Where Libertarianism Overlaps With LGBT Activism

There are some political issues that are really definitional to one’s political philosophy. For many right-leaning libertarians (especially Christian libertarians), that definitional issue will be abortion. Some Christians may even favor or be amenable toward big-government solutions, but their passion about pro-life issues will bar them from voting Democrat. LGBT activism is another definitional issue, as many would never be able to align themselves with policies or candidates that do not support the freedom of homosexuals to marry and to govern their lives how they prefer. Within libertarianism (even right-leaning libertarianism), there are a few significant points where libertarianism overlaps with LGBT activism.

For many social conservatives, this theme will put them off. Pro-life groups typically depict abortion as an offshoot of rivaling political agendas. They will imagine that abortion is necessarily coupled with LGBT activism, and to fight against abortion is also to fight against LGBT activism. But the libertarian perspective would be a little different. In the libertarian perspective, people should be free to do whatever they like, so long as they do not violate the non-aggression principle (we would argue that abortion does violate the NAP). This theory of freedom would obviously extend to LGBT Americans as much as to anyone else.

The Difference Between Ethics And Law

There are some principles that Christian libertarians might affirm as a matter of ethics, but not necessarily as the rule of law. A Christian would think that cursing was immoral. She would think that drunkenness is a sin. She would think that divorce except in certain situations is a violation of biblical commandments. But if she is also a libertarian, she will not be compelled to necessarily think that these ethical principles should be the rule of law. She thinks that free citizens should be able to choose whether they want to curse, drink, or even get a divorce.

The same principle would extend to many issues pertaining to LGBT activism. Probably the most significant difference between the right-leaning libertarian and the social progressive will be the reasons given for legality. The right-libertarian will affirm LGBT activism not because she holds the conjugal bond of a homosexual relationship in high esteem, but because she thinks that people should be free to do what they please, and the government should not be deciding which marriages are valid. From a libertarian perspective, the government should not be involved in marriage at all.

So there might be a bit of overlap between some of the goals of the social progressive and the libertarian, but they will advocate for different processes. While the social progressive might be more inclined toward government solutions for social issues (so will the social conservative), the libertarian would want to attain these ends by reducing government intervention. The libertarian would essentially prefer to avoid authoritarianism, even if the rule of law embodies completely ethical principles, because it would be unethical and a violation of freedom to control the lives of citizens.

The Pro-Life Agenda And LGBT Activism Do Not Have To Conflict

As I mentioned above, pro-life activists often take a strong stance against LGBT activism. That might be because their pro-life apologetics are deeply rooted in social conservatism. That is their undergirding political philosophy. Accordingly, their solution to LGBT issues might be government intervention that will limit the freedom of human beings to make their own decisions. But I am not persuaded that this has to be the case.

In fact, the common sense ethics of pro-life activism, supported by biology, should make it more appealing even among LGBT activists. But it is not precisely because of the undergirding political philosophy. If pro-life activism is to make progress, they will need to be more hospitable to LGBT Americans. There is nothing fundamentally incompatible about these two views, but the philosophical systems in which they are both rooted are usually incompatible.

The most effective course of action for pro-life activism will be to extract itself from that undergirding philosophy. There is no reason that an LGBT American could not be pro-life. Yet if pro-life activism were to find itself in a more hospitable framework, such as libertarianism, then LGBT Americans would find a more welcome environment.

Where Libertarianism Can Strengthen LGBT Activism

The perceptive reader might have gathered that where libertarianism and LGBT activism will part ways might involve their undergirding philosophies. Since the libertarian favors limited government and is hesitant about government solutions, she will probably have a few views that fall into disfavor with the LGBT activist. An illustration might help to illuminate this point. If a starving man comes to my home and asks for food, I am not legally obligated to give him food. He is not entitled to my food. I may be morally obligated to give him food, but I am not legally obligated to do it. I am a private citizen and I am free to do what I like, even if what I want to do is wrong.

Something similar can be said about private corporations. The libertarian thinks that private corporations should be free to manage their business as they like and consumers can shop where they like. If corporations do something immoral, they will fall out of favor with consumers and lose business. The libertarian would further think that governments should not control private corporations anymore than they should control private citizens. Whether that assessment is correct or not, that would be the libertarian perspective.

The relevance of LGBT activism is probably obvious for those who follow current events. LGBT activism often chauffeurs the practice of forcing private organizations to cater to the needs of same-sex weddings or relationships. But the libertarian would advise that private corporations should be free to provide service or refuse service to anybody, for any reason. If a company makes immoral decision, they will fall out of favor with the market. Companies that cater to the needs to LGBT Americans might be preferred by the market. This emphasis on the freedom of the individual and the private organization will seem to conflict with some strands of LGBT activism.

Libertarianism will therefore also provide an interesting solution to the Title IX conflict of freedom. While people do not want to go to the bathroom with those who they believe are biologically members of the opposite gender, trans Americans want to have the freedom to use public restrooms without concern. The mainstream solutions involve government power regulating public restrooms. But the libertarian solution would be for private companies to choose their own bathroom policy, and consumers can choose to shop where they are comfortable.

If LGBT activism were mounted from a libertarian framework, many of their stances would be more defensible. It would allow them to emphasize personal freedom without sacrificing the freedom of the private organization. The market would reward those private organizations that make the right decision. Consumers would shop where they prefer, boycott who they prefer, or protest those companies that make decisions that they dislike, and companies could adjust or compromise when necessary.

This would also make more people amenable to the LGBT cause. If their purpose is the freedom of the citizen and the private organization, people will be more likely to support them. But if they are more inclined toward government control of private corporations, it will remain divisive.

God’s Law Is Not Necessarily Our Law

From a Christian-libertarian perspective, the division of ethics and law can be a little confusing. The Bible describes an eschatological judgment according to God’s standards. His law will decide the ultimate fate of men, and only those who put their trust in the Son of God (Christ kept the Law perfectly), will be found in righteousness. Romans 1:18 says that “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, suppressing the truth by unrighteousness.” With that being the case, one could think that God’s Law should be our law.

But God’s Law and our law have different agendas and different sources. First, God’s Law is his perfect standard of righteousness. This standard will decide the ultimate fate of men. But our law is not there to decide the ultimate fate of men or even to facilitate righteous behavior. Our law is there to govern a prosperous, peaceful and free society. The US Law is not meant to provide a bearing for the fates of men. With different agendas, it should not be surprising that we have different laws.

Second, the reason that we do not trust other men to impose moral prescriptions upon society is that men are corrupt. That is why we have branches of government and checks and balances. If one person is dictating the moral law, we are putting a lot of trust into the uprightness of that one individual. In a world of sinners, that is not something that we can do. But in God, we know that he is perfect in righteousness and justice. God’s nature is the ultimate locus of objective moral values and duties. While we can trust him to rule justly, we cannot trust other men to impose moral values and duties.

Where Libertarianism Overlaps With LGBT Activism

The dichotomy between conservatism and liberalism leaves a lot of division and little room for compromise. People think that they cannot break party lines because there are no other alternatives. But the libertarian would recognize that the nuances of her philosophy will allow for a wide range of social views. Even the right-leaning libertarian can look favorably on LGBT activism. The emphasis on freedom can even empower it and provide a more defensible framework for LGBT Americans.

Recommended Reading:
How Abortion Destroys Women’s Rights
Reorienting Yourself After A Tumultuous Election Cycle

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