Many Lean Libertarian, But Parties Remain Polarized

Pollster Nate Silver finds that 22% of Americans favor gay marriage and oppose income redistribution, indicating libertarian views. He explains:

Why should views on (for example) gay marriage, taxation, and U.S. policy toward Iran have much of anything to do with one another? The answer is that it suits the Democratic Party and Republican Party’s mutual best interest to articulate clear and opposing positions on these issues and to present their platforms as being intellectually coherent. The two-party system can come under threat (as it potentially now is in the United Kingdom) when views on important issues cut across party lines.

And he adds, “the rigidly partisan views of political elites should not be mistaken for the relatively malleable and diverse ones that American voters hold.”

These voters, aside from the small, diehard Libertarian Party folks, generally fall into the independent camp. They swing to the Democrats when the Republicans seem too socially conservative, and to the Republicans when the Democrats seem to be pushing too much big government spending and intrusiveness. Nevertheless, the left/right partisan polarization seems to be getting worse.

David Boaz, author of The Libertarian Mind, shares more thoughts on Silver’s findings .

Conversion Therapy Bans: Some Considerations

Update. Breaking Ranks: From The Right Therapy for LGBT Youth:

[Legislative] Bans could have the unintended consequence of deterring therapists from engaging with children who have questions or even of ensnaring good therapists when they do. … Psychotherapy is inherently private and complex, and for some individuals, sexual orientation and gender identity can and do evolve in the course of legitimate treatment.

That’s not the opinion of right-wing homophobes. It’s from a May 2, 2015 Washington Post op-ed by Stewart Adelson, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University medical school and principal author of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s practice guidelines on LGBT youth, and Kyle Knight, a researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch.

The White House, in response to an online petition that cites LGBTQ+ youth suicide in calling for a federal ban on all conversion therapy, responded with a statement saying, “While a national ban would require congressional action, we are hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the actions taken by these states will lead to broader action that this Administration would support.”

Over at, Scott Shakeford risks opprobrium, writing:

It’s absurd to say that the transgender experience is all in somebody’s head or that it’s not real, or cling to the idea that it’s a mental illness out of hand. I have known transgender people both before and after their transitions and have seen them leading much happier lives.

But it’s also equally absurd to never push or poke at any individual’s claim to a transgender identity. A gender transition is a huge, huge deal, and therapists need to be able to make sure their clients hammer out their concepts of who they are before they make some very major decisions. A small number of those who pursue surgery to change their sex regret it. …

We should be more concerned that therapists would become afraid to challenge how their patients see themselves out of fear of running afoul of a government regulation telling them how to go about treatment.

The position of LGBT youth is different from that of adults, and there is a necessary role for the state in protecting youth against abusive parents (although this role, too, is often handled badly by government). As regards protecting LGBorT youth, there are some issues to be addressed. The petition states, for instance, “Therapists that engage in the attempt to brainwash or reverse any child’s gender identity or sexual orientation are seriously unethical and legislation is needed to end such practices that are resulting in LGBTQ+ deaths.”

As Shakeford suggests, the matter isn’t always so simple, particularly concerning the need to be certain of a young person’s transgender identity before life-altering changes are made. There is some convincing evidence, for instance, of prepubescent males regarded as “effeminate,” and who then self-identify as transgender, being put on hormonal therapy to stifle male sexual development by obliging parents. There is also evidence that post puberty and into adulthood, many “effeminate”-regarded (and self-regarding) boys, including some of those who had identified as transgender, maturing into gay men who are not, it turns out, transgendered and are most happy to have their male sexuality intact.

From a conservative magazine (the Weekly Standard); and no, I don’t endorse everything here, but I do find this point worth considering:

Critics of puberty blockers, now administered in at least 37 locations in the United States according to Spack, point to the expense, the numerous side-effects associated with Lupron and its pharmaceutical relatives, and the possibility that parents and physicians might be pushing children who would otherwise grow out of their transgender identities into a lifetime of painful and costly surgery, dependence on daily doses of estrogen and other hormones, and the difficulty of finding a place for themselves in a world in which their femininity will always be questioned. On top of that, taking large doses of the hormones of the opposite biological sex almost invariably renders the taker sterile.

One of the leading critics has been Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and former colleague of Blanchard who heads the gender-identity clinic at Toronto’s Clarke Institute. “One controversy is, how low does one go in starting blockers?” Zucker told the Globe in 2011. “Should you start at 11? At 10? What if someone starts their period at 9?” Zucker prefers a therapy regimen of trying to ease transgender girls into accepting that they will be happier in the long run by accepting their genetic maleness, since most of them will grow up to be gay men anyway.

