Aside from the story of the day, about George Rekers, the NARTH board member, co-founder of the Family Research Council, and BFF of James Dobson, using his lunch money to purchase a male escort to “lift his luggage” (that is what she said), two blog posts struck me as impressive today.
The first is from Lindsay Beyerstein, on the subject of “bigotry” and the labelling of anti-gay marriage activists as such. It was inspired by a minor controversy which erupted when the fantastic Dave Wiegel, who covers the various lairs, sweatshops and basement sex dungeons of the conservative world for the Washington Post, tweeted the following:
“I can empathize with everyone I cover except for the anti-gay marriage bigots. In 20 years, no one will admit they were a part of that.”
Agreed. As you can imagine, though, anti-gay wingnuts were apoplectic over the suggestion that they’re nothing more than bigots. But that’s what they are, for the most part. They hide behind religious language, but at the root of that is pure bias and yes, bigotry. Lindsay explains:
Absolutely! Opposing gay marriage is the moral equivalent of supporting anti-miscegenation laws.
By definition, bigots are people with unshakable baseless prejudices. There is absolutely no reason, besides blind prejudice, to deny same sex couples the right to civil marriage.
You can use religious language to express your belief that gays and lesbians are disgusting second class citizens unworthy of rights that heterosexuals take for granted, but it doesn’t make your position any less bigoted. Logically, there is no reason to put same-sex relationships on a lesser legal footing than opposite sex unions, unless you think there’s something wrong with them.
You can insist you don’t wish gay people any harm. Perhaps not. But there were lots of pro-segregationists who didn’t wish ill upon black people, but still didn’t want to drink out of the same fountains. They too were bigots.
You can point out that discrimination against gays and lesbians is a longstanding tradition, but that doesn’t excuse your bigotry. If anything, it makes it worse. It was one thing to fear what the expansion of gay rights might do when gays and lesbians had no rights. Today we’re decades into gay liberation and none of the dire predictions have come true. For example, children raised by same-sex parents are at least as healthy and well-adjusted as those raised by opposite sex parents–and no more likely to identify self identify as gay.
I think we actually do our movement a disservice when we shy away from calling a spade a bigot, out of some (in my opinion) misguided effort to find “common ground.” This is actually not a conversation between two equally valid sides. There is the side that believes in liberty and equality, and there is the side which wishes to use its religious convictions and asinine, entirely incorrect version of history as an excuse to take rights, freedoms, and responsibilities away from people they’ve never met. They have a right to the opinions, but we have a responsibility to call those beliefs what they are. Any deference to the fact that many of them don’t think they’re being bigoted is simply counterproductive.
Later in her post, Lindsay alludes to the fact that our media has gotten so pathetically lazy, looking as it does for false equivalence in every story, as a possible cause for certain people’s fear of using accurate terminology to describe the people who fight to make our lives worse:
The idea that the word “bigot” should be off-limits to proponents of tolerance is absurd. That would mean that any attribution of bigotry is logically self-defeating. Surely, even Lewis would acknowledge that there are some people out there who deserve the label. Is it unacceptably intolerant to describe the KKK as a bigoted organization? Maybe the language of corporate journalism is so debased that it’s only acceptable to say that “some civil rights groups allege that the KKK is bigoted.”
That brings us to the second post I saw today that I loved, from Simon Sheppard, the self-described “cranky old fag” at Carnal Nation. In his piece, he addresses the weirdness that inevitably occurs when people attempt to debate things as vital as civil rights on the platform of religious faith. We go through this here a lot — some of our writers and commenters are people of deep religious faith, while others, like me, stand proudly among the ranks of the godless. This leads to the employment of very different tactics when one of our fundamentalist chew toys comes along and stinks up the comments section, with the believers arguing on the basis of religious faith, while we godless take the Fundamentalists to the natural dead-ends of their arguments by simply saying “prove it.” Sheppard’s piece really encapsulates why I believe that, regardless of whether any of us does or doesn’t have religious faith, arguing about civil rights in religious terms is a losing game. He starts out by deconstructing the problems with the argument, common among religious people, that “God made me gay”:
The impulse to stake that claim is understandable. If being queer isn’t a choice, then we deserve equal rights, right? And if we’re an intended part of some divine creation, then GLBT rights even has a heavenly imprimatur, like not eating meat on Fridays.
