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              Surrounded by elected officials, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signs the state  Surrounded by elected officials, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signs the state's Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act into law during ceremonies on the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Chicago. Illinois becomes the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)   

No, the Libertarian Party isn’t behind the curve on gay rights

Photo of Stephen Richer
Stephen Richer
Law Student, University of Chicago

Tyler Lopez’s new Slate article: “How Libertarians Failed Gay Rights” is awful.

But, nonetheless, the piece has stirred up quite the hornet’s nest. The post has 683 comments, and it has prompted responses by Brian Doherty at Reason, Stephen Miller at the Independent Gay Forum, and “Libertarians Concerned” (in a long Dec. 30 Facebook posting). Perhaps the speedy and sizeable response is because we libertarians are an especially prickly bunch. Perhaps it’s because we’re well-educated and like writing. Perhaps we had extra time to write because we didn’t attend religious services during the holidays.

Whatever the reason, the libertarian spirit has also moved me, and so here are three reasons why Lopez’s article missed the mark:

1. The Libertarian Party is very much on-the-record in support of gay rights.

From Lopez:

[T]he Libertarian Party website has no section devoted to LGBTQ issues. To find that content, users have to dig around in the site’s archives. The results are laughably minor: The most recent press release mentioning “LGBT” came in 2010—all of it spent decrying President Barack Obama’s “inaction” on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. LGBTQ Democrats are painted as victims suffering from the offensive catchphrase “battered gay voter syndrome.” Democrats, despite their recent efforts to expand gay rights, are labeled as oppressors. The cure for all this persecution is, of course, the Libertarian Party.

The notion that omission equals disapproval wouldn’t pass an LSAT logic class. By parallel reasoning, the GOP doesn’t care about gun rights: there is no gun rights section (see the GOP’s issues page). Ditto, the Democrats on foreign policy (roll over the “Issues” section and you won’t see anything mentioning foreign relations or foreign policy).

But we need not go down the logic route. Evidence of the Libertarian Party’s support of gay rights is readily available. “Libertarians Concerned” writes: “[Lopez’s] proof is that the home page for the LP fails to have a tab on gay rights. He didn’t bother to look in the same tabs at the actual LP platform. It took me all of 2 seconds [to find material on gay rights].”

Lest you think that the author behind “Libertarians Concerned” has special researching skills, try searching: “Libertarian Party and gay rights.” It will bring you to a page that most people are comfortable with – Wikipedia – which will tell you: “In 2013, the Libertarian Party applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, United States v. Windsor, to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. The Libertarian Party has supported same-sex marriage since its founding in 1971. … The Libertarian Party platform and Republican Party platforms are generally at odds of each other concerning LGBT rights.”

The mentioned Libertarian Party platform is accessible on the Libertarian Party website, and a party’s platform is usually its most credible pronunciation of its values. Section 1.0 of the platform (that’s ONE — not exactly tucked away) reads:

Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Our support of an individual’s right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices.

Section 1.3 is titled “Personal Relationships” and reads:

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.

That sure seems like blatant support for marriage equality. As Austin Petersen comments at The Libertarian Republic: “[T]he party platform doesn’t mince words when [it] talk[s] about personal liberties (1.0), and personal relationships.”