Village Voice Writer States Falsely That Reason Defends Bigoted Bakers More Than the Right of Gays to Be Legally Married


As Nick Gillespie observed a bit earlier, Robert Draper's New York Times Magazine piece, "Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrived," has provoked an interesting and occasionally comedic series of reactions among people who are invested in disliking libertarians. Roy Edroso, the sour media critic of The Village Voice, who has previously just made stuff up about me in the course of venting his distaste, is back at it again on that front, in a column that otherwise has an interesting frame about elected libertarian Republicans tending to be socially conservative.

The stuff about Reason is wrong, and worth correcting:

Libertarians, like members of any underpopulated political group, like to portray their movement as a tent big enough to accommodate a wide range of liberty-lovers. For example: Want to free the weed and drink raw milk? You might be a libertarian! In our experience, however, some liberties are less important in libertarian land than others.

Gay rights is generally an easier lay-up for libertarians – remember, many gays are male and white! – but it still presents problems of the sort you don't find among the statist Democrats, again probably owing to the need to peel off Republican voters. […]

At Reason, you're far more likely to see defenses of the poor bakers who are being forced to bake gay wedding cakes than defenses of gay marriage. When NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay in 2013, Matt Welch explained to Reason readers "The Importance of Allowing People to Say That You Can't Be a Gay Basketball Player and a Christian," in which he focused on the real victims of the controversy, such as ESPN's Chris Broussard, who was "beaten to a rhetoric pulp" (that is, briefly criticized on Twitter) just for saying gay people are Hell-bound. (Hilariously, Welch managed to work Martin Luther King's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" into this article.)

Bolding mine. Far more likely sounds like a testable claim, so I hit the Reason.com search button for "gay marriage," sorted the results by "newest first," and started counting which results included defenses of gay marriage, and which included defenses of people from punishment by the government over their unwillingness to serve gay customers. The first result, a Steve Chapman defense of gay marriage over stupid government attempts to ban its recognition, includes some verbiage that is relevant to the broader discussion:

Experience also prompted Americans to reassess their objections to same-sex marriage. For a long time, it was seen as a radical fantasy. In 1996, only 27 percent of Americans supported it.

But the world changed. Gays grew more open about their sexual orientation. Same-sex couples became more common. In 2004, Massachusetts allowed gay and lesbian couples to wed, and in 2008, Connecticut followed. Other states let them enter into civil unions that approximate marriage.

Opponents predicted disastrous effects. But the Almighty did not send a plague of frogs or otherwise evince outrage. The more exposure Americans had to the notion of gay marriage the less they minded. Today, it has the support of 55 percent of Americans.

Bolding again mine, to underline an important point: Back when same-sex marriage was seen as a radical fantasy, particularly by those whose political loyalty lay with the two major political parties, Reason was making the often lonely case for legal recognition.

For instance: As recently as 2003, the Village Voice (to pick one publication out of a hat) felt the need to publish calls-to-action such as "The Radical Case for Gay Marriage: Why Progressives Must Join This Fight." Reason, on the other hand, was editorializing in favor of gay marriage way back in 1975:

The marriage laws are obviously discriminatory and thereby deny to homosexual couples legal benefits granted to heterosexual marrieds—lower tax rates, immunity from being forced to testify against a spouse, etc. Probably the most blatantly homophobic institution in our society is the military and security establishment. The armed forces' refusal to allow homosexuals to join or to stay in the military reaches beyond the issue of whether homosexuals should have a chance to receive the training, pensions, and other benefits their tax dollars are paying for-veteran status and an honorable discharge affect a man's chances of getting a job, being admitted to a school, receiving preferential insurance rates, etc. […]

In the final analysis a libertarian society will have to be a tolerant society, since not initiating force against your neighbors means that you are willing to let them live as they please no matter how alien their life style is to yours, as long as they aren't initiating force against you (if you don't like them, you don't have to deal with them). This political commitment to tolerance is the main thing that distinguishes libertarianism from conservatism[.]

In 1996, when the major-party political question was not "Do you support gay marriage?", it was "How loudly will you support a federal prohibition on recognizing same-sex unions?", Reason was publishing attacks on the Defense of Marriage Act, examinations of tactical considerations within the pro-gay-rights movement, and columns with subheds like "Gay marriage is better."

Moving back to 2014, July saw Reason.com publish a profile on three gay GOP candidates that begins from the starting point that the party will have to change its policies on gay marriage or go the way of the dodo bird; another of an Austrialian libertarian pushing for same-sex marriage recognition; a post making the case for those new (or hostile) to libertarians that "Libertarians are the ones who tend to both support same-sex marriage and people's right not to be compelled to work in service of one"; an essay defending marriage-recognition against gay activists who would prefer abolishing the institution altogether; and an attack on Rick Santorum's anti-gay-marriage nonsense.

If Reason.com readers are indeed "far more likely to see defenses of the poor bakers who are being forced to bake gay wedding cakes than defenses of gay marriage," then that allegedly overwhelming emphasis has stubbornly failed to materialize over the past six weeks.

This despite the fact that, given the near-certain inevitability of gay marriage being legal across the land soon, the more contentious philosophical argument in front of us is no longer the question of same-sex recognition, but rather the ancillary legal and societal questions, including (yes!) whether individuals will be allowed to express their bigotry without government sanction. When discussing that particular issue, Reason writers are likely to formulate it not as a hi-five for odious behavior; but rather like Sheldon Richman does here: "The test of one's commitment to freedom of association, like freedom of speech, is whether one sticks by it even when the content repulses."

Now let's talk about Roy Edroso's typically misleading characterization of me. In the cited section above, Edroso paraphrases me as saying "the real victims of the controversy" over NBA center Jason Collins coming out as gay were those who were "criticized" for "saying gay people are Hell-bound." This is a willfully inaccurate rendering of what I wrote.

Read the whole post in question to judge for yourself. Here are some passages:

I think today is a wonderful, watershed day for people…to live as open and free as they wanna be […]

Jason Collins in his essay from today talked about how former NBA great Tim Hardaway had come around from being a rhetorical gay-basher to a strong supporter of gay rights. The country is changing fast, and while many of us are yelling faster!, it's important to recognize that a lot of people feel uncomfortable about it all. Better to have that conversation out loud, than let it fester.

Does that sound like I think the real victim of Jason Collins' lifestyle being controversial for far too long was some ESPN clown who thinks God hates the homsexualists? It takes a remarkable amount of basic intellectual dishonesty to reach that conclusion.

And yes, I referenced the "Letter From Birmingham Jail"—as an example of how "sometimes engaging with the I'm not ready to go that far just yet crowd brings out the best in activists." Given Edroso's middle-school snark about how gay rights are "generally an easier lay-up for libertarians" because "remember, many gays are male and white," it should come as no surprise that he is attempting to draw boundaries around who can and can't take inspirations from Martin Luther King.

And since Edroso was using my writing to support the wobbly thesis that Reason (and Planet Libertarian) were trying to somehow de-emphasize gay marriage "probably owing to the need to peel off Republican voters," here is video of me at the Conservative Political Action Conference doing precisely the opposite: