Friday, January 28, 2005

A 'Dissenting' View on Gay/Lesbian 'Priorities'

GayPatriotWest links to an article in The Cornell Daily Sun by graduate student Brian Holmes, "The Language of American Values," in which he takes to task some of the tactics and positions of mainstream gay-rights organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign. Holmes writes, in part:

The national gay rights groups have issued a "unity statement," pledging to work toward "Civil Rights, Community, Movement." There are two problems with this approach. First, there is the problem of focus. These groups should be striving to ensure that gay and lesbian Americans and their families can live and work and contribute fully to society without fear of retribution by the state; this is priority one.

Good point. Too many goals set by self-styled gay-rights organizations depend on taking advantage of state action rather than opposing the intrusiveness of the state.

The "unity statement" to which Holmes refers, for instance, was coordinated by the Human Rights Campaign and lists these "common priorities" that the groups intend to pursue in the "months and years to come":
* We must fight for equal employment opportunity, benefits and protections — and the federal and state laws that safeguard them.
* We must fight against anti-LGBT violence and for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal hate crimes law that already protects Americans based on race, religion and national origin.
* We must fight — in both the private and public sectors — for better access to health care and insurance. We must advocate for HIV/AIDS policies — including age-appropriate, LGBT-inclusive comprehensive sexuality education — that effectively address this epidemic at home and abroad.
* We must insist on safe schools, where youth can learn free from bullying, harassment and discrimination.
* We must fight for family laws that give our children strong legal ties to their parents.
* We must work to overturn the military’s discriminatory anti-LGBT ban, which dishonors service members who serve their country with valor and distinction.
* We must continue to expose the radical right’s efforts to advance a culture of prejudice and intolerance, and we must fight their attempts to enshrine anti-gay bigotry in our state and federal laws and constitutions.
* And we must continue our vigorous fight for the freedom to marry and the equal protections, rights and responsibilities that safeguard our families, strengthen our commitments and continue to transform understanding of our lives and our relationships.

It's hard not to notice that fighting anti-gay laws is second from the bottom of the list, while expanding the federal government's role in labor-management relations is at the top, followed immediately by expanding the federal government's role in prosecuting crimes that are normally left to state and local authorities.

Believe it or not, there are gay Americans who oppose these "priorities." For instance, Reason magazine's Washington correspondent wrote in a 1999 column: "Two and a half years in Washington and I've finally found the free marketeers in the Republican Party--they're gay." Quips aside, Lynch went on to report on the substance of a Log Cabin meeting in Northern Virginia:

The second Wednesday of each month, in the basement of the Rhodeside Grill in Arlington, Virginia, anywhere from 30 to 60 gay men, a few straights, and a couple of women gather under the auspices of the Log Cabin Club of Northern Virginia. I dropped by yesterday to catch the featured talk, "Freedom for All: The Case Against Employment Non-Discrimination Laws," by Nigel Ashford, a professor of American politics in England.

I assumed they had to go all the way to England to find a gay conservative willing to argue against making homosexuality a protected class under federal discrimination law. But this hunch was wrong. The vast majority of the 40 or so gentlemen and two ladies present appeared to agree with Ashford. This puts them at odds with the national Log Cabin Club and probably every other gay advocacy organization.

Bookended by a dartboard and a TV showing local news, Nigel began his talk by saying he had 15 minutes to give 12 reasons why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), was a bad thing. "Start with a principle," he said. It is wrong to discriminate, but it is wrong to force people not to discriminate. Since he has no right to a particular job, being denied it is not a denial of his rights. Said Nigel, "Even bigots have rights."

Nigel then laid out three more specific reasons to oppose ENDA: It's a threat to civil liberties, to society as a whole, and to gays. "It is intended to increase opportunity, but perversely, and I said perversely, not perversity, it will have the opposite effect," he said. This is because employers will be less likely to hire openly gay individuals if they fear they cannot let them go without risking a lawsuit.

