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A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rightsby David Lampo
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It is an axiom of modern American politics that many Republicans and most conservatives are not only anti-gay but that they have capitulated to an anti-gay agenda formulated and pursued by the religious right for the past several decades. In A Fundamental Freedom, David Lampo makes the case that support for gay rights will provide long-term political benefits for the GOP and the conservative movement. He argues that an anti-gay agenda succinctly exposes the hypocrisy of those who talk of limited government and individual rights but ignore both when it comes to gay rights and other personal freedom issues. Indeed, it is the defenders of gay rights within Republican ranks who are keeping faith with core conservative principles. He also presents a variety of polling data that show that rank-and-file Republicans, including many Tea Party supporters, are far more supportive of gay rights than commonly presumed. Lampo’s call to embrace gay rights is sure to be hotly debated within the conservative movement.
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A FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMWhy Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights
By DAVID LAMPO
ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2012 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA SHORT HISTORY OF THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT
Even though many gay and lesbian Americans today face discrimination when it comes to equal rights, it was far worse in the 1950s and 1960s. In those days, gays and lesbians were generally invisible and ostracized if they lived outside the closet. Even in major metropolitan areas, gays lived mostly underground and in the closet. Few commercial establishments served openly gay customers, and even many bars and restaurants that did cater to a gay clientele were owned or operated by the Mafia, which would pay off police in order to operate what were often illegal establishments.
Police were seldom sympathetic to gay victims of assault and other violent crimes, and in some cases, police were actually the perpetrators. Gay establishments were routinely raided by police and were the victims of shakedowns by them to stay in business. Sodomy laws were on the books in the District of Columbia and every state except Illinois, which decriminalized sodomy in 1961. Some convicted of the crime were even sentenced to life imprisonment! Gay Americans were routinely characterized by crude stereotypes, even by many in the medical community.
In 1952, for example, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disorder, and it was not until 1973 that the APA repudiated its earlier stance. Based on the APA's earlier characterization of homosexuality, twenty-nine states had "psychopath" laws that allowed gays to be detained by the police simply on the suspicion they were gay. According to historian David Carter, in California and Pennsylvania, sex offenders could be confined to a mental institution for life, and in seven states, they could be castrated. Electroshock therapy and lobotomies were sometimes used to "cure" homosexuals throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and "in almost all states, professional licenses could be revoked or denied on the basis of homosexuality, so that professionals could lose their livelihoods."
Known gays were forbidden from working for the federal government, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower formalized this policy of discrimination with an executive order in 1953. The Senate routinely held hearings to investigate how many "sex perverts" worked for the federal government. Between 1947 and 1950 alone, 1,700 federal job applicants were rejected on the basis of such discrimination, over 4,300 were discharged from the armed forces, and 420 were fired from their government jobs for being gay.
The FBI and many police departments maintained lists of known and suspected "homosexuals," and the US Post Office even kept track of addresses to which gay-related material was mailed. It was not until 1958 in a decision by the US Supreme Court that the right to send gay newspapers, magazines, and other publications through the US mail was reaffirmed. In today's culture, where gays and lesbians are so widely acknowledged and accepted, it's hard to believe such conditions existed for millions of gay Americans, many of them even through the 1970s.
All that began to change in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at a small gay bar in New York City called the Stonewall Inn. Located in Greenwich Village and owned by the Mafia, as most such establishments at the time were, it was routinely subjected to police raids and harassment. While today we think of Manhattan as a gay-friendly city, back then the political establishment was hostile and often tried to shut down gay bars by revoking their liquor licenses. Police entrapment and arrest of bar patrons was a routine process.
On that night, however, the usually passive customers of the Stonewall Inn fought back when police arrived to conduct a typical raid and mass arrest. Riot police were called in but had to retreat under a ferocious assault by hundreds of members of the gay and lesbian community who had finally had enough. Over the next several days, thousands of gays turned out to battle police, and the modern gay rights movement was born. Historian Lillian Faderman wrote that "the Stonewall Rebellion was crucial because it sounded the rally for that [gay rights] movement. It became an emblem of gay and lesbian power. By calling on the dramatic tactic of violent protest that was being used by other oppressed groups, the events at the Stonewall implied that homosexuals had as much reason to be disaffected as they."
Although gay rights organizations such as the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis existed before the Stonewall riot, they took a conservative approach in their battle to win equality. Stonewall led to a new militancy in the gay rights movement, matched by the burgeoning antiwar and counterculture movements. The legacy of that night is reflected in the ubiquitous gay pride rallies and parades that take place every June across the country and the world.
The emergence of out-of-the-closet gays and lesbians continued in the 1970s, and the APA's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders and its call to enact antidiscrimination laws were very influential. Gays and lesbians were moving into the mainstream of American life, but even then, according to Professor William N. Eskridge from Yale University Law School, "lesbians and gay men were not only excluded from service in the armed forces, troops suspected of being gay were subjected to 'witch hunts' by the military police. Sexual minorities were also barred from most police forces and from many civilian jobs, especially in public schools."
In 1971, All in the Family became the first sitcom in the country to feature a gay character when one of Archie Bunker's bar buddies came out. The first recurring gay character on TV came in 1972 in the show The Corner Bar. Many others have followed, and today gay characters on primetime TV, soaps, and reality shows are routine. In 2010, a study from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation said the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters on TV had reached a new high, with twenty-three gay characters in the year's new season on network television and thirty-five regular gay characters on cable television.
