Monday, November 14, 2011

Fragile protections for privacy could undermine legal framework for gay rights some day


Law professor Jonathan Turley at George Washington University has a piece on p B3 of the Sunday Washington Post, “Are you being watched? It’s your fault.”

He starts with a GPS case before the Supreme Court, and is critical of the public for frittering away the right to privacy – both to surveillance devices, and on the Internet. He mentions the fact that the government has the physical capability to use heat sensors to track movements of people within buildings and homes. The Supreme Court had ruled only 5-4 that this could not be done in a warrantless fashion back in 2001. 

The thermal imaging or infrared tracking might be relevant to the way gay rights used to be argued – on privacy grounds.  I think I had heard of the imaging technology as far back as 1993, about the time the military ban was getting debated, and the issue “privacy” – and whether it exists in a practical sense off base for military members, and in a broader sense for civilians – would remain a dependable legal buttress.  Libertarian ideas had been predicated on it.  Conceivably, if the government really did have the right to use imaging behind walls (in either civilian or military contexts), some of the logic in Lawrence v. Texas could unwind.  It’s not a pretty sight. 

The debate over gay equality has moved out of the old-fashioned privacy area into more general theories about the value of diversity, and the importance of equality on an individual level.  

It's curious, to me at least, that some people see interdependence on others as a kind of right, because it's necessary for society to sustain itself.  Within any social unit -- the family -- complementarity, and some sort of local "inequality" -- becomes necessary. And within a social unit, by definition, there is less privacy. 

And now we wonder how committed we are to both equality and privacy on a global scale, where everyone is looked at as an individual.

The link is here.

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