The old Andrew Sullivan came back yesterday, when Sullivan expressed shock at the firing by Governor Robert L. Erlich Jr. of Maryland of a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board member, Robert J. Smith, for expressing the opinion during a television talk-show discussion of Gay Marriage that there should not be a “special place of entitlement within the laws of the United States for persons of sexual deviancy.”
Sullivan defended Smith’s freedom of speech and opinion vigorously.
Reading this story upset me. A man is fired by the Maryland governor from his job as a member of the state’s Metro transit authority board. His sin? Speaking his mind about homosexuality, in a context which in no way affects his ability to do his job. I deeply disagree with his views and they could have been expressed more civilly, but he has every right to them, and they are indeed intrinsic to his understanding of his own religious liberty. Words hurt no one. Firing him for his views is an act of profound intolerance – by governor Ehrlich, and by my own city councilman, Jim Graham. The gay rights movement needs to practise the same tolerance it is asking for. Leave orthodox Catholics – and Protestants – alone in the expression of their own faith, and their own politics.
Sullivan’s principled libertarianism shows particularly well by contrast with the stance taken by Ilya Somin, one of the commentators at the Volokh Conspiracy, who equates the conventional religious view of homosexuality as “deviant” with racism, and thinks Smith’s firing was justified as:
The DC area has a large gay population and many of them presumably take Metro “trains and buses.” There is good reason to assume that a Metro Board member with Smith’s views would be less likely to enforce policies against antigay discrimination in public transport than one who is not a homophobe. At any rate, since there is unlikely to be a shortage of nonbigoted people willing to take this cushy patronage appointment, Governor Ehrlich was right not to take a risk on Smith.
Hat tip to PJM.