Six Reasons Why Today’s Libertarian Movement Is Not At All Pro-Gay

Rand PaulThanks to a New York Times Magazine article by Robert Draper, there’s been a lot of buzz lately about the libertarian tidal wave that’s allegedly poised to wash over the American landscape. Draper argues that young people are much more accepting of the libertarian get-rid-of-all-government argument and that Rand Paul is set to harness that energy all the way to the White House.

Except for this inconvenient fact: Polls show that young voters are the one segment of the population that actually favors more government and is most inclined to vote Democratic.

Draper does some fancy dancing around the topic of marriage equality, suggesting that support of it is somehow a sign of libertarian tendencies. In fact, there’s every reason to believe that the libertarian movement, at least as it is currently constituted, is not only not pro-gay, but actively hostile to LGBT issues. Here are six reasons that prove it.

1. Rand Paul. Let’s start with the standard-bearer for libertarianism, Sen. Rand Paul. Paul would have you believe that’s a moderate, when in fact he’s as homophobic as they come. He has repeatedly come out against marriage equality, going so far as to suggest that the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA would open the way to marriage with animals. Paul told Draper that the GOP can’t “completely flip” on gay marriage. To which we say, why not? If you’re wrong, why wouldn’t you change? In Paul’s case, it’s because he doesn’t think opposition to marriage equality is wrong.

2. The role of the Christian right. The relationship between the religious right and the libertarian movement is tighter than you think. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage says that his group’s opposition to marriage equality “is actually a libertarian argument.” Anti-gay theocrats like David Barton exert great influence in the world of constitutional conservatives (a self-identification libertarians prefer). “To the extent it has a mass base, it’s likely as much or more among conservative Christian soldiers who despise government so long as they don’t control it as among dope-smoking free-loving free-thinking anti-interventionist Reason readers,” columnist Ed Kilgore notes perceptively.  (Reason is the magazine published by the libertarian Cato Institute.)

3. A philosophy that is conveniently homophobic. A lot of libertarians object to the government recognizing your relationship on philosophical grounds. One of the most revealing moments in Draper’s article is an exchange with Mollie Z. Hemingway, a senior editor at The Federalist. Hemingway thinks that the government has to be in the marriage business because the heterosexual relationship is “ordered to producing children.” But the government shouldn’t extend those rights to same-sex couples. Hemingway thinks that those folks “should be free to organize their own lifestyle,” as if your committed relationship was the same as taking up RV-ing.

4. Less government = less protection. If you really want to get government out of the way, that means it should be less involved (if at all) in protecting workers against discrimination, people with HIV from untested treatments or shielding LGBT students from bullies. Amazingly, the vast majority of people espousing these views don’t happen to fall into any of these categories to explain to us why these protections are superfluous from the victim’s perspective.

5. Religious liberty. Here’s where the libertarian argument is most often employed to ill purpose. The argument: the government should allow people to serve whomever they want, without fear of legal restrictions. If bakers want to refuse to bake wedding cakes for gay couples, fine. What better way to protect your freedom to discriminate than by passing laws to do so. Of course, a true libertarian would argue that people should be able to do as they please, but that more law is exactly the wrong answer. But more commonly the religious liberty argument is used to unite conservative evangelicals and libertarians. 

6. The funders are hypocrites. The Koch brothers (Charles and David) are the biggest funders of the libertarian movement. They help underwrite the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank, and have spent tens of millions of dollars promoting libertarian causes that happen to coincide with their financial interests (such as killing climate change legislation). David Koch has said “I believe in gay marriage.” Nowhere is that reflected in the candidates given money by the organizations with financial ties to the brothers. Instead, those organizations are donating to Tea Party groups or offering ad support for mouth-breathing House Republicans who will stop anything LGBT in its tracks. And then, of course, there’s Peter Thiel, the gay billionaire who funded presidential quest of Ron Paul, Rand’s even crazier father, a campaign which came with a long list of homophobic attendants.

Now, there is a spirited debate within the libertarian ranks as to many of these issues. Many libertarians are very supportive of the LGBT community and suspicious of the religious right. They are more interested getting government out of the way, whatever the consequences might be. But the libertarian movement that is capturing political attention today is much more a pick-and-choose type of philosophy: easy to agree with principles when they support what you want, and easy to discard them when they don’t.

In too many ways, it’s morphing into a different brand of anti-gay conservatism, when one is already far more than enough.



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  • 1EqualityUSA

    Rand Paul will never be President of the United States. Romney will never be President of the United States. Rick Perry too. Disgusting men with huge egos and no common sense.

  • pressuredrop

    I’m sorry, but Libertarians have always been a joke to me. Their political philosophy is completely ego-centric.

