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” site:wsj.com). 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.

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.

Non-political Actors: A Theory

I don’t know or care a lot about whether this actor from “Empire” is gay or not.  His non-reaction to a general sense that he is gay seems like a replay of what we went through with Sean Hayes back in the day.

But I have to say I think I can understand the reluctance of some young actors to be publicly and irrevocably identified as homosexual.

It’s not because of the closet — at least not these days.  Whether or not we’ve reached critical mass on gay acceptance, it is clear to most people in Hollywood that it is not only possible to be openly homosexual and have a successful career, it can even get you some favorable press.  In any event, we are long past the days of Rock Hudson.

The bigger challenge for a gay celebrity these days in coming out is the fear of being commandeered by the gay political establishment as the Latest Model.

For the last half century or so, lesbians and gay men have had to live in an artificially politicized world for the simple reason that the laws that were so harmful to us needed to be challenged by someone, and it pretty much had to be us.  Very few heterosexuals worried about having sodomy laws used to blackmail them, and it took a generation of constant effort to get people to see that the lack of legal recognition for our relationships was, in fact, a problem for us.  Those efforts have paid off in record time.

But here’s a fact that a lot of politically active people don’t always understand.  Many people didn’t want to be political, or didn’t have the inclination in that direction.  All those years of yelling, “Out of the bars and into the streets!” were a recognition of that fact.  At lot of people did get out of the bars and into the streets, but it was only because they were persuaded how vitally important that was.

Once established, political activism can become just another bureaucracy fighting for its own continued existence.  That’s perfectly fine for those who live for controversy and grievance.

But what if that’s not your thing?  In a world where sexual orientation is far better understood (though there are notable exceptions), lawyers and postal workers and bakers and nurses have the luxury of leading lives as private as they choose.  For actors or others in the orbit of celebrityhood, though, a certain amount of publicity is their oxygen.  It’s also the oxygen of the activists, who tend to resent the closet because they have to respect it.  Outing has always been controversial because it violated that necessary respect in a context where being openly gay would have the most value.

But we have a more than adequate supply of good, great and even superlative role models who are openly homosexual now.  The almost unbelievable progress we have made in both improving the law and opening the culture has broken through the silence that equalled death and a multitude of other gruesome, painful and noxious consequences.

Which is why I’m willing to give celebrities who want to avoid being coopted by the gay political establishment a break. There are actual gay politicians now, the professionals in this sport.  And there are enough high-profile homosexual celebrities that we don’t need every actor out there to publicly declare and risk conscription.

The Dish (cont.)

Count me as someone who would like to see The Dish continue after Andrew Sullivan’s retirement.  I have been reading Andrew for as long as he’s been published, and have been a happy Dish Head since its first day.  I don’t pay directly for much on the Internet, but his site has been well worth my time and money.

Andrew is a hard and deep thinker, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than reading something of his that I am inclined to disagree with to see if he can change my mind.  Sometimes he has (the Clintons’ lust for power), sometimes not (NFL concussions), and sometimes I’m left suspended in mid-air (Trig Palin).

But there’s a less discussed aspect to The Dish that I would like to see survive him.  Over the years, it has developed into what would have been called, in an earlier time, a salon.  A great deal of Dishness happens when Andrew steps aside and just serves as the host for a vivacious discussion among well-informed and highly interesting voices.

My guess is that this is not something he is able to achieve on his own.  The staff at The Dish has developed a keen judgment about what things are worth my time.  And that includes not only thoughtful and sometimes dyspeptic argument, but also the invaluable Mental Health Breaks, the cream of dog and cat videos, and the Sunday Sermons that are better than anything I remember from any Catholic priest I ever had to listen to.

Even without Andrew, I think that sensibility can continue.  I know it is something I rely on, and possibly am addicted to.  The Dish filters out much of the Internet’s toxicity.  We are all going to need sites with that kind of judgment in the years to come.  I’m ready to continue supporting the people who are doing that job so well right now, if they are willing.

Everybody Loves Us

This strikes me as very foolish.  A gay and lesbian crowdsourcing group called All Out has pressured Google Translate to remove any words that “gay” could be translated as which are offensive.  If I’m understanding this correctly, lesbians and gay men who encounter speakers of another language and rely on Google Translate will only receive politically acceptable words and phrases.

There are times, I admit, when it would be nice to live in the bubble of wonderfulness these folks envision.  But if someone from Saudi Arabia, say, is calling me a faggot, I’d like to know that.  It’s possible he would offer up other cues that would make the point, but all the same language matters, and sometimes it matters most when it is offensive.