The issue of gay rights was thrust into the national limelight through the effort in 1977 by actress Anita Bryant to organize a repeal of an anti-discrimination law in Dade County, Florida, apparently justifying her efforts on the Phil Donahue Show by saying, "The Bible says homosexuals should be put to death and their blood shed over their heads." Outrage against her campaign and its nasty stereotypes of gays led to a boycott of Bryant's well-known employer, the Florida Orange Commission, resulting in a nationwide boycott of Florida oranges. Although her campaign resulted in a temporary repeal of the ordinance, it effectively ended her career and ultimately proved to be a shot in the arm for gay rights groups around the nation.
By the late 1970s, most major urban areas in the country had gay-friendly city governments and had become home to large gay populations—particularly New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Boston—and gay political power in these cities and elsewhere skyrocketed.
In 1980, the Democratic Party became the first major political party to insert a gay rights plank into its platform, as the Religious Right and its anti-gay agenda became increasingly influential in the Republican Party. Unfortunately, AIDS exploded on the American scene in the early 1980s, and although it spawned sympathy for gays victimized by the disease, it also sparked a growing homophobia within much of the conservative movement, which was reflected by the fact that most elected Republicans opposed almost all pro-gay legislation and did little to contain the growing HIV epidemic.
Nevertheless, gay rights continued to permeate American business and government. In 1982, the Village Voice newspaper in New York City became the first business to offer domestic partner benefits, and in that same year, Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 1984, Berkeley, California, became the first city in the country to offer domestic partner benefits to its gay employees.
In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president after an explicitly pro–gay rights campaign, although his initial effort to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly and honestly in the armed forces resulted in a backlash that brought us the now famous Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy that prohibited openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving. At the time, the policy was viewed as a step forward for gay rights because it ended the existing outright ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military. Since the inception of DADT, however, over thirteen thousand service members were forced out of the armed forces due to their sexual orientation.
The year 1993 also marked the first court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, a shocking concept at the time, even to most in the gay and lesbian community. The Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that, without a compelling state interest, the state could not bar same-sex couples from marriage without violating its equal protection laws, at the time a radical if compelling legal concept.
In 1998, President Clinton issued the first-ever executive order banning employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for federal employees, a policy with such widespread support that President George W. Bush continued the policy after he assumed office in 2001. And in 1999, California became the first state to enact a domestic partnership law. At the time, it covered only hospital visitation rights, but since then, other domestic partnership rights have been added to it, and the state now offers virtually all of the same benefits to same-sex couples as it does to traditional married couples.
The progress of gay rights has continued at an even quicker pace since the turn of the new century, and the visibility of gays and lesbians has touched every nook and cranny of American life and culture. In 2000, Vermont became the first state in the nation to implement civil unions, a kind of separate but equal alternative to straight marriage on the state level but one that is vastly unequal when it comes to federal marital protections and privileges.
In 2003, the US Supreme Court declared the thirteen remaining state sodomy laws unconstitutional in the Lawrence v. Texas case. Although some social conservatives condemned the decision as "judicial activism," libertarian conservatives hailed it as the right kind of judicial activism, grounded in the principles of individual freedom the Supreme Court was meant to protect. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, wrote the majority opinion, much of it quite libertarian in its reasoning.
Late 2003 saw one of the most controversial state court decisions ever rendered in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts case that legalized same-sex marriage. It struck most Americans, including gays and lesbians, like a thunderbolt, completely changing the way millions of Americans looked at marriage. The ruling also sparked a legal backlash at the state level that will take years of litigation and initiative campaigns to undo.
The Goodridge decision struck at the heart of the religious convictions of millions of Americans. Both the Bush administration and most of the Republican leadership in Congress moved to exploit the backlash on the right against the Goodridge decision through the remaining years of the Bush administration, including a push to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), a radical measure designed to preempt the traditional state role in marriage law by setting one federal policy outlawing same-sex marriage for the entire country, regardless of the views of voters and legislatures in states where there was support for same-sex marriage or alternatives to it like civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Fortunately, even in the then Republican-controlled Senate, the FMA never garnered the necessary congressional support to pass. It is considered today to be mostly a dead issue because it strikes at the heart of traditional conservative support for federalism, even on the part of many who oppose same-sex marriage. Consequently, the battles concerning legal relationship recognition for gay couples have played out mostly at the state level, where such issues are better decided in the first place, and that process will continue for the foreseeable future. We will cover those state battles in more detail in a later chapter.
In just over forty years, gays have gone from being a mostly invisible, oppressed minority to one that, while still lacking many basic legal rights, has moved to the front and center of American culture and the political process. There's no going back, and the profound cultural changes that America has undergone will continue at an even faster pace. The following chapters will explain why Republicans, particularly party leaders and elected officials, should stop fighting and start supporting many—if not all—of the legislative and legal aims of the modern gay rights movement.
Excerpted from A FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOM by DAVID LAMPO Copyright © 2012 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
David Lampo, director of publications at the Cato Institute, is a long-time libertarian activist and vice president of the Log Cabin Republican Club of Virginia. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Newsday, National Review, Chicago Tribune, Richmond Times-Dispatch and many other publications. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia.
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