Viewpoint: Privacy Right Is a Human Right


Dictatorship, and dictatorship's energetic little cousin, authoritarianism, manifests itself in many ways: book burning, repression of political dissent, officially sanctioned prudery, torture, encrusted restrictions on individual initiative, economic collectivism of one sort or another, and, let us never forget, in massive invasions of privacy.

These United States represent the freest great nation on earth, the noblest, longest-lasting experiment in liberty ever attempted on this earth. While this country or that may in one or another area of human life exemplify a greater allegiance to genuine freedom than we, combining all the aspects that comprise "freedom" we find our own nation unquestionably the leader of the world. We are a beacon, and while we last free there is hope for the rest of the world.

For decades—indeed, for two centuries—a concept of a genuine right to privacy has been developing in America. It's been a two steps forward one step backward affair, by no means a clear, unequivocal move toward some pristine state of absolute liberty in this regard.

But the trend has evolved toward much more freedom of privacy, and many Americans, probably most Americans, have properly equated this trend with "progress," and have regarded the courts, including especially the Supreme Court, as well as legislative bodies including the Congress, as committed to enhancing this right.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, without so much as writing an opinion or hearing oral argument, that a repressive Virginia statute on private sexual practices is indeed constitutional. So anxious were the Justices to get this one out of the way that they refused to do as three of their number thought wise: wait to pass on the case until the entire court could hear the full range of arguments.

It is as if the nine men in black could see no connection whatsoever between the sanctity of the bedroom and the general state of liberty in our country.

The statute in question, nearly 200 years old, forbade a variety of sexual acts, acts considered by many, maybe most Americans as "unconventional," including some heterosexual activities. The Court ruling, however, like the Virginia ruling in Federal court, concerned only homosexual acts between consenting adult persons in the privacy of their homes.

One needn't approve homosexuality for oneself or one's family to champion the right of homosexuals to do as they will with themselves in private. One needn't even believe that homosexuals have ranked and rank now among the most productive, talented, energetic, decent people on earth in order to decry the Supreme Court's decision and see it for what it is: naked authoritarianism, a monstrous denial of what has come to be seen here as a fundamental human (at least American) right.

But surely it is the want of imagination and compassion and understanding on the High Court that permits such a foul ruling. Only those who truly believe that homosexuals are not quite humans, the way (of course) the Justices are humans, could fail to see that the Virginia law subjects homosexuals to a discrimination even more heinous than the already outrageous discriminations they suffer under other laws.

Nihil humanum a me alienum puto—so wrote the Ancients: nothing human is alien to me. But mankind operates far more often with a corruption of that maxim: nothing alien is human to me. Such it is that National Socialists could attempt the annihilation of Jewry. Such it was that some whites in America could countenance the enslavement of blacks, and that some even today can regard Negroes as less than human. Such it is that the pro-abortion lobby can disregard the fetus's right to life. In all such cases and others too numerous to mention, the fundamental flaw in the persecutors' mentality is their inability to grasp the essential, identical humanness of us all.

Certainly this ruling does not open the floodgates now to legalized extermination of homosexuals. It only—only!—gives enormous support to those who would hound homosexuals even into the confines of their homes. It provides unequal protection of the laws, it makes mincemeat of the emerging right of privacy, and it is cruel, vicious, stupid, and base. It is a ruling that all Americans, heterosexuals as well as homosexuals, have good cause to mourn. A travesty, a damnable shame.

David Brudnoy is a syndicated columnist, television commentator and lecturer. Dr. Brudnoy's Viewpoint appears in this column every third month, alternating with those of Murray Rothbard and Tibor Machan.