LGBTQ activists and allies should cease their pursuit of equal rights and more consistently take up the cause of liberty. This is because, contrary to popular belief, they are not actually primarily interested in equal rights so much as freedom.
To demonstrate that LGBTQ allies are not simply in pursuit of equal rights, consider this exchange at the recent Annual International Students For Liberty Conference (ISFLC). At the conference, an episode of the Stossel Show was filmed on the Saturday night, including Ann Coulter as a guest. She made comments that caused many attendees to rush up to the microphone when they had a chance to ask questions in opposition. One particular exchange caught my attention. The attendee, a self-described “gay Republican,” asked something to the effect of “why don’t you support equal rights for homosexuals?” Coulter responded something to the effect of, “I do. I think anyone should be able to marry someone of the opposite gender.”
Anyone who supports gay rights should find this comment thoroughly enraging. You would want a way to defend your opinion and to deny what Ms. Coulter said. You then might realize that you can’t logically disagree with her on this comment. Gay people have equal rights to straight people because the law gives exactly the same marriage rights to gay people as it does to straight people. Straight people are just as limited in their freedom to engage in marital relations with people of the same gender as gay people are. The difference is that straight people generally don’t see the need to act outside of the rights they’re permitted, whereas gay people obviously do.
And herein lies the crux of why LGBTQ supporters of “equal rights” (in a different sense than Ann Coulter), should become libertarians. It is because we shouldn’t be pursuing equal rights, when what we want is liberty!
How do we desire liberty? What LGBTQ activists really want is the ability to determine our identities as we see fit without fear of physical or economic violence. Our self-determined identities might include our sexual orientation, or marriage status. Admittedly, marriage status, as defined by the state, does include positive liberties in addition to negative freedoms. For example, Kathy Belge identifies the rights to social security, a positive right, which is denied gay couples when their marriages are not actively opposed by the state.
However, there are also negative marriage rights that she identifies, that gay couples are not privy to. For example, if a gay couple wants to jointly adopt a child, why does the state have the prerogative to stop them? Provided everyone involved (the adopting couple, the child, and the guardians who are giving up the child) voluntarily agree to the gay couple becoming the new guardians of the child, there is no reason for the state to interfere with the couple’s joint agreements over the child’s guardianship.
These arguments over what exactly are the rights of marriage are secondary, however, to arguing that LGBTQ activists and allies should become libertarians. What is most important is what LGBTQ supporters want, and their underlying goal is the freedom of self-determination. Even if a state promotes heteronormative marriage (empowered with resources taken by force, no less), or if everyone in the country votes to ban certain expressions of identity, LGBTQ allies know that that everyone morally should have the ability to identify and express themselves as they choose. LGBTQ allies know that even if something is determined democratically, it can still be morally unjust. If we activists and allies only wanted “equal rights,” we would need to agree with Ann Coulter, something which we clearly do not. It is because we want to create our own individual identity without outside or state interference that we are naturally strong supporters of liberty.
Further, it is more effective to achieve LGBTQ aims of freedom of self-determination with a large base of supporters. Therefore, if LGBTQ activists and allies want the freedom of self-determination, we should take up the cause of freedom as a whole. This would allow us to work with those who are most interested in freedom where it affects them most, while working directly towards our goal.
In sum, it is not “equal rights” that LGBTQ activists and allies are interested it. Rather, it is the improvement of our rights. It is the push for the recognition of everyone’s right to be free. Achieving equal amounts of freedom is different than achieving freedom, and it is the latter that LGBTQ activists and allies need in order to achieve the goal of self-determination. LGBTQ activists and allies should take up the cause of individual liberty as a whole in order to more consistently support our desired right to individual self-determination, and increase the breadth of our allies!