Friday, May 02, 2008

GLIL: Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty: the nexus between individual rights for gays and libertarianism

My previous posting was about the concept of “gay conservative,” but the natural potential nexus between “gay rights” (in the loose sense) and libertarianism started to become evident in the 1990s, and was particularly expressed in Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL), whose website is

In February 2008, GLIL, along with pink pistols, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in upholding second amendment rights in the recent constitutional challenge to the District of Columbia’s handgun law, now before the Supreme Court. The story is on the left side of the GLIL home page (inside a frame). Pink Pistols is here and the splash page cover image shows some lesbian forearms (I hope) with a handgun.

The guns issue is a bit of a microcosm of the whole thing.(I seem to remember a Libertarian Party of Virginia convention in Richmond in 1995 when it was the entire agenda.) Self-defense is a more effective defense to “gay bashing” and street hate crimes than police reports, yet many communities (including DC) make it illegal to carry pepper spray or mace. It was common for men to carry them at night in Dallas, as there were serious problems in the 80s between Cedar Springs and Maple Avenues sometimes. Likewise, in some neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Logan Circle in Washington, residents find it necessary to defend themselves against invasions and break-ins even while sleeping. A weapon and knowledge of how to use it is an effective deterrent. Gun control usually leads to situations where the criminals and drug cartels have the weapons, illegally.

But the nexus between “gay equality” and libertarianism was much broader than this. The most obvious place to make the connection is the elimination of sodomy laws, and it took until 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas) to overturn them. It’s in marriage laws that libertarian approaches get the attention today. Libertarians, in theory, tend to believe that marriage should be a private contract, voluntarily entered, between two adults. Period. They do not believe that the state needs to recognize any religious notion of marriage. The end result of marriage laws, libertarians argue, is that the unmarried are forced to subsidize the married, and the childless are expected and forced to sacrifice for the sake of families with children.

Of course, in a sense, that is the rub. Social conservatives argue that marriage with children cannot work unless it is pampered. It’s a good question whether the pampering supports or eventually undermines civil marriage. I’ve written about it before on this blog at some length. In general, many people of older generations experienced the external social supports as intrinsic to marriage, and when that support is weakened, there is less incentive to stay married long enough to raise kids, and divorce increases.

It’s this sort of thinking that leads to coercive attempts to force those who are “different” to conform and fit into majoritarian social patterns. Sometimes the Left will vary this by trying to get the “outliers” to fit into normal patterns of socialization and familial competition with “anti-discrimination” laws. Libertarians oppose these efforts, and endorse a culture where, in practice, individuals are much more on their own and less dependent as adults even on their own families. Sometimes, however, libertarians will simply criticize government efforts to force-equalize things (even affirmative action as commonly understood), and maintain that adults should live in social cultures of their own choosing, and admit that each culture has its own rules (often religious) as to "sustainable" interdependency.

It may seem odd to some to view the "don't ask don't tell" policy regarding gays in the military as a libertarian issue (particularly in crowds where the mantra is "end the income tax and replace it with nothing"). On the surface, the military is interfering with "privacy" rights of soldiers, rights whose existence poses a philosophical question. One has to look deeper, however. Military service is an important career-starter, especially for minorities and the disadvantaged, and being capable of serving in the military is a way of saying one is capable of sharing the risks and responsibilities of defending freedom, even when there is no draft (or when there is a "backdoor draft"). That would be true even for those who disagree with the current administration's policy in Iraq (and most libertarians would oppose our intervention there).

I was the editor of the GLIL newsletter, The Quill, in the middle 1990s, before moving to Minnesota in 1997. The GLIL articles are in the “Archives” link on the top, which opens a new frame with an index to the articles. The visitor may want to look at Gene Cisweski’s 1996 “License Expired” about marriage laws. GLIL is a group on Yahoo! and anyone can join the listserver. The links there point to my old Hometown AOL page which is how

GLIL typically has met at various locations on 17th Street in Washington, sometimes Chaos, sometimes Windows, sometimes JR's, often the first Tuesday night of the month at around 6:30 PM.

Picture: Atlanta Pride, 2004

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