[Transgender activist] Andrea James, as might be expected, has repeatedly attacked Zucker on her website as promoting “reparative therapy for gender-variant youth”—likening him to the often religiously motivated advocates of “curing” a gay sexual orientation.

Should Zucker’s therapeutic approach be illegal?

Some forms of conversion or reparative therapy are indeed destructive when inflicted on minors. But if conversion therapy should be illegal, when does religious counseling become therapy, and at what point should the state and its social welfare network step in and override parents? Is there a risk that these practices where be driven “underground,” where they might be even more destructive?

These concerns don’t mean that states shouldn’t be scrupulous about how they license potentially harmful and abusive therapeutic practices, or that the federal government shouldn’t weigh in. Or that there are no transgendered youth. It just suggests the issues involved aren’t always so clear cut and that it will be useful to see how these state bans play out, and if they are demonstrated to be protective of at-risk youth.

More. From the comments, “Jesse” writes:

I think here, as elsewhere, the idea that T and L&G are the same issues leads to a number of problems. A very strong argument can be made that sexual orientation is inherent and thus therapeutic approaches are destructive, unscientific and should be banned. But to say that someone who hasn’t gone through puberty can be certain that they are transgender and thus should have their puberty blocked just is not the same thing. …

With so much hostility toward gay youth, I’m not surprised some find it easier to say, I’m transgendered; fix me so I fit in. And if the transgender activists say that counseling to see if maybe they are not transgendered, just gay, should be barred, that’s a problem. Fear of offending transgender activists could actually be putting gay youth at risk.

Liberty and Religious Accommodation

James Kirchick asks whether religious-based opposition to same-sex marriage, or specifically, to providing services to a same-sex wedding, is always bigotry, as some blithely assert. He writes:

One reason [New York’s Marriage Equality Act] passed is that the act included a provision that prohibits state courts from penalizing religious institutions for refusing to recognize or sanctify gay marriages or providing services to same-sex weddings.

Should this protection be extended to closely held for-profit family businesses when New Yorkers use them to exercise their religious views? “Yes,” the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to say in the Hobby Lobby case, although that dealt with birth control.

The justices may someday be asked to extend Hobby Lobby to small businesses being pressed on same-sex weddings. In rejecting the idea that a ban on same-sex marriage can be only about prejudice, New York’s high court offered a template.

It led to gay marriage here while protecting religion.

But if you dismiss faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage as “bigotry,” than there is no room for accommodating the small number of service providers who, citing religious convictions, wish not to be forcibly coerced into facilitating same-sex weddings. In this situation, if you look at who is acting like the Grand Inquisitors, it’s not the service providers.

More. Hatefully humorous, and a sign (among many) of the backlash that seems to be brewing and which certain activists seem intent on courting (and no doubt would profit from, in several senses).

As many are coming to realize, with military service and marriage equality won (or nearly so), the fundraising machine needs new enemies. So rev up the culture war against religious dissenters.



“Either you have three friends who are LGBTQ or you pay a penalty equal to the ObamaCare penalty, proportionate to your income. So, if you fail to have ObamaCare and fail to have enough LGBTQ friends, you could pay the ObamaCare.”

Not a parody:

Republican legislators banned from Fargo coffee shop “Unless accompanied by a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual, queer, intersex or asexual person.”

Libertarians and Religious Freedom

Christian conservatives aren’t the only defenders of religious free-association laws, according to the Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn, in his column Indiana’s Libertarian Moment (it’s behind a firewall so google “Indiana’s Libertarian Moment” McGurn notes that:

Today the strongest arguments for protecting the right of, say, an evangelical Christian baker to decline baking a cake for a gay wedding are not coming from religious leaders or social conservatives. They are coming from libertarians, many if not most of whom themselves support same-sex marriage.

Take New York University’s Richard Epstein, who is arguably America’s leading libertarian law professor. Mr. Epstein supports gay marriage on the grounds that, because the government has a monopoly on marriage licenses, it shouldn’t use this monopoly to withhold these licenses from couples who are gay.

But Mr. Epstein doesn’t stop here. He further argues that the same freedom of association requires that the law not be used to coerce those who disagree with gay marriage.