So what is the proper agenda for politically active gays? Gays should work for equality before the law, Ashford said, by attacking sodomy laws and promoting gay marriage, gays in the military, and gay adoption laws. That's not exactly a Republican agenda, but then, Ashford has the benefit of being British.

Not everyone agreed with Ashford's libertarianism. A dissenter said he supported equality and therefore he wanted to be equal with minorities and women. Someone else in the audience clapped. Nigel answered that such group rights were damaging to America, adding that he thinks anti-discrimination laws for other groups should be abolished as well.

And then there's the question of hate crime laws. A lot of gay Republicans, I'll admit, support this sort of thing. But gay libertarians do not. In my capacity as president of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, I wrote a column in reaction to the horrible murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in October 1998. Picked up by the Houston Chronicle, the article was spotted by Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who inserted it in the Congressional Record. Here is how it appeared there:
HATE CRIMES AND INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS -- (BY RICHARD E. SINCERE, JR.) (Extension of Remarks - October 16, 1998)

in the House of Representatives

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I commend to my colleagues in Congress as well as citizens everywhere an article authored by Richard Sincere, Jr., President of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty. Mr. Sincere aptly describes how the very essence of hate crimes undermines a pillar of a free and just society; that is, equalt reatment under the law irrespective of which particular group orgroups with whom an individual associates. Ours is a republic based upon the rights of the individual.


The wicked murder of Matthew Shepard by two thugs, assisted by two equally contemptible accomplices, has resurrected a debate about the need for hate-crime laws.

Shepard, an openly gay University of Wyoming student who had been widely praised for his talents, ambitions, and personality, last week was beaten senseless and left for dead, tied up like a scarecrow along a fence on a little-traveled country road. Miraculously, he was found by passers-by many hours after the attack, still struggling for life when he was rushed to a hospital in Fort Collins, CO, where he died Monday while on life support.

Local law enforcement officials in Laramie, WY, where the crime took place, quickly arrested the alleged perpetrators--two men who performed the assault and two women who helped them hide their deed--and it looks like they will be punished to the full extent the law allows if they are convicted. With Shepard's death, they face a possible death sentence.

Laramie, a university community of 27,000 people, is feeling both shame and outrage, a sentiment shared by all right-minded people throughout the country, indeed around the world. News of this brutal assault has appeared everywhere in print and broadcast media.

The crime against Shepard has renewed calls for passing hate-crime legislation, both in Wyoming and nationwide. Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer and President Bill Clinton have said that this attack shows the need for such laws.

This would be a mistake. It would be a mistake because hate-crimel aws, however well intentioned, are feel-good laws whose primary result is thought control, violating our constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and of conscience. It would be a mistake because it suggests that crimes against some people are worse than crimes against others. And it would be a mistake because it uses a personal tragedy, deeply felt by Shepard's family and friends, to advance a political agenda.

Hunter College Professor Wayne Dynes, editor of the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, notes that hate-crimel aws, if they are to be applied in a constitutional manner, must be content-neutral. He notes this example: "Countless numbers of people, aware of the unspeakable atrocities under his leadership, hated Po lPot. This hate was surely well warranted. If one of the Pol Pot haters had killed him, would this be a hate crime ? Why not?"

Dynes adds: "In seeking to exculpate the killer, we would get into the question of whether some hate is 'justified' and some is not." He concludes that hate-crime prosecutions "will be used to sanction certain belief systems--systems which the enforcer would like, in some Orwellian fashion, to make unthinkable. This is not a proper use of law."

Under our system of justice, everyone is equal before the law. Those accused of crimes are entitled to certain constitutional protection, which we must cherish, and the victims of a crime--whether a Bill Gates or the poorest street-sweeper in a slum--are entitled to the same respect. (In the Middle Ages, the law required a greater punishment for killing a rich man or noble than it did for killing a peasant or a laborer. Our law recognizes no such distinctions.)

So, too, with class- or group-based distinctions. Is it worse to kill a man because he is foreign-born than it is to kill him to steal his car? Is it worse to kill a woman because she is black tha nbecause she cut you off in traffic? Is it worse to beat up a fat sissyboy if the bullies think their victim is gay, or if they dislike him because he is fat? Crime is crime; assault is assault. All deserve punishment.

