Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sexual Equality - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1
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Sexual Equality - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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“Sexuality and Civil Liberties.” Political Quarterly (UK), 48 (1977): 313–327.
We need to untangle the complex web of issues surrounding sexual conduct in relationship to civil liberties, legal rights, state imposed “equal opportunity,” and private toleration. This becomes clear when we consider the law relating to homosexuality. Clear dangers appear inherent in reformist attempts to legally guarantee and sanction full equality for all forms of sexual conduct. As a saner alternative to legally imposed acceptance of minority (e.g., homosexual) lifestyles we might consider private social tolerance and compassion.
A recent example of “discrimination” involved a Canadian university against a college teaching assistant who publicly associated with the “Gay Community Centre.” The university dean ordered the assistant removed from his duties as a supervisor of student teachers. Significant in this case are the general points raised rather than the individual personalities involved. Most importantly, we must scrutinize tinize the legitimacy of the argument from the “Committee to Defend” the gay assistant. It demanded the dean reverse his decision and, in the future, prohibit all “discrimination” on the grounds of sexual orientation in the university.
Such protagonists are not content with legal reforms passed in the 1960s that forbid criminal prosecution against private, voluntary, adult homosexual behavior. Such legitimate reforms rest on the sound classical argument by John Stuart Mill in his essay On Liberty (1859), who distinguished the sphere of private morality from public legality: “The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, over his own body and mind the individual is sovereign.” But the more recent reformers now argue: “Legal acceptance does not necessarily mean social acceptance.” They seek to remedy this defect by further legislation that coerces conformity and “tolerance.”
Such demands that the law prescriptively recognize homosexuality and give it full parity with other forms of sexual expression are misconceived. Such demands, if legally enforced, would strain the fabric of law, endanger the bases of toleration, and lead to a proliferation of unfounded legal “rights.”
We can clarify the unwarranted escalation in the reformists' program. In the 1960s they advanced the argument that it does not follow that because something is immoral, it should be made illegal. Next, they argued that if it is not illegal, how can anyone say an act is immoral? This dialectic culminates in the argument of the 1970s, that since antihomosexual beliefs can only be subjective and bigoted opinions, the law should prevent persons from acting on them. Thus, people liberated from one legal imposition (criminal prosecution of private sexual acts), attempt to burden others with new legal impositions. The new reformers seek to exact compliance in the attitudes of nonhomosexuals. They concern themselves with status rather than true liberty. They wish for official recognition and legal enforcement of their normal status.
In sum, the reformers of the 1960s sought change by excluding the state from private bedrooms. The new sexual reformers of the 1970s turnabout and invoke the state and its power of imposition, compulsion, and coercion through such bureaucratic machinery as Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissions. The state's role has enlarged and circumscribed the individual's role and choices.
Undue reliance on the state and law still bring both into disrepute and pose a threat to freedom. The reformers now urge the law, once concerned with only the necessary minimum of moral conformity (no violence, fraud, etc.) to seek out heterosexual dissenters. Individual choice, found wanting by the new reformers, must yield to the new statism.
By multiplying newly discovered legal “rights” (e.g., the homosexual's “right” to teach despite the moral concerns of administration and parents of other students) we must necessarily violate other individual rights. A sounder way to win social acceptance for homosexuality is through private compassion and tolerance. Legally coerced acceptance can only cause polarization, resentment, and intolerance. Since state law was once the instrument of oppression, are homosexuals prudent in entrusting their protection to a growth in state power?
Liberty us. Power is an issue classically expressed in the debates leading up to the American Revolution, in the Declaration of Independence, and in our cover subject's (George Mason) efforts to include the Bill of Rights within the U.S. Constitution. The power that the Founders opposed was government hegemony based on the rule of violence, the substitution of the ruler's decisions for those of individual choices in society, and the exploitation of the ruled for the benefit of the ruler. Power thus usurped the free individual's right to self-responsibility, freedom from violence, and capacity to make personal choices and benefit therefrom.
What is the anatomy of government power in its origins, growth, and consequences? Must power inevitably lead to the welfare-warfare state, empire, or Watergate? How valid, in sum, is Lord Acton's much quoted axiom of power's tendency to corrupt?