Letters

Gay by Force

In “Gay by Force” (March), Jacob Sullum argues that Eric McKinley, by suing eHarmony, undermined the fight for equal treatment of gays by government. Sullum implies it should be legally acceptable for private institutions like eHarmony to exclude gays. By extension, should restaurants be allowed to turn away would-be customers based on skin color? What if a restaurant owner simply puts a sign on their restaurant door that says “PrivateClub” and charges some sort of nominal “membership fee”? Should they be able to freely exclude any individual for any reason? What about employment policies for a factory that sells one $1 widget to the U.S. Army? Where exactly is the line between public and private?

Matt BenDaniel
Medford, MA

Not One More Acre!

In “Not One More Acre!” (March) Trey Garrison says the federal land grab “would be on firm legal ground, since national defense is a clear ‘public use,’ as required by the Fifth Amendment.” That’s fine, except that under the U.S. Constitution the federal government has no power of eminent domain in the first place. And it would have been damned strange if it did.

Clearly, if the federal government can seize a Rhode Island–size chunk of land in Colorado, there is nothing to stop it from seizing a Rhode Island–size chunk in Rhode Island. A constitution giving the federal government the power of eminent domain would have given the federal government, or a consortium of the large states acting through it, the power to erase the small states off the map. Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts might have thought it was OK, but there is no chance at all that any of the other 10 would have ratified a constitution that gave the federal government that power.

That’s why Article I of our Constitution mandates that the federal government must have the consent of the state legislature to acquire land within that state. If the Constitution gave the Army the power of eminent domain, not only would it not have been ratified, but the delegates to the Constitutional Convention wouldn’t have dared return to their home states.

Paul Kelly
Delta, CO

Hate, 8, and the Golden State

In “Hate, 8, and the Golden State” (March), Tim Cavanaugh says that those who “use the power of the state to interfere with the domestic happiness of others…had better be willing to pay the price in lost work opportunities.” But while many libertarians disagreed with proponents of Proposition 8, all of us should be able to agree that the government has no business enabling retaliation—even legal forms of retaliation—against those who exercise their First Amendment rights.

Yet California’s campaign finance disclosure laws compel people who give money to ballot issue campaigns to reveal their names, home addresses, and even employers on an Internet-searchable database. It was inevitable that some people would use this information to identify and harass their
political opponents. Even more troubling, this database can create unexpected dangers, as was recently demonstrated when an animal-rights terrorist group published a list of “targets” that it compiled using federal campaign finance disclosure data to identify donors whose employers perform animal testing.

The Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment protects the right to anonymous political advocacy. It does so for the same reason we have secret ballots: to allow people to advocate political change without fear of retaliation.

Paul Sherman
Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice
Washington, DC

Tim Cavanaugh lectures us that both supporters and opponents of California’s Proposition 8 should be “out and proud.” Maybe, but if there’s a justification for the state requiring contributors to a campaign in support of a ballot proposal to waive their right to anonymity, he doesn’t tell us what it is. Without the state action of required disclosure, harassment of citizens contributing to hot-button causes would be impossible.

Richard G. Finch
Birmingham, MI

Corections: In “Who Moved My Government Cheese?” (April) horror author Stephen King’s first name was misspelled.

“Putting Stars Behind Bars” (April) stated that two high school coaches were paid to “steer a prized recruit to Birmingham” to play for the University of Alabama. In fact he was steered to the Tuscaloosa campus.

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