The Right Coast

June 16, 2004
Hayek and Gay Marriage
By Mike Rappaport

I took Tom's suggestion and read Jonathan Rauch's article addressing What Hayek Would Say About Gay Marriage. I agree with Rauch's description of Hayek's normative theory: he would not rule out same sex marriage simply because it is not traditional, so long as the change were part of a larger landscape where existing norms were maintained.

But simply because Hayek would not rule out same sex marriage does not mean he would have no concerns about its nontraditional nature. Largely based on the Hayekian theory that Rauch describes, I support civil unions as a step in the direction of gay marriage, but one where the results of the experiment can be judged without going all the way towards same sex marriage. It seems to me that Hayek's tentative, gradualist view argues for civil unions as a first step.

While Rauch does not address civil unions in this article, he does address it elsewhere, arguing that civil unions are problematic because they would be used by heterosexuals and would undermine traditional marriage. As I have discussed before, he is right that civil unions for heterosexuals is a danger to traditional marriage, but all that means is that civil unions should be restricted to gays. The justification for the restriction is that civil unions are a substitute for full marriage and therefore should not be provided to heterosexuals.