The right to marry is not the right to a spouse
We posted the other day on the US Bill of Rights and the contributions made to establishing those rights by Brits. They didn't theorize about freedom. They knew how terrible it was to live without their rights and they fought to win them. (They fought because conversations with authorities who do not believe in free speech or free association or freedom or religion are so often futile.)
Recently Paul Moreno made an interesting comparison between natural rights and the "entitlements" established by government. By the end of the 18th century, Brits and Americans understood that government's purpose was to secure pre-existing natural rights such as life, liberty, property and association. Moreno writes -
"Everyone can exercise such rights simultaneously; nobody's exercise of his own rights limits anyone else's similar exercise. Your right to life or to work or to vote does not take anything away from anyone else. We can all pursue happiness at once."
Entitlements require someone else to provide me with a house, food, education, health care and a job - and if I don't have a job, to pay me anyway. If I have a job, I will be paying for the entitlements of others. If I don't have a job and you do, you will be paying for mine.
Rights also have the great advantage of encouraging independence and teamwork and generosity. Rights create prosperity, while universal entitlements are economically unsustainable.
To put Moreno's comparison of rights and entitlements in a nutshell - "The right to free speech does not entitle me to an audience"; "the right to marry does not entitle me to a spouse".