AFFIRMATIVE Don't Use the Law to Compel Conformity
LIBERTARIANS GENERALLY TAKE a live-and-let-live approach, advocating freedom of association over anti-discrimination mandates. Moreover, a key aspect of libertarian policy is a commitment to choice and consent in personal and business relationships.
This approach is embodied in the Libertarian Party's 2016 platform, which reads: "Libertarians embrace the concept that all people are born with certain inherent rights. We reject the idea that a natural right can ever impose an obligation upon others to fulfill that 'right.' We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should neither deny nor abridge any individual's human right based upon sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Members of private organizations retain their rights to set whatever standards of association they deem appropriate, and individuals are free to respond with ostracism, boycotts and other free-market solutions."
During his 2016 presidential election campaign, candidate Gary Johnson unexpectedly stated in a debate not only that a Christian baker should be forced to design a cake for a gay wedding but also that a Jewish baker should be required to prepare a cake for a Nazi wedding. Others in the party criticized that rejection of the principles set forth in the L.P. platform, but Johnson refused to modify his position. This hurt him with his base, since many libertarians viewed his claim as flawed and indefensible.
Underlying the libertarian view on this issue is the recognition that in a market economy, there is a built-in financial disincentive for a baker to decline to sell to a potential customer. As support for gay marriage increases in America, it becomes increasingly unlikely that gay couples will encounter serious difficulty in finding a florist or baker for their weddings. When one vendor turns a couple away, there are numerous others lining up to win that couple's business. The economic harm falls squarely on the person with the moral qualms.
There's no doubt that emotional harm can result from being turned away from a business establishment because of who you love. But surely there is also harm when an American is forced to participate in an event that is contrary to his or her deeply held beliefs. A voluntary, market-oriented approach is the best way to reconcile the competing interests in such situations.