Swayze: States Rights vs. Human Rights

I have wrestled with the idea of states rights and gay rights. On one side is my belief that some issues are best handled by the people most affected, that is, a state and the state’s citizenry. On the other hand is my firm belief that homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered American citizens of the United States of America deserve equal rights and protections under the law. Accompanying this is the horrifying reality that states are moving backwards in protections and not forwards (think HJR-6 in Indiana and the transgendered bathroom bill in Arizona as recent examples).

I believe that, like for slavery, the American populace is too cowardly, cold-hearted, and blind to give LGBT citizens the dignity they deserve at the state level. Even now, in 2013, states pass laws that limit the freedoms of homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered citizens. Indiana, my home state, only recently pushed measures through to amend the state Constitution in favor of “traditional marriage”, an idea as false as the idea that only pianos should be played on Sunday morning, as opposed to the Biblical drum.

I am not immune to the irony that the very practice I despise in social conservatism- the legislation of morality- is something I wish the Government to do in this case. The difference, I offer, is that in the case of rights for LGBT citizens, the least of which is marriage, the only goal is to do what the states will not: ensure the liberty and pursuit of happiness of a specific set of citizens. Legislation to expand and define freedom is an American tradition, and one that many states seem loathe to do.

Perhaps the ineptitude of states to keep up with social change is more indicative of a greater political issue. I wonder, at times, if the lack of attention at the city and state level is to blame. I wonder if the American populace, as a whole, even feels that the state government is “their” government. That is, instead of looking to the state first to fix any issue at all, as in times past, Americans now turn to the federal government first. If this shift is the case, then it is no wonder that the federal government expands so rapidly. What can Libertarians do about this? One action, I think, is to somehow get people more involved at the municipal and state level. Somehow, we have to change the perception that local politics don’t matter. I cannot offer suggestions as to how to accomplish this nation-wide, although focusing on one’s own state is a good start.

I believe that given enough time and social change, the citizenry of our nation may come around, even at the state level. Although any time within the next century would be a stretch, especially for LGBT citizens.

On the other hand, what moral harm is done by having the government expand freedom and reduce discrimination of a group of people who do no harm? If the government should not do that, then what should it do?


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Contributor Lynn Swayze is a left-leaning libertarian and feminist. When she's not engaging in political discussion, she works as a freelance direct response copywriter, project manager, and marketing strategist for information marketers. Follow her on Twitter @LynnSwayze.

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