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Free association up in smoke

Opinion Editorial
January 29, 2006

By Jon Caldara

After being drawn to “Brokeback Mountain” like computer geeks to the latest “Star Wars” movie, liberals have an even more pretentious sense of tolerance.

The message is clear. If cowboys want to get it on with each other, you gotta support that. Might not be your bag, baby, but hey, no one is suggesting you go gay. Just leave those who are alone.

We don’t need to understand why people do things we could never imagine doing ourselves; we just need to respect their decisions. Downright American, ain’t it?

Tolerance for the homosexual lifestyle has grown tremendously in the last few decades. Certainly not as fast as some activists would like, but the progress made in acceptance of what was once considered a perverted mental disorder is astonishing. This year, the Colorado Legislature is even considering a bill to grant legal civil unions. The possible citizens’ initiative to ban gay marriage is only a reaction to the strides of the gay-rights movement.

There are those who claim that the gay lifestyle is unhealthy, not merely for the spiritual well-being of our society, but also for the physical health of homosexuals. Therefore, they assert, government has a right to discourage that lifestyle choice. That lifestyle promotes diseases, including AIDS, driving up medical costs for all of us. That’s the hook they use to stop a behavior of which they don’t approve.

But most Americans understand the principle of freedom of association; that folks can get together with anyone like. We also understand, even though we rarely talk about it, the tyranny of the majority, that 51 percent of the people shouldn’t dictate how the other 49 percent must live.

Some estimates suggest that up to 10 percent of the population is gay. In Elton John’s dreams, maybe. The real number is likely much, much lower. But let’s assume it’s true. For one-tenth of the population, gays wield a remarkable amount of political clout.

Smokers, on the other hand, make up about 20 percent of Colorado’s adult population. Yet they get treated like dirt for their lifestyle choice, and no one seems to care. That’s because they are vile disgusting people engaging in a repulsive act sinners who will surely rot in hell.

The state Legislature will pass a state-wide smoking ban this session. Smokers will no longer have the right of free association in private establishments. If only smokers were gay, maybe they’d get some respect.
No one is forced to go to a gay bar. No one is forced to work in a gay bar. But some freely choose to frequent such places. Others choose to own such places. If only it were true for smokers.

Freedom is all about protecting the minority’s right to choose something not accepted by the majority. This is why liberals run around slapping each other with the First Amendment. They get it. Larry Flynt isn’t a national treasure because he treats women like toys. He’s a leftist darling because he’s a symbol that in a free society, we tolerate other people doing things we wouldn’t. Neo-Nazis have the right to parade, not because we support them but because we understand their right to associate freely.

How many times do we hear some seemingly rational person say, “Well I should have the freedom to go to a restaurant and not be bothered by smoke”? But there is no law forcing them to go to any private establishment. These people are so bigoted as to mandate that smokers can’t freely associate. Really, the bigots are stretching their majority muscles.

Colorado, like most other states, is considering steps to protect property owners from eminent-domain abuses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision. Suzette Kelo had her home taken by the government so a private developer could build a hotel. There hasn’t been a recent high-court decision that has caused such a backlash. We all know that government shouldn’t take property and give it to another private party.

So exactly what is the difference between Kelo and a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants? We take away the right of a property owner to run her place the way she wants so that other people can use her private property the way they want.

It’s good to be in the majority.

Smoking bans in private establishments have nothing to do with health issues. That’s just a smokescreen. It has everything to do with forcing private property owners to bend to your taste.

First Appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on Sunday January 29th 2006.