Individual Liberty and the Fear of LGBT Rights

Editors’ Note: Guest blogger Sean Cotter is a writer and activist from Manhattan, New York. His writing has appeared in the Washington Blade. Sean blogs at

Josh Barro has an opinion article in the Boston Globe today attacking Boston Mayor Tom Menino for stepping into the Chick-fil-A controversy and threatening to block the company from operating in his city, effectively turning the company’s anti-gay President Dan Cathy into a martyr. Barro writes that Menino’s actions have hurt the gay marriage cause, in harsh but I think fair and accurate words:

Opponents of gay marriage often claim that legalization will trample on their individual rights. Menino and other officials have provided evidence to support that claim…

By handing Chick-fil-A a valid grievance, Menino and his ilk rallied popular support for the company outside big cities. The crowds turning out to support Dan Cathy’s right to be anti-gay are mostly in jurisdictions with weak legal protection for gays and lesbians. In other words, Menino has helped to make environment more hostile for gays in the hinterland.

The idea that straight, conservative people could become victimized as a result of the advancement of gay rights used to seem like a stretch at best. And yet, politicians like Menino and their netroots supporters have somehow managed to make this threat real and credible. The LGBT civil rights movement has always been unique from others (despite people’s claims that “gay is the new black”…) and it seems to be in uncharted territory right now.

What we’ve learned from all of this is that gays and their advocates apparently do have the power, in some jurisdictions, to threaten the rights of those who don’t support them. Gay people should be conscious of this because it opens them up to the possibility of suffering a backlash that will hurt LGBT people in areas where they are not supported by megalomaniacal politicians, and also because protecting freedom of speech and looking out for the constitutional rights of others is the right thing to do.

What do you think?

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