A growing chorus of party leaders and state parties are demanding the removal of Arvin Vohra, the vice chair of the national Libertarian Party, over his recent remarks endorsing and condoning sexual abuse of minors.
It’s a bizarre controversy, and not the first time Vohra has sparked outrage over his often strident and outlandish public comments. Over the course of the past year, he’s variously condemned all veterans as murderers, compared schoolteachers to rapists, and has spoken of his desire to purge up to 80% of the party’s members who don’t meet his ideological litmus test.
His latest remarks, which he admits are partly intended to drive moderate supporters of former Gov. Gary Johnson out of the party, have roiled the small world of L.P. activists in the past few days. While some Libertarians work to focus on upcoming elections or preparing for the 2018 convention, the party’s second-ranking officer instead chose to spend the holiday weekend posting extensively on the topic of age-of-consent laws.
Arvin Vohra compares child molestation to homosexuality
In one post, Vohra claimed that it was preferable for a fourteen-year-old to be impregnated by an adult, because then they would be less likely to collect welfare. In another comment, he insisted that child molestation was morally indistinguishable from homosexuality, and accused gay members of the party of “hypocrisy” if they disagreed. In others, he insisted the abuse of children as young as nine should be left to the discretion of their parents. That’s only a small sampling: in total Vohra has spent the weekend posting dozens of times, dedicating thousands of words to the issue.
These comments are wildly at odds with the party’s principles and platform, aside from basic human decency. The official Libertarian Party Platform deliberately endorses the right to intimate relationships only for “consenting adults.” The party’s position on generally respecting the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit, likewise carefully exempts “abuse or neglect.”
While mainstream libertarian outlets such as Reason have long questioned some applications of age-of-consent laws, for example in cases of the 18-year-old and his 17-year-old girlfriend, or teenagers “sexting” each other, these arguments never go so far as to endorse the permissibility of genuine child molestation. Vohra went much further, denying the morality of any such limits.
Making matters worse, Vohra is also the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in Maryland, though efforts are underway to recruit a possible replacement. Along with the requests to suspend him from his national role, some Libertarians are also urging the Maryland party to remove him from their ticket.
Multiple state Libertarian Parties have passed resolutions demanding Vohra’s removal
A rapidly growing list of states parties have officially demanded Vohra’s removal, including those of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Ohio, and South Carolina. Many of them have cited the damage done to candidate recruitment and volunteer organization by his comments.
Other party members have gone further, threatening to end their support for the national party altogether if Vohra is not removed and repudiated. Dozens of Libertarian candidates also submitted a letter urging his removal, and the party’s youth wing, the Libertarian Youth Caucus, put out its own statement to the same effect.
The backlash hasn’t stopped some members of the national committee, including Starchild and David Demarest, from defending Vohra’s comments. National party chairman Nicholas Sarwark has not commented directly on the matter, but has been criticized by many for his lack of a clear response. As of this writing, a suspension motion has been made and cosponsored by three members of the committee; it will require a fourth cosponsor to proceed to a vote, and then two-thirds in favor to pass.
While the bulk of the party is united in condemnation, the issue has proved divisive within the more radical anarchist wing, with some defending Vohra and others joining with those urging his removal. One board member of the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Merissa Hamilton, resigned in protest over the issue of the group’s platform specifying “individuals” instead of “adults” in this context.
The terms of the current committee members expire at the close of the party’s mid-term national convention, to be held in New Orleans from June 30 to July 3 of this year. While Vohra is widely expected to be easily defeated for re-election, the handling of the matter could become a key rift among the delegates.
(Image of Libertarian Party Vice Chair Arvin Vohra giving the official response to the 2015 State of the Union address via screenshot.)