The social contract is a theoretical agreement among individuals to form a society in which they can live in peace. The theory was started by Socrates; however, now, it is associated with moral and political views that developed in the 17th – 18th century. The issue of LGBTQ individual freedom and associated with it tension within the social institute of the church is a result of the unfulfilled social contract. The government can be considered to fail to commit to the agreement by not ensuring the safety and freedom of all individuals in society.
The issue of LGBTQ individual freedom in the United States and associated with it tension within the social institution of the church can be considered an example of a failing social contract. Due to the laws and policies that do not prohibit direct discrimination against LGBTQ people by excusing it as an interference with religious or moral belief. For example, despite the recently acquired freedom to marry, same-sex couples have a high chance of facing a refusal of service based on their identity (Human Rights Watch, 2018). As such, the government does not provide equality and safety for LGBTQ people, thus failing to commit to the social contract between the citizen and authority.
To understand the ethical basis for the relation of government to individuals, many philosophers began with an understanding of the idea of the way humans would live without being a part of society. This idea of a state of nature is the core of any social contract theory. If society can ensure the safety and equality of individuals, then they would be willing to surrender some of their freedoms to authorities. The terms of the exchange between individuals and the authorities are the ethical basis for the contract.
The idea of a social contract gained popularity thanks to Thomas Hobbes, John Locke , and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hobbes’s idea is based on the fact that no person could be fearless of other people in the state of nature, and no person could pose no threat to others (Friend). As such, he suggested that everyone should surrender to an all-powerful state that would protect the rights of all people. In contrast, Locke believed in a consensual decision and individual right to form a government, join it, leave it or create a different one (Friend). In Rousseau’s opinion, the social contract is not the opposite of free will (Friend). Instead, it represents the collective will to overcome conflicts and grow as a society.
The idea of all human beings consensually contributing to achieving equality and security for everybody is advantageous. The strength of this idea lies in the legitimacy of the government. Being chosen and agreed upon by all people, it would strive to improve the lives of everyone, with no need for wars and conflict. However, as a society like that grows, the will of some individuals, presenting the minority, would be less prioritized. Leaving such a social contract, as a result of disagreeing with it due to its inability to ensure the freedom or safety of the individual, can prove to be challenging. As such, the individual unable to leave would be forced to endure a life in a disadvantageous or unjust society.
In my opinion, the proper relationship between society and individuals should always include equal rights and treatment for every individual in society. People involved in the social institution of the church possess rights that interfere with the rights of those who belong to the LGBTQ community (Modi et al., 2020). One group of individuals having more power and freedom than the other based on nothing but their sexual orientation or gender identity is plainly unjust and discriminatory.
Friend C. Social contract theory. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.
Human Rights Watch. (2018). All we want is equality. Web.
Modi, R., Graves-Fitzsimmons, G., Siddiqi M. & Malik R. (2020). How religion and LGBTQ rights intersect in media coverage. Center for American Progress. Web.