In addition:

Mr. Epstein is not the only libertarian to speak out. … Matt Welch, editor of Reason magazine, puts it this way:

“The bad news, for those of us on the suddenly victorious side of the gay marriage debate, is that too many people are acting like sore winners, not merely content with the revolutionary step of removing state discrimination against same-sex couples in the legal recognition of marriage, but seeking to use state power to punish anyone who refuses to lend their business services to wedding ceremonies they find objectionable.”

McGurn concludes:

For…social conservatives, the question is more fundamental: Will they retain sufficient freedom to live their lives and run their institutions in accord with their faith?

The irony of Indiana suggests that it may be the libertarians who have the strongest arguments for defending them.

Many LGBT people have libertarian inclinations, but the activists who dominate LGBT political lobbies tend to identify as part of the broad progressive-left movement. And activist progressives dominate LGBT media and comment boards, where they can act as enforcers of ideological conformism.

More. On libertarians and the electorate, David Boaz takes on Paul Krugman.

The Turning Tide

Our occasional co-blogger Walter Olson shared a different take on Indiana, Arkansas and the battles over their Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), via the New York Daily News. A few excerpts, but you should go and read the whole piece:

Even if you think, as I do, that the past week’s great gay rights war was 90% hype…one take-away is still a bit amazing: America’s big businesses have emerged as a hugely effective ally of gay rights.

That is a very big deal that will reshape this crucial cultural cause, and perhaps others, for years to come. …

On what stoked the controversy:

In some parallel universe, bills like Indiana’s could have been pitched with a pluralist and moderate appeal: Until quite recently, after all, RFRAs themselves were seen as something of a bipartisan progressive cause and the group of law professors and religious scholars active in the push for state RFRA bills includes more than a few moderates, liberals and libertarians who themselves favor same-sex marriage and gay rights laws.

In our actual universe, on the other hand, where perception is nine-tenths reality, the Indiana effort was seen as the pet project of hard-liners that the state’s business community didn’t care for and didn’t want to have seen as representing the state. …

Taking aim at Indiana’s hapless governor, Walter writes:

One of the most damaging viral images was that of a ceremony in which Mike Pence was seen signing the initial bill into law surrounded by figures circled and identified as long-time bitter opponents of gay rights. Pence himself floundered on TV when asked to defend the bill, unable to finesse the gap between the culture war themes that had helped fuel its passage at home and the more moderate arguments that might have swayed national viewers. …

But he also warns, quite correctly:

Outrage can blow up in unexpected ways. When a small-town Indiana pizzeria owner truthfully answered a reporter’s inquiry by saying she was happy to serve gay customers but would have qualms about catering a gay wedding, her mom-and-pop business got hit by a classic social-media pile-on that included fake Yelp reviews and even threats of violence. No sane business—especially a big one—would want to get within miles of such mob-driven ritual shaming.

It might be tricky, in fact, to keep getting the symbolic point across while not alienating the majority of the public that—according to most polls—in fact opposes fines and penalties for bakers, florists and photographers that hold religious objections to entering into gay-marriage celebrations. …

From my perspective, after gay marriage is secured nationwide (which the consensus holds is likely to happen with a Supreme Court ruling in June, although one never knows), I think the movement from “live and let live” with legal equality, toward an embrace of authoritarian political correctness intolerant of dissent, could become much worse within the LGBT activist world.

More. Law professor Jonathan Turley, via the Washington Post. He argues that in their rush to support same-sex rights, critics of religious freedom laws have been too quick to dismiss legitimate questions about free speech and expression. You think?

An Overreaction to an Overreaction

This post was subsequently updated through April, 5, 2015

The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act was originally slightly broader than the federal RFRA, which some circuits have limited to apply only to federal laws (Josh Blackman provided a legal analysis here; CNN also had a balanced overview).

Indiana’s measure would, apparently, have allowed bakers and photographers to assert in their defense, if they found themselves in court being sued, a right to religious conscience—although it was by no means an automatic “get out of baking a cake” card. Blackman concluded:

I should stress–and this point was totally lost in the Indiana debate–that RFRA does not provide immunity. It only allows a defendant to raise a defense, which a finder of fact must consider, like any other defense that can be raised under Title VII or the ADA. RFRA is *not* a blank check to discriminate.

According to CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, it’s likely that a refusal to serve a gay person wouldn’t have stood under the law, but a refusal to provide a service for a gay wedding could have.

In fact, Indiana was the 20th state to adopt a “religious freedom restoration” law, and they have not opened the floodgates to anti-LGBT discrimination.

