Do It Yourself: Gay Libertarians Oppose Government-Imposed Discrimination in Marriage Laws and Military Policies. but They Also Oppose Employment Protections and Hate-Crimes Legislation. A Paradox?

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GOVERNMENT IS BAD; personal freedom is good. That in a nutshell is the philosophy of the Libertarian Party, which has attracted gay people since the 1970s with its support for equal marriage and adoption rights, repeal of the military's ban on gay soldiers, and an end to sodomy laws. Simply put, Libertarians don't think Uncle Sam should dictate what people can or cannot do in the privacy of their homes or places of work. For gay Libertarians, that means opposing federal employment discrimination protections and hate-crimes legislation.

"The only things government should be doing," says Rob Power, chair of Outright Libertarians, an analog to the Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans, "is defending life, liberty, and property."

On some level, Libertarians are optimists. Instead of the government imposing laws to ensure that its citizens act appropriately, the party would trust the populace and the free market. When a law is passed, Power argues, a broad swath of society is already behind it, so the law is effectively redundant. Put an other way, if a majority of Americans already agree that it's wrong to fire or assault someone because he's gay, then you don't need legislation to explicitly affirm that principle.

"The point of hate-crimes legislation is to help prosecutors overcome jury bias against victims who are minorities," explains Power, who lives in San Francisco, where he estimates that 10% of registered Libertarians are gay. (Outright Libertarians has an e-mail list numbering in the thousands.) "By the time you get to the point that such legislation is supported by the majority of voters, you don't have juries anymore who'll accept the 'gay panic' defense." (Though hate-crimes laws are meant to punish bias-based crimes in general, not just "gay panic.")

Smart companies understand that firing gay employees is bad for business. They miss out on the marketing value of a diverse workplace, lose sales from LGBT consumers, and deny their workforce creative gays and lesbians, whom Outright Libertarians national secretary Brian Miller calls "overachievers." So what would Power do if he were fired for being gay? "Organize a boycott," he says.

To be sure, trusting people or business to protect rights isn't an idea most Americans hold: Registered Libertarians number some 250,000 nationally, according to Andrew Davis, the party's director of communications. …