This past June marked pride month for members of the LGBT community and their allies in recognition of the impact gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people have made in not only the United States but the entire world. Many festivities such as parades, concerts, speeches and other activities commence shedding light on how far the LGBT community has come to gaining acceptance within societies across the globe and how far they still have to travel in combating hardships that are still present. June was selected as the designated month to celebrate Pride in commemoration of the Stonewall riots that took place on the morning of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.
With how prevalent LGBT rights have been throughout the latter half of the 20th Century and well into the 21st Century, it has become both an important issue and a political football in the arena of United States politics. Democrats are often seen as the champions of gay rights in supporting marriage equality and legalization of same-sex acts while the Republican Party, despite many members advocating for more traditional and religious views on marriage and sexual activity, have made some strides in promoting the LGBT community with groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans and Republican Unity Coalition. Despite progress between the two parties, both of their histories are riddled with suppression of LGBT civil liberties. There is one party in the United States, however, that has supported the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals since its inception. They supported gay marriage 40 years before the Democrats and free speech for LGBT people 44 years before Lucian Wintrich’s “Twinks4Trump” photo series. That party is the Libertarian Party.
Reasons as to why the Libertarian Party would be staunch supporters of LGBT rights aren’t difficult to understand. Since its formation on December 11, 1971, one of the main stances in the party’s platform is a promotion of civil liberties which would inherently include same-sex marriage and gun rights. In their statement of principles adopted at the first Libertarian National Convention in June of 1972, the party’s introduction to the section discussing individual rights and civil order reads:
“The protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government. No conflict exists between civil order and individual rights. Both concepts are based on the same fundamental principle: that no individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. The government is instituted to protect individual rights. The government is constitutionally limited so as to prevent the infringement of individual rights by the government itself.”
The introduction to this section is the basis of the Libertarian Party’s position on protecting rights for LGBT individuals in the United States.
Coinciding with the declaration of their statement of principles at the 72’ convention, the Libertarian Party made history not only within the LGBT community but in the United States as well. John Hospers; who, at the time, was considered “open” about his homosexuality, received the nomination for the Libertarian Party, thus making him the first gay man to be a Presidential candidate. Further history was made during the General Election that November as Hospers, with his running mate Tonie Nathan, received an electoral vote by a faithless elector from Virginia, making him the first LGBT candidate (and Nathan the first female) to do so.
The 1976 Presidential campaign for the Libertarian Party expanded upon their support for the LGBT community. With the nomination of Roger MacBride for President and his running mate David Bergland, the party presented a more detailed position on LGBT rights. Their position on LGBT rights, according to Ralph Raico (more on him soon), were as followed:
Repeal of all laws regarding consensual sex acts between adults (with the age of consent reasonably defined), including laws prohibiting prostitution and solicitation, whether gay or straight.
- Repeal of legislation prohibiting unions between members of the same sex, and the extension to such unions of all legal rights and privileges presently enjoyed by partners in heterosexual marriages.
- An end to the use of loitering statutes and entrapment procedures as a means of harassing gays and prostitutes.
- An end to the collection by government agencies of data on the sexual preferences of individuals.
- Elimination of regulations specifying homosexuality as a justification for denying or revoking state licenses (for doctors, lawyers, teachers, hairdressers, etc.).
- Repeal of laws prohibiting cross-dressing.
- Recognition of the right of a homosexual parent to be considered for custody of his or her natural child, and of the child to choose the homosexual parent as guardian.
- Elimination of laws specifying homosexuality as grounds for denying the right of adoption.
- Equality of treatment of gay people in regard to government service, including particular membership in the armed forces.
- The release of all individuals presently detained or imprisoned for any victimless crime.
The promotion of LGBT rights during this time was a completely revolutionary idea for either one of the major parties to adhere to, especially within the Democratic Party. The Libertarian Party during the 1976 campaign used this platform as more of a promotion for their stance on protecting the civil liberties of all individuals, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
As common of many sects within a political party in advocating for certain rights and raising awareness on particular issues, the Libertarian Party is no stranger to this practice. Several individuals and groups associated with the party have appeared and made their presences known with the libertarian stance on LGBT rights. Ralph Raico (mentioned earlier), a college professor and libertarian historian, was a staunch advocate for the rights of LGBT groups and individuals. In 1975, he created the Libertarian for Gay Rights caucus within the party to help bring the issue to light further for many members and how they should approach the topic from a libertarian perspective. During that same year, he wrote Gay Rights: a Libertarian Approach writing more in depth on the subject. In the advent of the AIDS epidemic that affected many in the LGBT community, both directly and indirectly during the 1980s, Libertarians for Gay and Lesbian Concerns was created. The group sought to promote libertarianism to LGBT Americans and to raise awareness of the issues the community faced during this time, such as the AIDS crisis and others. Libertarians for Gay and Lesbian Concerns held their first national convention at the San Francisco chapter in 1985 and the second one in 1987 that included homosexual libertarians from both the United States and Canada. The successor to this group, Outright Libertarians, was formed in 1998 and continued many of the same ideals with more of a highlight on the rights of transgendered/transsexual individuals. The group seeks to introduce gender and sexual minorities to the Libertarian Party and keep the platform of the party inclusive towards those individuals.
In the 21st century, the Libertarian Party has issued many public statements on policies enacted by the government regarding LGBT issues. In accordance with the party’s stance on personal relationships, they supported the Supreme Court’s decision on Lawrence vs. Texas in 2003 declaring a part of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The section on the Libertarian Party’s platform that coincides with the ruling reads:
“Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”
In 2008, the Libertarian Party of California opposed Proposition 8 to amend the California Constitution that would’ve denied the right for same-sex couples to marry. This was for the same reasons as to why they supported the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence vs. Texas. In 2009, the Libertarian Party of Washington encouraged voters to approve Referendum 71 which would extend the rights and obligations of domestic partnerships within the state. The explanation for their position on the matter was that withholding domestic partnership rights is a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. During the same year, however, the Libertarian Party opposed H. R. 1913 that would add the categories of sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to the federal hate crime statute. While a number within the LGBT community may see this as a dire conflict between them and the Libertarian Party, it should be noted that the party does not support any special designations toward crime as it is seen as violating equal justice under the law. And in 2013, the Libertarian Party applauded the decision made by the Supreme Court on United States vs. Windsor, legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide as the party has been a staunch supporter of marriage equality since its founding in 1971.
The Libertarian Party has made its mark within the realm of LGBT rights in the United States in almost fifty years of existence, more so than the Democratic and Republican Parties have made in a century and a half, combined. It is important to understand that the party’s support of the LGBT community rests upon their adherence to the protection of civil liberties and individual rights. Supporting LGBT rights is a major platform of the Libertarian Party that has proven beneficial for not only the party but for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals across the country to bring their issues and concerns to the forefront of American politics today.