Today, I received yet another e-mail from Log Cabin, imploring me to write to my Member of Congress, telling “them to vote YES ” on on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). While I certainly agree with the spirit behind the legislation to protect workers from discrimination based on their (as Log Cabin’s release puts it) “sexual orientation or gender identity,” I oppose this legislation because it prevents private businesses from setting their own employment policies.
While Log Cabin and other gay groups have been pushing Congress to pass this intrusive law, limiting the freedom of private organizations, many private companies have already shown a willingness to ban discrimination in their own companies. According to a recent piece in the Advocate, 432 (or 92%) of Fortune 500 companies “include sexual orientation in their employment nondiscrimination policies.” That’s up from 323 (or 65%) just 4 years ago. And to think this happened during a time when there was a Republican in the White House and for most of that time, with Republican majorities in both House of Congress.
So, despite a government cool to state action on behalf of gays, the private sector continued to recognize the importance of attracting top-notch employees who happened to be gay or lesbian.
WIth more and more companies offering such protections, ENDA and similar legislation has become increasingly gratuitous. And conservatives, at least those who hold true to the principles articulated by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, should be skeptical about any unnecessary legislation, especially when such laws increase the power of the state and limit the freedom of private organizations.
Instead of focusing on being liked by other gay organizations, it’s time that Log Cabin stand true to the principles of our party. They should instead focus on developing a legislative agenda based on those conservative and libertarian principles to confront problems we gay people face which the private sector cannot solve.
At the top of the agenda would be some kind of recognition of same-sex unions, with the priority being given to opening up immigration to partners from other lands and to allowing individuals to determine who can visit them in the hospital. And to repeal Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and allow gay people to serve openly in the military.
Being conservatives, we understand that we may not be able to accomplish even that modest agenda in the near future, so would need to develop strategies to pass it incrementally, perhaps by starting with legislation that allows gay people to serve openly in non-combat roles in the military — while commissioning a study to determine the effect of open service on morale.*
Whatever the specifics of this agenda, it must have at its core not a commitment to the term of the gay left, “equality,” but focus on that idea which has inspired the founders of this great nation as well as the founders and great leaders of our own party, “freedom.”
So, I offer this challenge to Log Cabin–provide your conservative bona fides. Develop a freedom agenda for gay people. And thus you can both support the principles of our party — and promote a better society for gay Americans.
*Yes, I know there have been several studies. And that’s one reason I favor this study. We know what the results will be, but perhaps if it’s promoted with greater fanfare, it might get more public attention than have previous studies.
UPDATE: On a similar note, Eric Scheie writes today about freedom:
What I have never been able to understand is how opposition to laws against something is seen as support for whatever conduct the law would prohibit. I try to be polite to people, but I oppose criminalizing rudeness. For example, I would oppose the criminalization of words I would never use. How does that mean I advocate using them? There’s a movement to criminalize the “n” word which I oppose. Does that mean I believe in what they call “license” to use the word? Not at all.
My complaint is with a society that has become so paralyzed that individuals and businesses are increasingly unable take any individual initiative. It leads to grotesque big brotherism, and I think the rise of the nanny state is directly related to the mentality that only the government can prohibit anything.
UP-UPDATE: Shortly after posting this piece, I e-mailed Log Cabin’s Patrick Sammon alerting him to this. He wrote back and with his permission I am posting his response which appears below the jump. I may (at a later date) respond to his comments in a separate e-mail.
We’re already advocating for and lobbying to advance the proposals you advocate.
1. We’ve supported the immigration reform proposal for several years. During comprehensive immigration reform debate, we thought it would be a good opportunity to move that forward, but we were told it would be a poison pill to social conservatives. Former Congressman Kolbe said the same thing (http://www.washblade.com/2006/7-7/news/national/bi.cfm). We remain committed to gaining Republican support for this legislation. This from our web-site: http://online.logcabin.org/issues/gay-and-lesbian-families-immigration-laws-need-reform-to-protect-gay-families.html Hopefully, there will be opportunities to gain some momentum on this legislation during the years ahead.
2. We’ve been very supportive of the Palm Center (formerly known as the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military http://www.palmcenter.org/ ). The center’s studies have under cut every rationale for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That’s their mission—producing solid academically credible studies that examine the impact of DADT. We have used their studies in our conversations with Republicans on the hill. Here’s a link to one of the studies they did for us several years ago. http://libertyeducationforum.org/downloads/1h_dontaskwht5_3.pdf
We’ve also produced a video that we use in outreach to Republicans on this issue: http://www.logcabin.org/lef/LEF_Video_Corner_courage_under_fire.html
In recent years, we’ve debated the merits of pursuing an incremental strategy on DADT. After talking with lots of political strategists and experts on this issue, we didn’t believe this was the best way to end the policy. An incremental approach is often an effective vehicle for making progress on gay rights. In this case however, it would set back the long term goal of overturning this law. After Congress votes on ENDA, you’ll see DADT gain more prominence in our federal strategy and messaging, especially going into the election year.
3. Certainly there has been amazing progress with large corporations, but our nation’s history shows that there is sometimes an appropriate federal role on civil rights issues. So it is with ENDA. I respect the perspective of those who oppose the legislation; however we’re going to have to agree to disagree.