Since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last week, libertarians and conservatives have had a field day pointing out how slow liberal politicians’ have been to “evolve” on the issue. Here at Rare, for example, my colleague Betsi Fores published an article listing “5 conservatives that supported gay marriage before Hillary Clinton.”
Indeed, it was libertarians, not liberals, that lead the way on gay marriage. Cato Vice President David Boaz explains in the Advocate:
Just seven years ago, in the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton all opposed gay marriage. The Libertarian Party endorsed gay rights with its first platform in 1972 — the same year the Democratic nominee for vice president referred to “queers” in a Chicago speech. In 1976 the Libertarian Party issued a pamphlet calling for an end to antigay laws and endorsing full marriage rights….
It was the classical liberals, the ancestors of libertarians, who first came to that recognition. From Montesquieu and Adam Smith in the 18th century to the Nobel Prize–winning economist F.A. Hayek in 1960, it was libertarians who insisted that (in Hayek’s words) “private practice among adults, however abhorrent it may be to the majority, is not a proper subject for coercive action for a state whose object is to minimize coercion.
The list goes on and on. In fact, the publisher of the first gay periodical in known history, Adolf Brand, was an individualist anarchist in 19th century Germany.
It comes as no surprise that a group dedicated to a consistent application of liberty would be so ahead of the curve on LGBT acceptance. As much as conservatives and progressives like to brand themselves as tolerant of individual rights, it was their leaders who for centuries suppressed gay people in the name of “social progress” or “traditional values.” The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for libertarians more than anyone else that the arc of history truly does bend towards freedom.