Sebastian Zearing

how to be progressive without being a stupid liberal

Compare & Contrast: Gay Rights

This post was originally published at

I’ll be using a compare-and-contrast template to analyze various political issues where there is a liberal/conservative divide. I’ll use the definitions of liberalism and conservatism I gave in my introductory post. This is the first post in the series.

The issue of gay rights is the issue pertaining to the legal treatment of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, gay and lesbian relationships, homosexual behavior, and discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Gay rights are concerned with recognition of same-sex relationships (such as same-sex marriage), non-discrimination against GLBs[1], legalisation and equal treatment of homosexual behavior (such as age of consent equality), and other pertinent issues like government funding for AIDS research.

From the introduction:

The liberal worldview, as currently conceived in America, holds that humans, in their natural state, are equal in character, virtue, intelligence, beauty, aptitude, and worth, and that actualizing that equality constitutes the noblest political pursuit. Entwined in the worldview is the perspective that the natural is essentially good, and that actions to change the natural constitute corruption, and not improvement.

Inherent in understanding whether liberalism accepts or rejects the gay rights movement is the determination of whether homosexuality is natural. If homosexuality is natural, then it is equal to heterosexuality, and it merits the support of liberalism given that it is currently treated very unequally to heterosexuality by the federal and most state governments. However, one can still be a liberal and reject this. One can believe homosexuality is unnatural, likening it to bestiality, and demand similar treatment for both. One can simply deny that homosexual love actually exists (after all, something cannot be natural if it does not exist), but make allowances for homosexual behavior given that all parties typically consent there (unlike in bestiality), in the name of freedom. Further, if homosexuality is natural, then ex-gay therapy is a horrendous practice.

The conservative worldview, as currently conceived in America, holds that humans, in their natural state, are basically savages. This perspective holds that the natural is essentially suspect, and that the noblest political pursuit constitutes advancing and strengthening those social structures that enable man or woman to overcome, restrain, and master nature and become stable, civilized, and content.

The question posed to conservatism is whether homosexuality, natural or not, constitutes a base desire that needs to be suppressed, i.e. whether or not it is evil/immoral/sinful and conducive to societal breakdown. If it is evil, then it does not matter whether or not it is natural, and it should not be promoted or allowed but rather suppressed. This is generally the conservative Christian perspective. If it is not evil, i.e. not conducive to societal breakdown, then it should be shunted through the social structures that exist for managing sexual desires–also known as marriage. If homosexuality is not inherently evil, then the conservative response should be equivalent to heterosexuality: a disapproval of premarital relations and promiscuity, and an approval of expression in the context of marriage. This is the perspective of the somewhat prominent gay, conservative Christian blogger Justin Lee.

The libertarian response to gay rights is to remove all laws prohibiting victimless homosexual behavior. There is no libertarian case for marriage equality, however, because marriage should be a private contract, like every other contract.

My view is that homosexuality is natural, and that it is not inherently conducive to societal breakdown. I approve of same-sex marriage because of the latter, and thus automatically get marriage equality too. I disapprove of all restrictions on victimless homosexual behavior because of freedom.

1. Transsexual rights, though related, are not strictly gay rights. Also, I prefer to place the “G” before the “L” because “gay” can be inclusive, while “lesbian” cannot be. [back]


2 responses to “Compare & Contrast: Gay Rights

  1. Clare Flourish April 6, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Accepting gay rights, though, provides evidence for the liberal view. Gay people unburdened with homophobia and fulfilled by strong long lasting relationships become good contributing members of society, and may be applauded by Conservatives like David Cameron.

    • Sebastian Zearing April 8, 2013 at 5:25 am

      That’s a very good point. Conservatism per se is most valuable because it champions those social values that have been proven to work in the past. But things change, and conservatism has liberalism (among other things) to thank for showing it that past values can be updated soundly.

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