What’s the Diff?

 Posted by on 8 March 2009 at 11:01 pm  Law, Politics
Mar 082009
Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) is challenging part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional, which is good. Any challenge to legal discrimination between same-sex and opposite-sex marriage is a good thing, in my book. No person of any status, married or single, gay or straight, has a right to government social welfare benefits. But government violates rights when it fails to protect any citizen who respects the rights of others. Voluntary marriages between two consenting adults do not involve the initiation of force against anyone, and therefore, do not abridge anyone’s rights. Where there has been no violation of rights, there’s no role for the government. End of story.

Unfortunately, this is probably the only good fight that GLAD is waging.

GLAD recognizes that …

[t]here are many priorities for the LGBT community that likely rank ahead of a DOMA Section 3 repeal, including the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a hate crimes bill, the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), and repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT).

What I find particularly noteworthy is the likelihood that the LGBT community thinks “a hate crimes bill” is more important than challenging DOMA. The only difference between “crime” and “hate crime” is motive. If I graffiti your property, I’ve violated your property rights. If the graffiti is of a swastika, what’s the difference? Only the hurt feelings of the victim. This makes hate crime laws not about punishing objective rights violations, but about punishing some people for hating others. This is wholly improper, and itself a violation of rights. As Dr. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Center said:

According to “hate crime” laws, a murderer deserves a greater punishment if his crime is motivated by an idea such as racism or sexism. If the government assumes the power to punish on the basis of “unacceptable” ideas, it has assumed the power to exonerate and offer leniency to favored ideas. If anti-abortion religionists hold sway in government, on the premise of “hate crime” laws, a zealous Christian who guns down an abortion doctor could receive a lighter sentence or be exonerated–on the grounds that such an act is evidence of noble “idealism.”

Once the government starts punishing criminals for acting on “unacceptable ideas,” it has assumed the role of arbiter for which ideas are acceptable or not. If whoever wields power can shape the law to advance an ideological agenda, then it cannot be long before merely holding unorthodox or unconventional ideas becomes a crime that the government punishes.

The government has no business punishing people for their ideas, no matter how repugnant. By demanding the government do precisely that, “hate crime” laws threaten our freedom of thought–and undermine the system of objective law that protects it. Such laws should be abolished.

So here’s the problem. On the one hand, GLAD is challenging the fact that DOMA discriminates between heterosexual and homosexual marriage, discrimination that is clearly religiously motivated. On the other hand, GLAD wants to make it a crime for people to hate homosexuals. Religion is a feeling that there’s a God. Hate is feeling that someone is vicious. Religion is a feeling. Hate is a feeling. Are we seeing a similarity, here?

In other words, GLAD thinks it is permissible to legislate feelings about homosexuality. Godbangers on the religious right think it is permissible to legislate feelings about marriage. What’s the diff?

Ayn Rand wrote that “[w]hen men share the same basic premise, it is the most consistent ones who win.” One can argue whether GLAD or the godbangers are more consistent in their calls for thought control. But that’s just the problem — it’s arguable. GLAD is, putting it mildly, inconsistent on the issue of thought control. And unfortunately, same sex marriage advocacy happens largely through groups like GLAD.

Equal marriage rights is a legitimate issue, but so long as GLAD is hypocritical about thought control, the drive to eliminate discrimination in marriage is vulnerable to defeat by opponents — like the godbangers — who are more consistent in their drive to become the nation’s thought police.

The solution, naturally, is for all proponents of same-sex marriage to make a consistent, principled argument on the basis of individual rights for everyone, in all circumstances, no exceptions. In fact, that’s the solution in a number of analogous cases involving attempts to shove religion down our throats, like the attempts to teach creationism in schools, or to outlaw abortion.

When freedom-lovers fight on the basis of principles, the difference between the religious right and the defenders of individual rights is clear for all to see.

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