America’s Supreme Court has overturned legislation that prevented homosexuals having equal marriage rights to straight couples. This follows similar rulings and legislation in Europe. That’s good news. And although I’m not gay and neither are any of my close friends, I understand the injustice that has now been removed.
President Obama said something very interesting about the ruling. He said that it gives all of us more freedom. At first glance, this pronouncement may seem to be misleading, but I believe that Obama is absolutely right. Here’s why.
The discrimination against lesbians and gays is a special case of the majority applying prejudice and imposing restrictions on a minority. There are many special cases like this. Slavery was one example; racial discrimination another. Gender inequality and religious persecution are other obvious examples.
But there are many more, and they are largely invisible, just like casual racism and sexism used to be in the 1970s. Societies are full of prejudices and practices whereby the majority imposes rules and restrictions on specific minorities. Recently, for example, in the UK, a consensus seems to have emerged that bankers should not be allowed to receive bonuses, and yet what right does society have to interfere in the details of employment of specific professions? The ban on bonuses doesn’t seem to apply to any other type of worker. It is a perfect example of the majority applying special restrictions to a specific minority.
There are also plenty of examples of minorities and individuals imposing non-lawful and arbitrary restrictions on others. Every time a bouncer stops someone entering a nightclub, or a restaurant imposes a dress code on its clientele, unlawful restrictions are being placed on individual liberty.
These may be minor examples, but my purpose is to illustrate their invisible nature. There must be thousands more like them. One day, perhaps these restrictions will become visible, and one by one they will be swept away. As each one falls, our liberties will grow. It may be necessary to fight every specific violation of individual rights one at a time, but each one is a stepping stone to freedom.
We are used to hearing the tired old phrase “erosion of civil liberties,” but what we are experiencing now is the creation of new liberties never before enjoyed by any previous civilization. That makes it a very inspiring age in which to be alive.