Religous Liberty and Gay Rights

Many people view the debate over gay marriage as a conflict between religious liberty and the rights of gays. And this is true, if one rejects the principle of individual rights.

Rights pertain to freedom of action—the freedom to act without coercion. When coercion is banned from human affairs, the interactions between individuals are based on the voluntary consent of all involved. It is the failure to recognize and defend individual rights that is creating the alleged conflict between religious liberty and the rights of gays. (There is no such thing as “gay rights.” There are only individual rights, and they apply to all individuals—gays and heterosexuals alike.)

Opponents of gay marriage want to use government coercion to ban a voluntary agreement between two consenting adults. At the same time, many gays want to use government coercion to achieve their ends. For example, many gays want businesses to be forced to offer the same benefits to gay couples as to heterosexual couples.

A proper government would neither ban gay marriage nor force businesses to offer benefits. A proper government would protect the right of each individual to act on his own judgment without interference from others. If a gay couple chose to marry, a proper government would protect their freedom to do so. And if a business chose to offer benefits only to heterosexual couples, a proper government would protect its freedom to do so.

Individual rights recognize the freedom of each individual to associate with others voluntarily, on whatever terms and conditions they find mutually satisfactory. When government fails to recognize and protect individual rights, the inevitable result is an alleged conflict between the rights of individuals.

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