This month brings us a span of celebrations and events feting the liberation of the gay lifestyle, collectively known as World Pride. These celebrations, coming on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a two day demonstration against a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York City that went wrong after the patrons of the bar engaged in acts of civil disobedience, including refusal to provide identification. It was a defining moment for gay rights, and its launching of the gay liberation movement should be feted by all lovers of liberty.

That LGBT acceptance still has a way to travel in America (and even farther in much of the world) is obvious to anyone paying attention, and was demonstrated by some of the forms of resistance I’ve witnessed on social media these past couple weeks.

That’s not today’s topic. Many of those who complain that gays want preferential, rather than equal rights, aren’t being honest, and using that argument as a stalking horse to validate their personal dislike for “other,” for any of a laundry list of reasons (I find them all illegitimate, by the way. We all deserve equal treatment, unless and until we violate someone else’s rights). The “preferential treatment” assertion is what I want to address, because there is something to learn therein.

The Pride movement, just like the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s Rights movement, has been of great importance, to both members of the LGBT community and to the nation itself. All these movements seek to correct a particular wrong: that of systemic inequality. And, they’ve all achieved great success.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,

variously attributed, does not only apply to government-suspicious patriots. It’s an important reminder that the job of securing equal rights and equal treatment will never reach a “mission accomplished, go home” state of being. It can get close, and approach a point of “we’ve got it, lets pay attention so we keep it,” and we’re substantially closer to that state, in gay rights, minority rights, and women’ rights, than we were half a century ago. That reality is mirrored in the evolving population of activist groups.

As a movement gets closer to its original goals, there will be a natural attrition. Many will be content with 60% success, more will be content with 80% success, even more will be content with 90% success. Since we all have a finite amount of time, energy, and ability to focus on a particular issue amidst all that our lives entail, priorities will alter as success in that issue is achieved. Those of us less ‘fanatical’ about issue X may dial back our activism, point it elsewhere, or become more passive supporters of that issue.

This attrition will increase the concentration of true believers, absolutists, fanatics, and militants – the people whose tendency to excess has been tempered by the broader population within the movement. The structural elements of the movement will remain, mostly unaltered. And, if the original aims are mostly fulfilled, the movement will have a lot of free time and free resources at hand. Since idle hands are the devil’s playground, and since a tool in a toolbox invites use, there will be all sorts of pressures and incentives to “do stuff.”

Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim. — George Santayana

This is where things go wrong. Not so much because of the fanatics, but because the intact structures are incredibly enticing to cynical manipulators and rent-seekers. It’s not hard to figure out that some in these equal rights movements are seizing the opportunity to pursue preferential treatment. Nay – to coerce preferential treatment. You can ask for preferential treatment whenever you want. A free society allows that. In the private sector, it’s wholly up to the person you’re asking whether to grant it. However, on the public side, those being asked are obligated to deny you that preferential treatment. Even more so, they’re obligated to reject your requests that you coerce others to behave as you wish them to do so.

But, if you can co-opt those remaining active in a movement to furthering your new, preferential agenda, it becomes harder for those who are supposed to say “you get equal” to resist the pressure to reject “we want preferential.” This is not what equality movements are about. These are corruptions, and the people who bend the movements to these ends are corruptors.

It behooves us not to conflate the corruptors and their agendas with the equality movements. Indeed, we should take extra care to support a movement even as we denounce its corruptors. It’s important to remember that every fellow human should be handled via the Golden Rule, and that the premise that “all men are created equal,” itself a rejection of royalty, feudalism, caste societies, “lords” and hereditary nobility, subordinate treatment of women and minorities (although it took a long time to fulfill that premise in America), and differentiation of people via identity markers, should be the benchmark of human interaction.

It also behooves us to remember seminal events like the Stonewall Riots, and to recognize the importance of memorializing them as the march of time goes on. This is why we should laud and appreciate the Pride movement this month. In the movie Excalibur, Merlin cautioned Arthur and his victorious knights against forgetting such important moments in history:

For it is the doom of men that they forget.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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