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Payden Alder: Your freedom does not allow you to harm others

Even if you do not approve of queer relationships, you have no right to discriminate.

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) A rainbow flag frames the LDS Temple from its place at the 8th annual mass resignation in City Creek Park, Sunday, November 5, 2017.

I have friends, close friends, good people, people I love dearly who are queer. And they live in happy, rewarding and, from my perspective, admirable homosexual relationships. And when I look at them I see the same goodness in their love as I do when looking at my parents or at my own wife.

I feel in the same way that I feel the spirit that their relationship is good, and when I think of the character of Christ and the nature of an all-loving, all-good God, I can’t see that person not seeing the goodness in my friends’ love as well.

I am confused about the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on queer people, as I am sure many were during the priesthood ban on those of African descent across the world. I don’t know how to reconcile my feelings of the spirit with the teachings of church leaders, but I know I can’t deny it.

And while many members do not share my experience of the spirit, and many others might even see my experience as heretical, I think one thing they will agree with me on is the idea that, “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.”

This is a rough-and-ready metaphor for the harm principle, a principle that draws a line in the sand and says individuals are not free to harm others or, in other words, I as an individual am free to do anything that doesn’t harm others. That is a liberty we should all enjoy.

If you agree that the harm principle draws a line in the sand we cannot cross, then even if you morally disagree with gay relationships, you cannot bar them of equal social and political rights. There is no substantial scientific evidence that queer relationships are at all harmful for society and they certainly don’t harm you or me as individuals.

So when we do not allow queer parents to adopt children or a business tries to deny them service we violate their rights. Remember people’s rights don’t end when you and I feel personally offended or disgusted. An individuals’ rights end when their fist meets my nose, and queer people aren’t asking to punch people in the face. They are asking to be equals. To not be denied services at the same public store you shop at. To be able to adopt and love a baby just like you can. To be able to get lifesaving treatment when it is ordered by your doctor. To have the same rights as you.

And the saddest part is we want to deny these rights not because there is evidence that allowing them is harmful, but because enough of us feel personally uncomfortable, offended or disgusted by the idea. But that’s not where we agreed to draw the line in the sand, and that agreement applies to all of us, not just some of us.

Could you imagine if someone denied you service, medical care or an adoption because they were offended and morally opposed to the Christian lifestyle? Would you not call that kind of inequality in society bigotry and oppression?

And to those who might not care that they justify political and social inequality and violate the harm principle merely because they are offended, I hope you never find yourself part of a hated or disliked minority. The legal and social precedent you have allowed will not protect you.

We all have to draw our lines in the sand and, for the reasons above, this is where I draw mine. But because we agree on the harm principle, even if you disagree morally with queerness, when it comes to the political and social rights of queer people you should draw your line with me.

And while many might think this is a settled question in our country I promise you it is not. Religious freedom often means freedom to discriminate, and as a friend once told me, “freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.”

And to my friends. I am your ally.

Payden Alder

Payden Alder, Salt Lake City, has a degree in philosophy from Utah Valley University and is applying to graduate schools to study social and political philosophy.

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