In a reasonable post about gay marriage over at Just One Minute, the author offers an update to “refute” an argument by his opponents:

MORE: For folks viewing gay marriage as a basic human right, this strategy is deeply annoying. OTOH, my casual research suggests that this “basic right” is recognized in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and nowhere else.

Poor form, Peter. By analogy, we could argue that self-defense and ownership of the means to self-defense as a “basic right” is deeply annoying because it’s only recognized in a few places. Whether something is a “basic right” or not does not depend on what governments recognize it or not. Instead, a basic right is something which governments should not prohibit.

Marriage is a special case because not only does it represent a behaviour that governments should not regulate–the right to copulate with and spend time with someone-or-more and to raise a family with someone-or-more –but it also adds a layer of government regulation on top, kind of an incorporation of that relationship to confer benefits on it.

Ergo, although government does not, in most cases, restrict the behavior in question, it does confer special benefits upon a certain subclass of that relationship–that one instance of a man and a woman. Marriage is not a basic right, nor are any “rights” of this sort where the government, instead of not prohibiting a behavior, rewards a behavior. These bennies that stem from the government are never a right as they do come from the government at the government’s indulgence.

But a lot of people blur the definition of basic right, intentionally or not, to include what their government gives to them instead of what their government cannot take from them.