Hateful thoughts may be disagreeable, but they are not crimes in themselves. The crimes that result from hateful thoughts--whetherv andalism, assault, or murder--are already punishable by existing statutes.

In a speech at the University of Texas last year [1997], libertarian activist Gene Cisewski said: "We should be anti-violence, period. Any act of violence has to be punished swiftly and severely and it shouldn't matter who the victim is. The initiation of force is wrong and it doesn't matter why--the mere fact you had a motive is enough."

Cisewski acknowledged the good intentions of those who propose hate-crime laws. He noted that "the reason for the call for (such laws) comes from bad enforcement of the laws." Police and prosecutors have been willing to look the other way when victims came from unfavored groups. Luckily, in the Shepard case, the authorities seem unwavering in their prosecution. This is, unfortunately, not always the case.

The answer, Cisewski suggested, and I agree, is that "we hold every law enforcement official and every court official who administers justice to the standard that every American is guaranteed equal protection under the law."

Hate-crime laws set up certain privileged categories of people, defined by the groups to which they belong, and offers them unequal protection under the law. This is wrong. It is sad to see a young man's personal misfortune used by various special-interest groups to advance such an agenda.

We are all shocked and dismayed by the assault on Shepard. Such brutality cannot, should not be countenanced. Let us not multiply the crimes of his attackers by writing bad law in response.

GLIL -- Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty -- also set itself apart, and proudly so, in 2000, when it was the only gay organization to submit a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court's case of Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. That is, we were the only gay organization to submit an amicus curiae brief arguing that the Boy Scouts had the right, under constitutional guarantees of free association, to set their own membership and hiring policies even if that meant excluding gay Scouts and Scoutmasters. While we decried the policy, we defended the Boy Scouts right to be wrong.

The brief can be found here (in PDF format). This is the news release that GLIL used to make its position more widely known:

Gay Organization Praises Supreme Court Ruling That Favors Boy Scouts
"Freedoms of Association and Expression Were Protected Today," GLIL Leader Asserts

(WASHINGTON, June 28, 2000) --- The president of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL) today praised the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says the Boy Scouts of America are free to choose their own leaders, even if it means excluding gay men as Scoutmasters.

Richard Sincere, president of GLIL since February 1998, stated that his organization was pleased that "by a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court recognizes that freedom of expressive association is protected under the U.S. Constitution. Despite what others might say, this is a victory for the rights of gay men and lesbians to form groups, gather for expressive purposes, and pursue their own visions of happiness with freedom and dignity."

GLIL had filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, arguing that the Boy Scouts of America have a constitutional right to set their own standards for membership and leadership positions, even if that means the Boy Scouts may exclude openly gay Scout leaders from participation in the organization.

Sincere said GLIL leaders were pleased that Chief Justice Rehnquist seemed to follow the reasoning in the group's brief when he wrote that: "We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts' teachings with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong; public or judicial disapproval of a tenet of an organization's expression does not justify the State's effort to compel the organization to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization's expressive message."

"Our brief had emphasized our disagreement with the Boy Scouts' policy of excluding gay members and leaders," said Sincere, a former Boy Scout himself. "But if government forces the Boy Scouts to change that policy, the constitutional rights of all of us -- not just the Scouts, but everyone, gay or straight -- will be diminished. Freedom does not belong only to those with whom we agree. Gay men and lesbians have suffered when freedom of association has not been respected. We benefit when freedom of speech and freedom of association are vigorously protected. A Supreme Court ruling against the Boy Scouts would have had the perverse effect of hurting gay and lesbian Americans."

GLIL's brief before the Supreme Court was prepared by the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based public-interest law firm. GLIL's amicus brief is available on-line at

Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty was founded in February 1991 to advance the ideas of economic and personal freedom and individual responsibility. It has members across the United States and in several foreign countries.

