Thursday, June 01, 2006

Even "red state" Libertarians can support marriage equality

A couple of months ago, when I read about Wisconsin Libertarian Ed Thompson speaking out in favor of marriage equality, I pictured him in stark contrast to his more famous Republican brother as a stereotypical "left libertarian" more commonly found in places like San Francisco. Boy, was I wrong.

I was recently asked to review the new documentary DVD about Ed Thompson, entitled "A Remarkable Man." I figured it would be about a politician who stuck out like a sore thumb in a much more conservative part of the country. After all, they were asking me, a blue-state gay Libertarian to write a review. Again, my expectations were way off-base.
more . . .
"A Remarkable Man" is a DVD that every red state Libertarian ought to watch (as well as us blue state Libertarians who often find ourselves doing outreach in red counties). For me, the thought of reciting the Lord's Prayer at a charity Thanksgiving dinner would seem quite inappropriate, because whether living in San Francisco, Berkeley, Boston, or Cambridge, I've always been able to expect at least one or two non-Christians to be in the room, who I wouldn't want to offend. (And I'm betting Ed has never had to deal with vegan guests, as I have for the past few years.) But while watching this DVD, I got the clear impression that there was no such risk in Tomah, Wisconsin, where people experience no cognitive dissonance when hearing a man say he's "not very religious," yet they see him in the local church almost every day.

Similarly, since I myself live in places where private ownership of handguns is basically banned, it seemed odd to me that the crime that would carry the full weight of a local DA and police force would be the illegal ownership of nickel video poker machines -- and that the strongest bargaining chip for the DA to get a plea bargain out of these innocent business owners is that a felony conviction would result in the confiscation of their hunting rifles. It was surreal -- like Andy Griffith's Mayberry launched into the 21st Century.

But it occurs to me that the places I've called home, since fleeing Tennessee in 2000 for a more gay-friendly climate, are really just little bubbles of secular humanism in a much larger country that looks much more like Tomah, Wisconsin. Yet Ed Thompson proves that a Libertarian politician can fit in perfectly well in more conservative areas while refusing to compromise their principles of individual liberty and equal treatment under the law for everyone. Though the DVD makes no mention of the existence of gay people (for all I know, there aren't any "out of the closet" in Tomah), keep in mind after watching the documentary that the person it profiles is the same person who made the speech at Wisconsin's Libertarian state convention calling that state's proposed ban on same-sex marriage "lunacy." If Ed can get away with an uncompromising defense of liberty in Wisconsin, all of the other red state Libertarians ought to be able to do the same.