Slate Wonders Why Libertarian Party Insists on Being Libertarian on Gay Rights Issues, Reveals Utter Ignorance of Party's History

Weird little piece up at Slate today, about an issue
certainly none of their readers or pretty much anyone else cares
about, but feeds a generic endless desire to scratch at the
persistently annoying itch of libertarianism in these here

It is called “How
Libertarians Failed Gay Rights
” and its URL contains the phrase
“the party failed to take a stand” on gay rights. Its evidence for
this is that on the LP’s current website, author Tyler Lopez
couldn’t find a dedicated page about gay rights.

The Party’s platform
though Lopez doesn’t mention this, contain this:

Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity
should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals,
such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration
or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to
define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting
adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and
personal relationships.

Lopez’ very non-deep knowledge of his subject misses some other
things, like the long history of LP candidates speaking out about
gay rights as a pretty big deal, from Ed Clark’s 1978 California
governor’s race in which he ran hard against
the anti-gay Briggs Initiative
to Gary
Johnson in 2012
Andre Marrou in 1992
, and the interesting identity politics
fact that the Party’s first presidential candidate, John Hospers,
was gay, though not openly so in a modern sense. 

At the very convention where he got the Party’s
nomination, former Republican congressman and Defense of Marriage
Act author Bob Barr

had to denounce his own law
and insist he’d repeal it as

Lopez also
misses the Party’s record
from the mid-’70s on of being way
ahead of the national curve in talking sense and laissez-faire when
it came to homosexuality.

This is summed up well in
Ralph Raico’s document
used by the LP during the 1976 Roger
MacBride campaign, “Gay
Rights: A Libertarian Approach
.” Some excerpts. Again, this was
used in the mid-’70s. Worth a longish look:

Since they partially share the heritage of Classical Liberalism,
democratic socialists and left-liberals have been much more helpful
to the cause of gay liberation. Much of the progress in recent
years in repealing laws in this area has been due to them. But too
often, even when they are more or less rational on the subject,
they are, either for reasons of temperament or politics, much too
timid….so many of them are generally in favor
of gay rights, but nearly all shy away from the right of homosexual
couples to adopt children, or even to have their unions legally
recognized. Moreover, their attitudes are often tainted by an
offensive, psychiatrically-rooted condescension: basically, a
these-people-are-sick-and-need-help-not-punishment approach….

And as for the run-of-the-mill liberal politicians, we have a
right to suspect the extent of their genuine tolerance. Consider,
for example, one of the more “liberal” of these men, Sergeant
Shriver (who was McGovern’s Vice Presidential candidate in 1972).
In a speech in Chicago to Mayor Daley’s precinct workers, on
October 24, 1972, Shriver whiningly complained of the unfair
attacks on McGovern in these terms: “And then they say that George
McGovern wants to give blanket amnesty to everybody—draft dodgers,
deserters, queers, kooks …” (New Your Times, November 12,
1972. Sec. 4—notice that, in his frenzy, Shriver does not even take
the trouble to make sense: “blanket amnesty to queers?”) I think
you and I have a good idea of the real feelings on homosexuals of
anyone likely to become the candidate for President of the
Democratic Party…..

With the Libertarian Party, unlike other political groups, there
was never any need laboriously to raise its consciousness on the
issue of gay liberation, nor to compel it, after long, drawn-out
battles, finally to concede the humanity and first class
citizenship of gay men and women. Instead, the Libertarian Party
was born believing in gay rights. The need to promote full freedom
of individual development for all persons is what led to the
formation of our Party; and the very first mention of us
in The New York Times (“New Party Makes a Debut
in Denver,” February 6, 1972) lists as
our first objective (even ahead of abolition of
the draft, amnesty for draft-evaders and deserters, private
ownership of gold, etc.): “Repeal of all criminal laws in which
there is no victim.”

Gay rights have been an issue in practically every major
Libertarian campaign since then, including John Hospers’ try for
the Presidency in 1972 (he did get one electoral vote, thus coming
in a close third to McGovern); Fran Youngstein’s campaign for Mayor
of New York; Jerry Tuccille’s try for Governor of New York in 1974;
and the 1975 bids of Ray Cunningham for Mayor of San Francisco, and
Dave Long for Mayor of Boston. It is also an integral part of the
campaign of Roger MacBride and David Bergland, our candidates for
President and Vice-President in 1976. At the Libertarian National
Convention in New York City, in August, 1975, at which MacBride and
Bergland were nominated, the following Platform planks were adopted

“We hold that only actions which infringe the rights of others
can properly be termed crimes. We favor the repeal of all federal,
state and local laws creating “crimes” without victims. In
particular, we advocate: … . (b) the repeal of all laws regarding
consensual sexual relations, including prostitution and
solicitation, and the immediate cessation of state oppression of
homosexual men and women, that at last they be accorded their full
rights as individuals … (e) the use of executive pardon to free all
those presently incarcerated for the commission of these

We call for the end of Defense Department policy of discharging
armed forces personnel for homosexual conduct when such conduct
does not interfere with their assigned duties. We further call for
the retraction of all less-than-honorable discharges previously
assigned for such reasons and the deletion of such information from
military personnel files.”

Better than “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and in 1975. Dare
I suggest Lopez has no idea what he’s talking about?

More on how radical and how early the LP was on gay rights, a
long long time ago, from Raico:

During the Tuccille campaign in 1974, a position paper was
issued on the subject, composed by Mike James, Western New York
Libertarian and gay liberationist. It provide s the basis for the
position of the MacBride-Bergland ticket on the issue. Here is what
our national candidates in 1976 specifically favor and will promote
to the extent they can:

  • Repeal of all laws regarding consensual sexual acts between
    adults (with the age of consent reasonably defined). This would
    include abolition of laws prohibiting prostitution and
    solicitation, whether gay or straight.
  • Repeal of legislation prohibiting unions between members of the
    same sex, and the extension to such unions of all legal rights and
    privileges presently enjoyed by partners in heterosexual
  • An end to the use of loitering statutes and entrapment
    procedures as a means of harassing gays and prostitutes.
  • An end to the collection by government agencies of data on the
    sexual preferences of individuals.
  • Elimination of regulations specifying homosexuality as a
    justification for denying or revoking state licenses (for doctors,
    lawyers, teachers, hairdressers, etc.).
  • Repeal of laws prohibiting cross-dressing.
  • Recognition of the right of a homosexual parent to be
    considered for custody of his or her natural child, and of the
    child to choose the homosexual parent as guardian.
  • Elimination of laws specifying homosexuality as grounds for
    denying the right of adoption.
  • Equality of treatment of gay people in regard to government
    service, including particularly membership in the armed
  • Release of all individuals presently detained or imprisoned for
    any victimless crime.

Even Lopez’s substantive critique amounts to a complaint
that the LP treats gay issues in a distinctly libertarian
way–worrying about how government power effects gays, not worrying
about private attitudes or treatment, which remain the business of
those who hold the attitudes or give the treatment.

To complain about that is not to complain that the LP isn’t
sufficiently pro-gay (and compared to who? The Democratic Party who

just last year got around
to getting gay marriage rights in its
platform, and which some research by colleague Ronald Bailey
indicates didn’t even mention eliminating sexual orientation
discrimination in the platform until 1984?) but that it is overly

Slate‘s piece combines confused thinking with near
utter ignorance on its topic. However, it will, if read quickly and
carelessly by equally ignorant readers, help make certain people
think less of libertarianism, and that’s all that matters.

from Hit & Run

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