Goldwater made his position clear on the matter in stating, “the conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one of its basic tenets the belief that government should stay out of people’s private lives. Government governs best when it governs least – and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality. But legislating someone’s version of morality is exactly what we do by perpetuating discrimination against gays.” Moreover, he was forthright in his support for gays serving in the US military, observing, “everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar. They’ll still be serving long after we’re all dead and buried. That should not surprise anyone.”
For some, it looks as though Goldwater was promoting homosexuality, the gay lifestyle in all its unbridled hedonism, all in the name of civil liberties, to the detriment of the traditional values and community standards many conservatives value. From this point of view, one might view Goldwater as more of a libertine than a libertarian. Unfortunately, such stereotypes concerning gay people prevail, that and the outrageous assertion that homosexuality is a disorder. The reality, as Goldwater knew, is that gay people are not disordered and most only want to take their place in society and participate fully and openly. In winning the right to serve openly in the military and pursuing the right to marry, gay people are embracing the very same traditions and community standards that Goldwater’s critics endorse, not repudiating them.