Two consenting adults agree to have sexual relations. Police and prosecutors — and maybe even federal agents — stand ready to pounce.
Two consenting adults want to put a stamp of permanence on their relationship. Legislators and lobbyists brace for constitutional rewrites.
In the first example, the government acts if money changes hands. Whether the trigger gets pulled in case No. 2 depends on the number of genders involved. Meanwhile, the rest of the consenting adults watch as government boots continue kicking down closed doors for the simple reason that not everyone approves of what goes on behind them.
People should assume, reasonably, that actions by government agencies fall into specific categories, such as protecting public safety and preserving rights. In that light, how do we classify their responses to certain private interactions?
Consensual sex between adults threatens whose safety, exactly? A desire to call a personal relationship by a certain name encroaches on whose rights, exactly? Without government intervention in these matters, would the world in fact slide into chaos?
The well-meaning folks who organize prostitution stings and call for government-sanctioned definitions of living arrangements are acting on behalf of abstracts. While no one would dispute the worthiness of standing up for ideals, a police report doesn’t list society as the victim and morality doesn’t sue for redress. The difference involves — or should involve — actions that offend our sensibilities because they do demonstrable harm to a specific party. Actions that offend our sensibilities only should remain outside the sphere of legislation and public policy.
Police and lawmakers work different sides of the same street: enforcing laws and making laws to promote our safety and our freedom. Unfortunately, in too many cases government confuses the street with the moral high ground.