In a Fox News opinion piece, Penny Young Nance, the head of the ultra-conservative Concerned Women for America, responded to my essay calling on President Obama to make an even more strong statement in support of marriage equality. I want to take a few moments to respond to Ms. Nance’s critiques.
1. Comparing opposition to inter-racial marriage to opposition to gay marriage NOT same as comparing race & sexuality
Ms. Nance writes, “Sexual behavior and race are not the same thing.” I agree. I never said that they were. However, I do believe that hateful vitriol and opposition to equal rights often springs from the same well. And that was my point in making the comparison. Whether it was to preserve slavery or deny women the right to vote, opponents of equality and justice have always manipulated religion and science to try and rationalize their irrational discrimination. This time around, while the issues are very different, the objections are eerily similar.
2. Hate breeds hate.
I applaud Ms. Nance for writing, “As a mother of two, and a strong supporter of traditional marriage, I would be the first to stand up against any kid being bullied. For any reason. Period… The problem of bullying in schools is real and we must swiftly deal with it, regardless of how marriage is defined.” She’s 100% right. But saying that denying marriage equality to same-sex couples, sending a resounding message to gay and straight kids alike that the former are morally and legally inferior to the latter, is not “exploiting” the subject but rather stating facts. Bullying is bullying, whether it takes the form of constitutional amendments or name calling or scissors. Let’s not pretend that our political discourse and laws don’t create the climate for bullying and suicide.
3. Who cares if most Americans support marriage equality?
Ms. Nance argues that polls showing majority support for marriage equality are clearly baseless because, in ballot measure after ballot measure, voters have struck down marriage equality. First of all, we know that anti-marriage equality measures tend to draw more opponents to the polls than supporters, so they’re not exactly reliable bellwethers of public opinion. But Penny misses my larger point: Who cares? Fundamental rights should not be subject to public opinion and popular will. See, e.g., the United States Constitution which safeguards against such tyranny of the majority.
4. Condemning bigotry is not the same as calling people bigots.
Bigotry: “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own”. Seems to me that imposing one’s own personal beliefs about marriage to cut off the legal rights of other families is precisely the definition of bigotry. But that said, I don’t condemn anyone who struggles with the question of gay marriage. That is a personal decision between you and your own conscience. I hold the word “bigot” in a special place for those who send me hatemail about how I’m going to burn in hell and destroy civilization because I’m shacked up with a woman… but for those people who are loving and decent but genuinely uncomfortable with gay marriage, for whatever reason, I have nothing but compassion. That said, let’s make a deal: I won’t deny you any rights or liberties in spite of your opposition to marriage equality if you don’t deny me any rights and liberties for being gay. Deal?
My question back to Ms. Nance is simple: I understand that you are personally opposed to same-sex marriage and I respect that. How do you justify denying legal recognition and basic benefits to millions of loving couples in our country on the basis of your personal beliefs?
With apologies to Daily Kos for stealing their title, it just seems so right.
Here are some highlights from my inbox today… mostly a lot of people who must, personally, know God and his opinions on such matters directly. Plus a few doozies:
I don’t have any problem with same sex couples living together if it makes them happy – obviously they have either biological issues or mental issues
No comment on where the mental issues lie in that statement.
The gay lifestyle will lead to the destruction of any society, past, present, and future.
Last I checked, the world still existed when I woke up this morning living in sin so…
But now it’s clear the Obama does not meet the Biblical definition of a Christian, does he? I’m sure he meets his own definition, but not the Lord’s.
Interestingly, NOT an email from the Pope or King James so, um…
And here are some more thoughtful but still troubling ones:
First is that the word marriage means a man and a woman, it is not right to change the meaning of a word because somebody wants to.
Yes, and historically the word “voter” only meant white men — until we, um, changed it.
I do have a question. If a woman can marry a woman, can she marry 4 women?
Answer: If a man can marry a woman, can he marry 4 women? Oh wait, in some religions he can…
And perhaps my favorite:
I do appreciate your support of homosexual unions and the obvious equal value homosexuals have in our society…actually in the world. Why do people think that homosexuals even need our approval? To state in the media that they deserve equal treatment under the law of the land is giving credence to those who would try to deny them these rights. If I were homosexual I would be as offended at people defending my sexual orientation in this manner as I would be toward those pinheaded people who were critical toward me and my sexual preference.
And then there’s the bizillion emails that contain something like:
I am not a homophobic person but
Not enough time to include them all, but my generic tip is that to those of you asserting “I have a gay friend and…” send your hatemail to that person and see if they’re still your friend after.
In an op-ed for Reuters, I argue it’s time for Republicans to get on the right side of history and stand up for marriage equality, too.
Republicans should be ashamed enough that theirs is the party that stood in the way of interracial marriage and civil rights. Is that really a legacy the GOP wants to continue into the 21st century? It seems to me the GOP has a choice between courting the open-minded next generation of voters, or continuing to be marred by scandals in which anti-gay Republican after anti-gay Republican is embarrassingly outed and shamed. Apparently this is a tough choice for the GOP, which would rather keep implicitly firing up bigotry than stand firm for equality.
You can read the entire essay here.
In my latest column for Fox News’s opinion page, I write the bold, full-throated speech that I *wish* President Obama would make in support of same-sex marriage. Here’s an excerpt:
Too many young people in our nation are told they are worth less than their peers because of their sexual orientation. If one more young gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered teen commits suicide while I’m president, that’s one too many. I can’t do everything to make them feel whole and confident, but I can ensure that the laws of our land send a clear message that a loving, committed relationship between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is legally and morally indistinguishable from my own marriage.
I realize that in many states in our union, voters have gone to the polls to strike down marriage equality, going so far as to amend state constitutions to enshrine inequality. But we should never, we must never put fundamental rights up for a vote. This invites the very tyranny of the majority that our Founders warned against. Our constitutions and governing laws must be shining beacons of justice, not weapons to wielded otherwise. As a nation, we write our laws not to codify our ugliest instincts but to safeguard against them, to ensure that whatever private impulses we might have whether toward violence or discrimination are not amplified in the public square but tempered, our general welfare and common good protected. As president, I will always strive to reflect the collective spirit of America at its best, not succumb to the divisiveness and fear mongering that lurk in our darkest moments.
Please read the full “speech” here and share it — hopefully someday we’ll hear one like it.
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