One of the biggest opportunities for modern libertarianism is broadening the scope of liberty for middle class white christians to one that insists on liberty for ALL. It's not that our philosophy is inherently heterosexist, quite the opposite; we have the correct solution to issues of privilege. It's just that over the years, Libertarians have seen small government conservatives as a natural fit for recruitment - the easy way out of navigating a more difficult dialogue with liberals about the way normative culture expectations are woven into the legal system.
The success of this strategy has been both a blessing and a curse. I have nothing but joy for the fact that we have seen an explosion of interest, particularly in the past 10 years, in the philosophy of liberty. Now, as we enter the post-Paul era of Liberatarian advocacy, and the pendulum swings toward the anti-authoritarian left in terms of where our greatest opportunity for recruitment exists, Outright Libertarians is in the fortunate position of having an expertise in issues of GSM liberation, just when the liberal left has run out of ideas for coopting our movement.
You see, the state has always been the instrument of oppression; it has never been our friend. Normative institutions like monogomous marriage have their place in the egalitarian tradition; of course we should be equal under the law. But the question of whether those laws should be there in the first place - and how they serve to reinforce conservative institutions - is a much more interesting one for libertarians; and one the old parties cannot ask without calling into question the very nature of their own ethics of power and control.
We have a long way to go as far as abolishing the actually quite long list of ways in which the state continues to initiate coercive force and fraud against GSM individuals in our everyday lives. In all the fuss over marriage, these issues have taken backstage for the mainstream movement, while those uninterested in assimilation and conformity have been pushed to the fringes. There is fertile ground here to advance abolition, but it's a long uphill battle.
What can be done TODAY, right now, to protect our people?
Jury nullification has a long and powerful tradition of empowerment for the conscientious juror. In most states that have unanimous jury requirements, a single juror who recognizes the injustice of a law can judge the case based on that injustice itself. A juror, for example, can block the prosecution of a sex worker, be they cis- or transgender. They can block the prosecution for consensual BDSM behaviors that face conviction under antiquated "obscenity" laws, and they can protect an HIV patient who has been charged with murder. The list of opportunities for conscientious acquittal is quite long, and the injustice of the law itself is only one reason.
There is a moral imperative to weaponize the jury for self defense when one realizes that GSM identities become entangled in the legal system not only because the law itself exists, but because of stigmas and normative assumptions by law enforcement. And once an individual becomes ensnared in the system, their incarceration has a much higher likelihood of exposing them to rape and physical abuse behind bars. Indeed, even when they are isolated for their own protection, the very act of being confined in solitary is under most circumstances considered a form of torture. The harm done to what is essentially an innocent human being convicted of a victimless crime can't be overestimated.
Outright Libertarians has partnered with the Fully Informed Jury Association (a juror education organization) to put together an educational online discussion based on a paper entitled "Queering Jury Nullification" and centered on the experience of GSM individuals both as victims of state violence and as active participants in civil society through the exercise of our rights as jurors. We are please to invite you to join us online on Saturday, July 18 at 1pm Pacific / 4pm Eastern. Space is limited, so please RSVP on the Event page here.
Last month I wrote about why I would support Gary Johnson if he received the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination in 2016. I explained how I could support a Libertarian candidate such as Johnson without being branded a “purist”, however, I overlooked the fact that there are other principled, non-dogmatic Libertarian candidates in the race for 2016 who deserve a spotlight. This month, I would like to shine a spotlight on one of those candidates: Mr. Steve Kerbel. I had the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Kerbel this week. We discussed Kerbel’s strategy for 2016 and touched on a variety of issues, including those that are very important to Outright Libertarians.
I am not a purist libertarian. I don’t say things like “End The State”, or “Abolish (insert massively entrenched political institution here)”. This is not because I believe society won't be better off without these overbearing agents of the state, but because this macho-flash style libertarianism does nothing to address the vast injustices inflicted upon Americans now. Issues like marriage inequality, police militarization, the war on drugs, and mass incarceration, all of which disproportionately affect minority and LGBT citizens, are in my mind the most commonly dismissed, and yet most easily fixable issues. Macho-flash libertarians like to dismiss practical solutions to these issues and will instead deliver all-or-nothing, end-the-state mantras that are beyond impractical. Their tactics have nearly driven me out of the movement, until I am reminded that practical libertarian solutions exist to make people freer.
When Gary Johnson ran for President under the Libertarian Party banner in 2012, he brought a much-needed sense of balance to a party gripped by fringe elements. Unlike his predecessor in 2008, Johnson remained consistent in his support for both social and economic freedom. When asked about his stance on the issue of marriage equality, Johnson does not do the conservative shuffle and leave the issue to the states, nor does he pull the libertarian macho-flash by insisting that the government should just get out of the marriage altogether. Rather, Johnson makes no mistake that he supports equal rights for LGBT individuals. He is also unambiguous and firm in his support for civil liberties issues such as ending the war on drugs, repealing the Patriot Act. While Johnson is far from the perfect Libertarian candidate, I would feel much better about compromising a couple percentage point increases on a tax rate, or leaving a few military bases open, but I cannot support someone who lacks the simple dignity of acknowledging equal rights for all people. This is why I cannot vote for even the most libertarian Republican within the current field of candidates running for President.
The status of liberty is determined less by the size of the state and more by society’s respect for individual rights. Of course, scaling back the state is usually the appropriate means to protect people’s rights, but the emphasis should always be on rights. While I can understand choosing a pragmatic approach over ideological purism in a high stakes election, my support for Gary Johnson is based on anything but purism. If now is any indication, I will have irreconcilable disagreements with every major-party Presidential candidate in 2016, disagreements that go against what I believe to be basic respect for the rights of the individual. Through my experience listening and speaking with Gary Johnson, I know he is the kind of libertarian who cares about individual rights, and determines his political strategy on that foundation.