romance (CD, Internet Course), Leonard Peikoff briefly commented on this issue in a broader question about the nature of marriage (1:08:57 - 1:12:57), an excerpt of which I have transcribed below.
A marriage is a public declaration to a society that you two are to be treated as one. And the state is properly involved in granting such a status because it is, in significant part, a legal relationship.
There is the marriage contract that you sign. And the state has every right -- let me say, counter to the libertarians -- to decide who should be able to sign this type of contract. I do not think, for instance, if an uncle and his two 12 year-old nieces come in and say, "We want to get married," the state should say, "Well, you know, contracts are private. Here's a marriage license." Even with consenting adults, if two women and a man come in, I think the state has a perfect justification [to deny them], or if two men come in. I don't believe in gay marriage. I believe that it's proper, since this is a special, state-sanctioned relationship, that some standards be applied in the granting of this type of license. But that's a whole separate question.
But why it's contractual is obvious from a thousand type of eventualities that occur once you go beyond being, you know, conjoint tenants to being husband and wife. You have made a lifetime union, theoretically. And then all these questions [such as] children, and who gets custody if there's a dispute; and what happens if you die intestate; and who gets what; and even taxes, whether you file jointly. And I think the same thing would be true with voluntary taxes. They still have to know who do they take as a unit that's doing the paying. There has to be some idea when people become a unit and when they don't. That's necessary for commercial, for legal, for every other type of transaction. And from this point of view, it is not the state nosing into something that's not its business.
Although I agree with Peikoff's comments on marriage in general (such as his position that standards must be applied), I cannot agree with his position on gay marriage without elaboration on what basis he validates his standards for granting marriage licenses.
He reiterates his position on gay marriage in this podcast in response to the question "What are your thoughts on California Proposition 8 which states that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized?" However, he voted against the proposition. Again, below is my transcription.
One side argued, in essence, to bar gay marriage as legal. And the other side, to uphold. And what side do I take? I say that both sides, in this context, were wrong. The anti-gay marriage side was pushed and defended entirely on religious grounds. It was heavily backed by the Mormons, among others, and would have represented, if it had passed, a big victory for the anti-abortionists and potential religious totalitarians. On the other side, I agree that it is wrong to make society equate gay marriage with regular marriage. But out of the two, gay marriage, in my judgment, is of no threat, no harm to society at all. I know several gay marriages of either sex that are perfectly fine people. I don't see any problem there. But religion is a major threat, and therefore I had no doubts and no problem at all in voting in favor of gay marriage as a means of holding back religion. Unfortunately, we lost.
Oct 21 '10 at 01:24