In the third quarter of the Eighteenth Century, one of the issues which pushed the once loyal British subject Benjamin Franklin to the forefront of the revolutionary movement was his opposition to policies which prevented the “Proprietors,” large landowners, from paying taxes. He and the Founders fought against such privileges, against a Parliament continually encroaching on the rights of the then-Englishman living in the American colonies. There were in many cases, particularly in “Proprietary” colonies like Pennsylvania, two sets of laws, one which applied to an aristocratic class, the other which applied to everyone else.
Their notion of equal rights meant elimination of laws which privileged certain classes. Similarly, the Civil Rights movement began, in large measure, to repeal laws which discriminated against a certain class of people. In short, their notion of equal rights was eliminating laws which privileged or discriminated.
Today, however, when gay leaders talk about “equality,” they seek not just to eliminate bad laws (like Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell), but also to enact well-meaning legislation (like ENDA and Hate Crimes).
And this is why I remain uncomfortable with the notion of “equality” as put forward by the left-leaning gay groups. It seeks the expansion of government to pursue a desired outcome. Under an “equal rights” regime, government gets out of the way, no longer privileging or punishing certain classes. The equality regime, however, involves government in determining how individuals govern their private lives–and that of the institutions in which they participate and otherwise support of patronize.