Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Echo on gays and libertarians; what about victim impacts?


Today, I have another quick note about websites that connect gay freedom to libertarianism. The most up-to-date URL right now is Gayliberty, which in turn links to GLIL, Independent Gay Forum, Outright Libertarians, and Pink Pistols (the last of these related to 2nd Amendment rights to self-defense). The GLIL Archives collection for selected “The Quill” articles from the 1990s is here. (I edited this leaflet in from 1995-1997.) I have several pieces, such as a discussion of former midshipman Joseph Steffan’s 1992 book “Honor Bound”. One of my favorite quotes comes from Joe’s book (p 145): “"Personal honor is an absolute -- you either have honor or you do not. No one can take it from you; it can only be surrendered willingly. And once it is surrendered, once it is compromised, it can never again be fully regained." My first piece (from August 1994) contains the statement “Stonewall was not simply a rebellion for "gay rights"; it was a turning point, a divide where a formal tension had to be recognized, between those motivated by their own inner selves, and those motivated by fulfilling more conventional roles in raising families” and then “The end point of a gay rights movement ought to be that society legally recognizes the right of any adult to intimate association with a chosen, consenting, adult "significant other." Sometimes I forget these simpler formations of basic rights myself.

One point not often discussed here has been the libertarian opposition to “hate crimes” laws. Pragmatically, gay organizations see getting them passed as a major advance. As a matter of principle, the sentence for a crime should not depend on who the victim was. A related issue would be the use of victim impact statements during sentencing phases after conviction at criminal trials. Here, the pragmatic concern may be reversed: the GLBT community may fear that, if the idea of being a biological mother or father in a traditional marriage cannot be played up, the jury or judge could consider the crime somehow less heinous. Nevertheless, Matthew Shepard’s two assailants (October 1998, subject of the play and film “The Laramie Project”) got either consecutive life or life-without-parole terms in Wyoming.

These concerns could be backed up by another bizarre incident in the 1980s. After the Delta plane crash in Dallas in August 1985 (I was living there), investigators tried to claim that the lives of one or more of the victims was less “valuable” because of HIV exposure, an attempt that sent rumors and shudders through the gay community there afterward.

Philip Chandler (UK) has an interesting perspective on how hate crimes might be motivated with a clinical study, described in somewhat explicit terms, here.

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