Potemkin VIle

What are politicians who oppose marriage equality defending any more?

We know what they say they have in mind: the mechanical litany of protecting the right of children to have two biologically related parents; some version of Christian values; the independence of the people’s will against unelected judges; and the right of a state to define family relations. Each of those has some appeal, and some merit.

But Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard revealed a gap in the politics that should ease those who are jittery about the coming Supreme Court case. After a federal court last week struck down Alabama’s prohibition on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, Hubbard said, “It is outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable federal judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand in firm support of the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.”

Chris Geidner helpfully pointed out that, far from multiple millions, less than 700,000 Alabamians voted for the amendment. And that’s out of a population of 4.8 million.

This does not mean marriage equality is popular in Alabama. But you can’t deny that 4.1 million Alabamians did not weigh in on the sanctity of marriage. A lot of them weren’t registered to vote, a lot probably had other things to do on voting day, and you have to assume that a lot of them just didn’t really give much of a damn about this particular issue.

It’s not unlikely that, if this decision is upheld, either on appeal or as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling next June, there will be a certain amount of discontent in Alabama, possibly more than there has been in the 36 other states whose marriage equality bans have been overturned.

But think about the magnitude of the yawn that has greeted those other decisions.

So far, the Supreme Court has only overturned one state ban on same-sex marriage, California’s. Seven million Californians passed that ban (against 6.4 million who opposed it), and the court overturned it two years ago in Hollingsworth v. Perry.

While California is a pretty blue state, it is extraordinarily hard to find any of those seven million voters who, after the court’s decision, took to the streets, stormed the courthouse doors, or even wrote letters to the editor. The decision was met by the ban’s many supporters with a shrug. All of the fear and anxiety and emotional manipulation from one of California’s ugliest initiative campaigns had been utterly forgotten. No hard feelings, who’s providing snacks for the kids’ soccer game Saturday?

And that seems to be what’s happening in the other states where bans have been falling on a weekly basis. Most people are just relieved to be getting done with this.

That might be because equality advocates have had it right from the start: this really doesn’t affect most people’s lives negatively, and the ones whose lives it does affect are positively joyous. The bans were a deeply cynical and politically timed moment in American history designed to exploit the last dying gasps of an ages-old prejudice. That spasm forced the constitutional issue, and it turns out the cynics were right in their own way. That particular form of bigotry was dying, and they timed the bans well.

This last generation of politicians still has some long-tail prejudice to cater to. But I’m feeling confident they’re going to find this snake oil doesn’t dazzle the masses the way it used to.

NOM’s Time Is Passed

I think that Salon may be jumping the gun in declaring that the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage has “collapsed into debt“—it doesn’t take much money to fund a group that basically issues press releases and talks to the media, so I suspect it will be around to make mischief and get quoted. But NOM’s fortunes are clearly in decline as the freedom to marry advances without popular backlash, outside the diminishing fever swamps of the anti-gay right. Also, alienating bedrock Republicans by backing liberal Democrats over gay GOPers was just plain stupid.

Marriage and the State

R. R. Reno, who edits First Things, a journal for very serious religious conservatives, proposes separating religious marriages from government-sanctioned civil marriage, as a protest against state recognition of same-sex marriage. The government would do its thing, and ordained ministers would do their thing, but ministers would no longer operate as agents of the state when it comes to performing marriages.

Some libertarians have long supported “privatizing” marriage, which would remove government from the marriage-sanctioning business altogether, making civil marriage a contract agreed to between the parties (the enforcement of which, if disputed, would fall to government to adjudicate, as with other contracts)—a somewhat different and more radical idea.

Although Reno’s First Things argument is based on animus toward equality for gay people under the law, I don’t know that it’s a terrible notion in and of itself. Religion is always stronger when it is freest from government’s command.

The Once and Future Clintons

This New York Post op-ed on gays and the Clintons is a few weeks old, but it’s solid:

As author and academic Nathaniel Frank explains, “Clinton will go down in history as the only president who signed … federal laws mandating discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans.” Yet this Saturday in Washington, DC, the same Bill Clinton will be welcomed as keynote speaker at the 18th annual national dinner of the Human Rights Campaign—America’s largest LGBT rights group.

Calling him a “transformational leader for our nation and the world,” HRC president Chad Griffin has said he’s “thrilled” Clinton will once again appear at the sold-out black-tie event.

Griffin and HRC take hackery to new levels. And please, spare us all the “yeah, well Republicans are worse” meme that some commenters think is just oh so clever, as if that were an all-purpose redemption card for vile Democrats.