By advocating for limited government that stays out of the bedroom, we libertarians have played a crucial role in the American victory for same-sex marriage. And in the next round of culture wars that the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling is already spawning, it seems both sides—religious conservatives and gay-right advocates—are turning tolibertarian-oriented remedies to advance their agenda.
But that last part is actually is not good news for libertarians. Why? Because both sides are using libertarian ideas as a cudgel, not an olive branch.
Libertarianism has been at the forefront of the gay rights cause from the get-go. Reason has always maintained that the government has no business regulating—much less criminalizing—what two people do behind closed doors so long as they don’t hurt anyone. It is no exaggeration to suggest that this simple moral intuition to live and let live eventually produced the rapid-fire revolution in public opinion that culminated in the Supreme Court ruling (even though its legal reasoning is a holy mess).
As Cato Institute’s David Boaz points out, libertarians were making arguments in support of gay marriage way before the cause became hip among progressives. The Libertarian Party demanded equality for gays back in 1972, when the Democratic vice presidential nominee was still referring to gays as “queers,” and endorsed gay marriage in 1976. Indeed, John Podesta, founder of the premier progressive think tank Center for Progress and a perennial advisor to Democratic presidents, noted in 2011 that one would have probably had to be a libertarian to support gay marriage 15 years earlier, notes Boaz.