Indiana doesn’t have a statewide LGBT nondiscrimination law, although some of its cities and counties do. So it was not the grand compromise we saw in Utah. It’s passage was, arguably, an overreaction to an overreaction (the idea that it advances the progressive cause to find small business providers with religious-based objections and force them to provide expressive services to same-sex weddings or face prosecution because now it’s our turn and serves ’em right). But hey, never let an opportunity for lucrative political hysteria go untapped.

More. Yes, you can be a supporter for LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, and religious freedom. What you can’t be is an authoritarian statist and a defender of liberty.

No over-reaction by progressives and LGBT activists? Via the Washington Post: 19 states that have ‘religious freedom’ laws like Indiana’s that no one is boycotting.

Furthermore. Via Instapundit Glenn Reynolds:

Here’s the deal: (1) Indiana has gone from a swing state to a red state, so it’s fair game; and (2) Dems need something to agitate the base so it doesn’t pay attention to Iranian nukes, trashed email servers, and an overall culture of corruption. Those who join in are willing enablers.

Sounds about right. I’d add that with the fight for the freedom to marry just about won (assuming the Supreme Court does the right thing), activists are in dire need of new targets for their fundraising machines, and turning the tables on religious traditionalists is just the ticket.

Cato Institute Senior Fellow Michael Tanner blogs:

So, as a strong supporter of marriage equality and someone opposed to bigotry in all its forms, but also as a supporter of property rights and the freedom to associate (or not associate), how do I feel about Indiana’s new religious freedom law? The truth, not surprisingly, is that I’m somewhat torn. …

In the end, I think much of the commentary around Indiana’s law has been overly hysterical. That said, I would have voted “no.”

And another interesting post from the blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians:

As to private-sector discrimination, I’m of the view that private businesses should be free to refuse customers, subject to two categories of exceptions: (a) if the firms are common carriers or (in the common law sense) public accommodations rather than ordinary private retailers and (b) in the United States, due to the constitutional and historical distinctiveness of Jim Crow and its melding of public and private discrimination, discrimination on the basis of race. I think the trend to treat bans on private-sector discrimination outside of public accommodations and common carriers as the rule, rather than a unique exception demanded by the unique shape of Jim Crow, has been a serious mistake.

I’m not endorsing all the ideas in any of these posts, but they are examples of level-headed commentary of the kind you get outside the lockstep authoritarians of left and right.

Also, I like this comment left at Instapundit: “If I read this correctly, it has the effect of making [same-sex] weddings slightly less complicated. A wedding means fifty things to do, half of which are surprises. It’s a lot of stress. Now, because it would be useless, it is no longer necessary to spend time and effort prospecting for the most devout Christian baker or florist in a hundred miles. Saves that, anyway.” Indeed, one less thing.

Finally, from our own comments, Jorge observes:

[The] argument that this law only applies to gays is not credible. Having established that, we all know that the motivation is really about gay marriage. And you know what? That’s fine. Look, whether people agree with this or not, there is a social problem in this country about gays filing lawsuits against people who don’t want to participate in their weddings. Solving this problem puts states in a catch-22. If you pass a law that only applies to gays, that’s illegal discrimination. So it becomes necessary to create a law that serves the public good in a way that’s not discriminatory. Now people are saying they don’t like that law either. That’s just too bad. There is going to be law that solves the problem.

Is this problem ubiquitous? No. But have a number of small business providers in various states been sued by local authorities at the bequest of angry LGBT authoritarians and found themselves deep in debt and driven out of business for the “crime” of turning down gigs to provide creative services for same-sex weddings, which they feel would violate their religious faith, while self-righteous progressives clap and cheer? Yes.

David Brooks also gets it absolutely right:

The opponents [of Indiana’s statute] seem to be saying there is no valid tension between religious pluralism and equality. Claims of religious liberty are covers for anti-gay bigotry.

This deviation seems unwise both as a matter of pragmatics and as a matter of principle. In the first place, if there is no attempt to balance religious liberty and civil rights, the cause of gay rights will be associated with coercion, not liberation. Some people have lost their jobs for expressing opposition to gay marriage. There are too many stories like the Oregon bakery that may have to pay a $150,000 fine because it preferred not to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. A movement that stands for tolerance does not want to be on the side of a government that compels a photographer who is an evangelical Christian to shoot a same-sex wedding that he would rather avoid.

And yet that’s exactly what LGBT authoritarians want and envision, and they have no shame about it, either.