    It’s not hard to unite people under the banner of “freedom”, because everybody likes freedom. Nobody is really going to argue that freedom is a bad thing. However, like other intangible ideals, such as “justice” and “equality”, it clearly means different things to different people.

  • Cam


    Oh, you mean those people who scream that the Federal govt. needs to pay for everything THEY want, but that everything else is something the govt. shouldn’t pay for?

  • Saint Law

    Libertarianism lol: the philosophy that never moved out of its mom’s basement.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    Saint Law, you rock.

  • tjr101

    Libertarians are just people who are ashamed of calling themselves Republicans.

  • onthemark

    @Saint Law: And their mom is Ayn Rand? They had her taxidermed sort of like in “Weekend At Bernie’s.”

    @tjr101: I think it was P.J. O’Rourke who said “libertarians are Republicans who smoke pot.” If only that were more true!

  • DuMaurier

    I’m well past my brief Ayn Rand phase, but I do remember that she was disgusted by the Christian Right and outraged at any mixing of religion and politics; that she ended her tentative support for Reagan because of his position on abortion; that she was totally against subsidies, favoritism or any government support for Big Business.

    Yes, she opposed anti-discrimination laws on a liberty basis; but as the article’s closing indicates, most of what passes for “libertarianism” today would be heresy to this movement’s supposed revered icon.

  • inbama

    Ayan Rand was duped.

    Libertarianism is the philosophy behind the Articles of Confederation. That’s why the Confederacy remains “Libertarian Paradise” for Southerners – a federal government too weak to guarantee each citizen’s freedom and equal treatment before the law.

    Liberty is NOT freedom. That’s why gay-basher Falwell founded “Liberty University,” and the right wing Catholic Bishops have the “Law & Liberty Institute” to keep laypeople from making their own healthcare choices. It’s all about their LIBERTY to deny us EQUALITY.

    This is what Rand and Ron Paul are about.

  • robho3

    Rand Paul…crazytown!!!!

  • scotshot

    @DuMaurier: Ayn Rand was, of course, disgusted by people who received government aid and didn’t stand on their own two feet. She herself ended up participating in both Social Security and Medicare. Rand Paul and Paul Ryan always forget the end to her story, while both receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from the same government they profess to hate and want to dismantle. Let’s see if they accept government aid when they retire.

  • skyler

    Proofread, everyone.

  • LiamCregg

    This whole ‘youth vote going libertarian’ thing is just more PR bullshit from the rightwing noise machine. They are so desperate, it’s kinda cute. Bit seriously. This campaign is designed to make the younger voters think that their friends are turning to libertarianism. Peer pressure and all that…might be working though.

    Oh. One more thing. If libertarians want to be taken seriously(gigglesnort)they should strap on a pair, detach from the republican party, then see how it goes for them. Same with the teabaggers. Time to stop sucking on the elephant’s teat.

  • Kieran

    Rand Paul was right to call out Hillary for being a warhawk. Listening to her talk foreign policy one can’t help but think she’s regurgitating John MacCain’s warmongering campaign talking points.

  • Ridpathos

    I easily identified libertarianism for what it is, a last ditch effort by the conservatives (possibly the GOP) to rebrand itself in its death throes.

    Unfortunately I have quite a few friends who fall for this libertarianist crap.

  • northwest

    Rachel Maddow did a fine job of pointing out how big a liar and fraud Rand Paul is, something others in her profession are incapable or unwilling to do. This man should NEVER be president.

  • manjoguy

    @1EqualityUSA: And Obama has no ego? And he certainly has no leadership skill. How did he ever get to be president?

  • Cam


    This isn’t FOX News, if you’re going to make those statements please give an example. Otherwise you are just a child sticking out their tongue.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    Dear Manjoguy,
    I rarely use four letter words in response to commenters, however, for you, I’ll make an exception, “BUSH!”

  • Queer4Life

    wow this article is beyond ignorant.

  • Mark Read Pickens

    Speaking as an ideological libertarian for more than thirty years and a five-time Libertarian Party candidate for office, Rand Paul is not of the libertarian persuasion, therefore not a “standard bearer” for libertarians. He is a social conservative who takes libertarian positions on some issues. He self-identifies as a conservative.

    Libertarianism is based on equal rights, something Rand Paul (and his father, Ron Paul) opposes in a number of important areas. For example, he opposes marriage equality, which is inherent to libertarianism.

    Another example is immigration. He opposes open borders (no restrictions on immigration), which is inherent to libertarianism.

    Doing a point-by-point refutation of the rest of the article would make this post longer than the article itself, but rest assured anyone who understands libertarian ideas sees through these errors as though they were panes of glass.

    Before attacking ideas, it’s essential to first understand them.

Comments are closed.