As a final example of work I've done in the past to demonstrate that the words "gay" and "liberal" are not synonymous, I offer this article that appeared (by invitation of the editors) in the Virginia Advocate, a conservative student publication at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. In it, I try to show that it is possible to be gay and conservative or gay and libertarian without suffering from psychic dissonance.

You Think You're Gay?

You do have a choice (of political affiliation)

by Richard E. Sincere, Jr., GLIL President, April 2001, vol XXV, no. 2

On Easter Sunday, 2000, members of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL) participated in a protest in front of the White House, demonstrating their disdain for the previous day's kidnapping of Elián Gonzalez by heavily armed government thugs, in a pre-dawn raid at the behest of Attorney General Janet Reno.

So far as we know, no other gay organization took the time to protest this particularly vicious manifestation of the heavy hand of government. Sadly, this example explains why, for many Americans, their gay compatriots have been stereotyped as belonging to one, monolithic political category: liberal Democrats. This simply is not the case. Like all Americans, gay men and lesbians hold a wide range of views on political, social, and economic issues. For various reasons, however, the images presented by the media-and reinforced by some conservative activists-tend to favor the liberal Democratic pigeonhole.

GLIL, a non-partisan organization founded in 1991, is one of the alternatives that represent some politically aware gay Americans. In February 2000, GLIL filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the Boy Scouts of America have a constitutional right to set their own policies for selecting leaders, even if this means excluding openly gay scoutmasters. Freedom of association, GLIL argued, is of paramount importance to gay Americans. If the Boy Scouts lost their case, gay people would end up losing, too.

In a speech sponsored by Students for Individual Liberty at the University last spring, GLIL executive vice president Odell Huff noted that "only through our ability to freely associate with one another" are gay people "able to come to terms with our own sexuality, deal with the social hostility we inevitably face, create safe places for ourselves where we can feel comfortable and secure, and meet one another so that we might form happy and stable relationships."

Over the past ten years, GLIL has sponsored forums on our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms; on why the Food and Drug Administration should allow people to choose to use home-testing kits for HIV; and, as early as 1991, in a debate between Andrew Sullivan of the New Republic and Tom Palmer of the Institute for Humane Studies, on the question of equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian citizens.

GLIL also sponsored a debate on hate-crimes laws some six years before the murder of Matthew Shepard brought the issue to national prominence and, at the time of Shepard's murder, an article explaining GLIL's opposition to hate-crimes laws was reprinted in the Congressional Record.

GLIL members oppose laws like the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which interfere with the rights of employers and workers to decide conditions of employment but also support the rights of gay and lesbian Americans to serve openly in the military.

GLIL is not a lonely non-left voice in the gay and lesbian world. There is also the Independent Gay Forum, which publishes the views of a wide range of non-left writers such as U.S. Representative Jim Kolbe, Jonathan Rauch, Jennifer Vanasco, Norah Vincent, Bruce Bawer, and others.

On January 19, 2001, the Republican Unity Coalition was launched, as a gay-straight alliance for Republican activists. Former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming emceed the breakfast, which featured U.S. Representative Tom Davis (R-Va.) as a speaker. Davis stated the obvious: "Politics is about addition, not subtraction," pointing out that if the Republican Party wants to win elections, especially in toss-up suburban areas, it must not exclude any potential voters or activists.

And, of course, there are the Log Cabin Republicans, who have been active in Virginia politics since 1997. The Log Cabin Republican Club of Northern Virginia is now spinning off clubs in Central Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Michael Lynch of Reason magazine wrote of the group: "Two and a half years in Washington, and I've finally found the free marketeers in the Republican Party-they're gay." Former Prince William County GOP chairman Bill Kling noted that LCRC/NoVa meetings are "fast becoming a 'must' campaign stop for many GOP candidates."

So there are alternatives for politically active gay and lesbian Americans. If you're gay, you do have a choice. You are not stuck in an endless, downward spiral of socialism, irresponsibility, and dependency. You can embrace free minds and free markets instead.

Charlottesville resident Richard Sincere is president of the Washington-based Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (

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