Let’s keep it going. Viewpoints on the right that are still worth considering (oh no, he’s linked to websites WE DON’T Like!!!): Kevin D. Williamson on corporate cowardice:

There are three problems with rewarding those who use accusations of bigotry as a political cudgel. First, those who seek to protect religious liberties are not bigots, and going along with false accusations that they are makes one a party to a lie. Second, it is an excellent way to lose political contests, since there is almost nothing — up to and including requiring algebra classes — that the Left will not denounce as bigotry. Third, and related, it encourages those who cynically deploy accusations of bigotry for their own political ends.

More than a little truth here. And related, George Will on Tim Cook’s hypocrisy, with this added observation:

There are two important principles at stake here. One is the government should rarely, and only at extreme difficulty, compel people to take actions contrary to their consciences. The other is that when you open your doors to commerce you open them to everybody. That’s a simple thing. It goes back to the ’64 Civil Rights act, public accommodations section which is surely a great moment in American history. So, you kind of work this out, but the indignation isn’t helping.

But for the fundraisers, party hacks and others with self-serving (or marketing) agendas, fueling polarization is the very point.

Actually, it’s way beyond simply stoking polarization; it’s about inciting mob violence now.

Conor Friedersdorf asks: Should Mom-and-Pops that Forgo Gay Weddings Be Destroyed? Well, we know what LGBT progressives would answer.

Friedersdorf writes:

I also believe that the position I’ll gladly serve any gay customers but I feel my faith compels me to refrain from catering a gay wedding is less hateful or intolerant than let’s go burn that family’s business to the ground.

(Check out the hateful comments when HuffPost Gay Voices ran its hatchet job on Memories Pizza.)

End Game: Capitulation to the mob. Small vendors in Indiana and elsewhere will be driven out of business unless they agree to provide creative services to same-sex weddings. What the authoritarians of the politically correct left won’t tell you is that ever constriction on liberty can come around and smack you in the face. First they came for the conservative Christians….

Gay Executions and American Diplomacy

Log Cabin Republicans have taken out a full page ad in Roll Call criticizing the Iran nuclear negotiations, reports the Washington Blade. The ad states: “Right now Iran is executing gay people and people merely suspected of being gay,” and that “Human rights can’t be ignored in these negotiations.”

Despite belittling by LGBT team Obama, raising human rights issues has a long history when negotiating with despots. For instance, Jewish American groups successfully advocated that U.S. diplomats address the repression of Soviet Jews during cold war negotiations with the Soviet Union.

While it’s undoubtedly true that the Log Cabin Republicans wouldn’t have run such as ad with a GOP president, it’s also true that LGBT Democrats won’t make an issue of this with a Democrat in the White House. Partisan? Sure. But also a matter that should be receiving far more attention than it is.

More. Missing in action: American feminists, whose remain overwhelmingly silent on Iran’s repression of women. Related: why Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not a feminist hero.

The College-Based Anti-Free-Speech Movement

We are witnessing the rise of a generation of authoritarian student activists who define ideas they disagree with as “violence” that must be suppressed, distorting federal civil rights statutes (with the complicitness of like-minded enforcement bureaucrats) to pressure university administrators to capitulate. Sad but not unexpected to see some college LGBT activists are part of the Zeitgeist.

Similarly, via Reason:

Also recently, the student government at The George Washington University approved a measure requiring student leaders to attend LGBT sensitivity training regarding, inter alia, “using proper gender pronouns.” A conservative student group, the Young America’s Foundation chapter at GW, declined to go along. YAF treats everyone with respect, said representative Amanda Robbins, and doesn’t need to be lectured on how to do so.

You can imagine how well that went over. The campus LGBT group, Allied in Pride, responded that YAF’s “refusal to use preferred gender pronouns should be considered an act of violence.”

More. Made up? From Allied for Pride’s facebook page:

If GW YAF refuses to participate in safe zone trainings that are aimed at increasing safety and understanding, then they should be considered a hate group, and thereby, be revoked of all funding from the Student Association at The George Washington University (SA). . . . And their refusal to use preferred gender pronouns should be considered an act of violence and a violation of the non-discrimination clause required in all GW student organizations’ Constitutions.

Furthermore Reminiscent of when Dan Savage engaged in “hate speech” at the University of Chicago.

And still more. Not a joke: “UK students union passes policy banning gay white men from acting like black women.” And this lunacy is being advocated on U.S. campuses as well.

