Sodomy laws indicate liberty violation
Thursday is the anniversary of the 2003 Supreme Court decision of Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a Texas law that criminalized homosexual sex. While gay and lesbian activists have correctly pointed out that the ruling was a significant step forward in the recognition of the rights of gay and lesbian individuals, these sodomy laws themselves are a sign of something larger. Any laws that attempt to interfere with the legitimacy of actions between consenting adults is an attempt to remake the world in one’s own conception of the "good society" through the use of aggressive coercion.
We all have different views of how a just or perfect society would look. Sodomy laws speak to the heart of this question by proclaiming that society should be without sodomy. This is to exclaim that the imagined "city on the hill" is placed above the rights of individuals to freely associate and engage in consensual actions.
Only governmental fiat makes this possible. Who can forget the words of the pharaoh in the film The Ten Commandments, "So it shall be written, so it shall be done?" In this simple and powerful line, the essence of all governmental action is captured.
In our modern republic, once one group of individuals within the halls of government have enough support, anything becomes possible. The danger lies not just in the fear that evil men will grasp upon this institutional power and attempt to remake the world, it lies in any attempt to remake the world.
But couldn’t the government use its aggressive violence to reshape society into a more moral one? The answer must be no because the use of coercion to achieve a moral end liquidates the ultimate end of achieving a moral society. The nature of aggressive violence negates moral action. A real moral society is maintained and achieved through peaceful, voluntary action.
What would we do if we had control of the government’s monopoly of aggressive coercion? We would create an imagined preferred society. But certainly others would disagree with our imagined society. What is the outcome of such a predicament? The answer is, and must be, violence.
Not necessarily blood in the streets, although in the history of governments it has come to this time and time again, but violence against one’s individual right of life, liberty and property. What is the right of life if not the right to control one’s own body and the substances one freely decides to consume? What is liberty if not the right to freely do as one wishes with one’s self and with others as long as one does not violate the negative rights of others? And what is the right to property if not the right to do what one wishes with material goods one has justly acquired?
How far have we come from the conception that governments only exist to protect these basic rights? While sodomy laws are, thankfully, a thing of the past, the underlying idea that government power can be justly used to remake society has yet to be overturned.
Gilson, a business sophomore, can be reached via [email protected].