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Is same-sex marriage a "single issue" issue?

The scenario I envisioned was one in which gay-rights militants (or more accurately, anti-organized-religion zealots piggy-backing on same-sex marriage) successfully challenge the tax-exempt status of a religious institution. For argument's sake, let's say it is the Roman Catholic Church. The Church then defies the government on taxes.

This cannot stand.

The legitimacy of a government derives from one thing and one thing only: the power to collect taxes, Democracy, dictatorship, theocracy, oligarchy, kakistocracy, monarchy -- the differences are irrelevant to the question of legitimacy. What matters is that there is one recognized authority that has the power to compel the people living within some defined geographic area to pony up a portion of their wealth, on demand. That power in turn comes from maintaining a monopoly on violence. When that monopoly is employed to generate tax revenue, you have "government".

If the government can no longer collect taxes, or is unwilling or unable to punish those who defy the government's power to levy and collect taxes, the legitimacy of the government is in question. No one is going to care if the government upholds the law on same-sex marriage -- well, not many people, anyway. But everyone is affected by taxes, and if the government is seen to be unable to exercise its power to tax, the government falls.

"Falling" does not just a change in parties -- that's window dressing in many ways. Government continues despite changes in party status. But the government itself ceases to be.

If the same-sex marriage controversy begins to spiral out of control, and leads to a serious defiance of the taxing power of the federal government, that defiance will be met with swift and brutal legal action. A bishop's staff will be no protection against a government facing dissolution. If the government blinks and allows an angry and no longer tax-exempt church to defy it, provinces like Alberta and Quebec will peel away, and refuse to submit their tax revenues to Ottawa. Further tax revolts, in other religious communities, from citizens fed up with taxes, from opportunists, will mushroom, and Canada will either cease to be, or emply that monopoly on violence to re-assert itself.

Either way, it'll be messy.

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Angry in the Great White North by Steve Janke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License. Based on a work at
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