But, but, but…
First off, it shouldn’t matter why some of us have turned out queer: We should have our fucking rights regardless. After all, religion isn’t an inborn characteristic, but it’s a protected class anyway. Sorry, Pope, but your flock has chosen a Catholic lifestyle, so they don’t deserve civil rights. Nope, Miss Benedict wouldn’t go for that at all. But somehow, we’re all tangled up in debates about genetics and psychology and stuff, when we should just be insisting on our right to be different, even if it’s by choice.
Take a moment to write down the phrase “Miss Benedict,” because you’ll want to drop it in conversation. I know I already have.
The point, though, is that it doesn’t matter whether or not a person believes that God made him/her gay. Not for the conversation that we’re having anyway. That might be a great conversation between two religious believers, where no one is actively working to take away the rights of the other. Note, though, that he’s not saying that it is a choice (I know how our Fundamentalist readers intentionally misread things). He’s saying that it’s simply irrelevant to the argument. And indeed, Sheppard argues that by debating civil rights for LGBT people in religious terms, we’re giving in to our opponents’ premises:
[F]aith is, by definition, impervious to evidence and logic. So by arguing on religious grounds, we’re basically ceding the ground to our foes.
“God made me gay, and He loves me just the way I am.”
“No, He didn’t and He doesn’t and He wants you to change.”
“No, you prove it.”
And there the matter sits. Theological standoff.
In other words, when liberal believers argue with conservative believers, they both put themselves in the situation I described above, when we atheists shut down the fundamentalists by saying “prove it” so fast their heads spin. And that’s not a good place to be! Understand, though, that I’m not touching the subject of whether or not religious faith is reasonable or beneficial or anything like that. This is about tactics. And since liberal religious believers do indeed tend to have a better grasp of reality and logic than conservatives do, it’s good to consider which lines of reasoning are the best.
Fundamentalist religious believers will always believe they “won” the argument with liberal religious believers, simply because they’ve had it drilled so deeply into their skulls that they’re the only ones who take their faith seriously. It seems to me that, religious faith or no, those who care about justice, fairness, equality and love would do better to argue more like the atheists.
Later on in the piece, Sheppard describes exactly what tends to happen when religious people knock heads over LGBT equality:
Believers on our side will nod; antigay churchers will point out what grumpy old Saint Paul said; and we nonbelievers (the vast majority of whom are, incidentally, not antigay) will just think Whatever.
You might, of course, point out that the apparently antigay garbage in the Good Book is the leftovers of a benighted, unscientific age, and mistranslated to boot, but that would bring the rest of the Testaments into question, leaving you somewhat adrift, belief-wise. You might point out that, for whatever reason, there have always been gay humans, bonobos, walruses, and rams. You might even try the scientific method, citing research by the bucketful.
But ultimately, none of that is going to make a whole lot of difference to holy-roller homophobes. Because belief doesn’t care about rational debate. The best response to “God Hates Fags” is not “God Loves Fags.” It’s “This Is A Fucking Secular State, You Inbred Morons.”
The point is, when it comes to any argument about our civil rights, we have to be clear about where the Religious Right can shove their religious arguments. They are that irrelevant in the secular United States of America.
Now, you may be saying, “But if we’re both Christians, and just see things differently, maybe I can teach the bigot something!” Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. But I’m going to suggest something here: If you are a Christian who believes in full equality for women, men, all races, LGBT people, etc., then you do not share a religious faith with bigots like Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, Peter LaBarbera, or any of the rest of the horde of Fundamentalist Christians who waste their precious lives trying to hurt families they’ve never met. Your faith might share a name with theirs, but that’s where the similarities end.
The quicker we all realize this — that the Supreme Court didn’t strike down anti-miscegenation laws in Loving because they believed that’s what God wanted, but that there was no rational reason under our Constitution to deny loving couples the right to marry because they were of different races, just as there is no rational reason to deny loving couples the right to marry because they’re the same gender — the quicker we’ll be done fighting for our full equality.
People of faith who support full equality are being attacked in the same way people of no faith are being attacked, by a group of people who believe they have the right to lord their religious beliefs over the rest of the population.
Well, as those two posts explained, those who would fight against equal rights for LGBT Americans are bigots, and this is a secular state.
You inbred morons.