Turning Point: Americans Would Rather Vote for a President Who Supports Marriage Equality

According to a new poll from the liberal Huffington Post and YouGov, “Support for gay marriage has become the majority opinion, and voters now also say they’re more likely to reject a presidential candidate opposed to gay marriage than one who backs it—something gay marriage advocates hope marks a political tipping point for 2016.”

About 20 percent of voters overall who say opposition to gay marriage is a deal-breaker, while about 15 percent say supporting it is.

Most Democrats favor a presidential candidate who supports marriage equality (54 percent). Significantly, however, more Republicans voters say a candidate’s opinion on same-sex marriage doesn’t matter or they’re not sure (47 percent) than those who favor an anti-gay marriage candidate (41 percent), while 12 percent of Republicans would favor a candidate who supports the freedom to marry. If true, this shows progress occurring in both parties.

Some may have assumed that more than 54 percent of Democrats would favor a candidate supporting gay marriage (they are the “progressive” liberal party, aren’t they?). I assume a greater percentage of opposition to marriage equality is still among African Americans, who as a bloc have lagged behind the rest of the party, according to separate polling, although these numbers show signs of shifting in a positive direction as well.

As for voters who identify as independents, the HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that they “tend to line up more closely with Democrats in their opinions of gay marriage, saying by an 8-point margin that they’d prefer a candidate to support than to oppose gay marriage. Those who’d prefer a gay marriage supporter, though, are less likely than their Democratic peers to say the issue would be a deal-breaker.”

Daniel Cox, the research director at the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, observed: “I don’t think you’re going to see a single Republican come out in support of same-sex marriage, but you may see some downplaying it in preparation for facing a general electorate, which is by and large supportive of the issue.” I think that’s right.

Interestingly, YouGov polling in Britain now shows that throughout the UK “those people who thought homosexuality ‘morally wrong’ sat at around 15 percent,” but that “in London the number of people who said they thought homosexuality is immoral was almost double (29 percent) what it was in the rest of the country.” Turns out “diversity” and liberalism (in its true sense) don’t always go hand in hand. (Sorry, this isn’t “racist,” anti-immigrant or anti-Islam; it’s what the poll numbers show.)

More. Ted Cruz is announcing his presidential run at the Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University. His platform includes amending the U.S. Constitution to nullify court rulings on the constitutionality of unequal marriage laws. Cruz, it appears, is partying like it’s 2004. Beyond the insular Iowa caucuses, we’ll see how well that strategy plays out now.

Furthermore. David Boaz, author of The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom, tells Bloomberg Politics:: “Cruz is announcing at the Vatican of fundamentalism. That doesn’t seem like the path to a winning coalition, even within the GOP.”

Maybe he’s trying to be the new William Jennings Bryan.

To Buy or Not to Buy

As the Washington blade reports:

Elton John is among those who support a boycott of gay fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s label over their controversial comments about children conceived through in vitro fertilization. “You are born and you have a father and a mother, or at least it should be so,” said Dolce during an interview that Panorama, an Italian website, featured in its March 12 issue. “You cannot convince me of what I call children of chemistry, and synthetic children: Wombs for rent, seeds selected from a catalog.” …

“How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic,’” wrote John, using the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana. “And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF—a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay…

I have no issue with anyone publicly stating they won’t be purchasing products or services because they find the expressed views of the business owners insulting or bigoted, or when (apparently not the case with Dolce & Gabbana) the profits of the business are being used to support efforts that are viewed with disdain. Your money, your choice.

By the same token, those who think the personal or political views of business owners should not be a factor in purchasing decisions have that right as well. As Gabbana responded to John’s boycott, “You preach understanding, tolerance and they you attack others? Only because someone has a different opinion?”

Boycotts of this kind become problematic when government gets involved, as when liberal local officials threatened to zone out Chick fil A franchises because the owning family funded groups opposing same-sex marriage (the company says it no longer contributes to anti-gay marriage groups).

The decision to purchase or not purchase is an individual one. Efforts to press companies to change their support or opposition to political causes (that is, boycott organizing) is part of social pressure and lobbying that takes place in civil society. Dolce and Gabbana have rights to express their views, and Elton John and Ricky Martin can take exception and urge consumers to boycott the company. Some will see that as another kind of intolerance, and others will view it as appropriate.

Efforts to outlaw political speech deemed offensive, or to use the power of the state to punish those who exercise their legal rights to engage in the political process, is where we should always draw the line.