Humanism, LGBT Equality, and Human Rights

Ronald A. Lindsay

Secular humanism has been identified with support for gay rights for decades. The Council for Secular Humanism was founded in 1980 in part to counter the influence of religion on law and public policy and to promote fundamental human rights. In the context of sexual relations, this agenda resulted in a commitment to work to end legal restrictions on sexual conduct between consenting adults, including same-sex conduct. (At the time, same-sex intimacy remained a criminal offense in many states.)

With the passage of time, the range of issues associated with gay rights (or to be more precise, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender—LGBT—rights) broadened. The focus moved from ending criminal prohibitions to ensuring civil equality. The Council and the Center for Inquiry (CFI) have actively supported the LGBT community in its efforts to end discrimination and achieve equality. For example, in recent years CFI published a position paper arguing for the right of LGBT individuals to marry; CFI and the Council filed an amicus curiae brief with the California Supreme Court arguing that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was grounded in religious dogma and unconstitutional; CFI reviewed and criticized textbooks that belittled the movement for LGBT equality; and CFI issued a position paper arguing for a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, which has excluded individuals who are openly gay or bisexual from serving in the military.

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