Civil rights movements are always transgressive in their own time. They break social mores, challenge previously unquestioned biases, and root out traditional moral values to replace them with newer, more progressive ideals. This is true of the abolitionist movement to end slavery, the women’s suffrage movement and subsequent feminist/women’s lib movement, and the civil rights movement for African Americans. In their own day, the “right thinking” traditionalists denounced them as unchristian and anti-biblical. But eventually, they become the new status quo, and the new religious right has to find a way to distance themselves from what their intellectual forebears wrought. Despite the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention specifically formed to defend slavery, you won’t hear Baptists today bringing that talking point up very often.
This creates a problem for god-humpers. The most prominent civil rights movement today is the gay rights movement. God-humpers oppose it, because it involves people living their own lives uninfluenced by a 2,000 book of fables that they believe should control everyone and everything. But the gay rights movement is playing out very much like past civil rights movements–civil rights movements which the fundamentalists now pretend they supported all along (they didn’t). In fact, the arguments for and against gay marriage in particular are extremely similar to the arguments for and against miscegenation in the first half of the 20th century. In both cases, it was argued that god separated the races/sexes because he never meant for them to marry. In both cases marriage between people of different races/same sexes were argued to be “unnatural”. In both cases it was argued that mixed race kids/children of gay parents would somehow suffer from their parents mixed race/same sex relationship. And in both cases these arguments are complete and utter horseshit. The Loving v. Virginia case of 1967 guaranteed the right to marry to all mixed race couples in all 50 states, and the gay marriage issue is progressing in a very similar fashion, except at a much faster rate. It’ll be legal in all 50 states in maybe 5 to 10 years or so, and even the staunchest opponents seem to realize this.
What to do? The god-humpers want to oppose gay marriage, but they also want to pretend that god-humpers never took the wrong side in the very similar fight over interracial marriage. Well, there’s no way to resolve the cognitive dissonance other than to pretend it’s not real at all. Gay rights has nothing in common with black civil rights! Why, because I SAY SO DAMN IT!
Last month, Pennsylvania’s attorney general refused to defend a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Her website argues: “The issue of same-sex marriage is squarely in the tradition of the struggle for civil rights in the U.S.” That comparison has significant implications for how same-sex marriage advocates treat marriage laws that they disagree with. It also deserves more scrutiny.
No, it really doesn’t. The Pennsylvania judge didn’t just pull that comparison out of her ass. It has been noted again and again by numerous observers of the movement, and has strong historical evidence to support it. Like I said, look up the ruling in the Loving case and read it. Replace the racial stuff with sexual orientation stuff, and it’s easy to see that we are having the exact same argument, just about a different minority.
As a grassroots supervisor for California’s Proposition 8, I was surprised to see numerous yard signs stolen, slashed and defaced. Those responsible were likely law-abiding citizens. Why the exception? Undoubtedly, many felt they were in hand-to-hand political combat against discrimination, hatred and bigotry.
“Grassroots”? Bullshit. Michael Erickson, the author of this garbage, got his law degree at Brigham Young University. So he is probably a Mormon. There was nothing grassroots about the Mormon church’s support for Prop. 8 in California. The church itself funded numerous political operations in hopes of influencing the voting public (something non-profit organizations are not supposed to do), and then lied about their involvement repeatedly, even after documents proving their financial involvement surfaced.
I don’t support vandalizing signs, but if the vandals (misguidedly) thought they were helping fight discrimination, hatred and bigotry, they were merely using the wrong methods to target the right group. Anyone who supported Prop. 8 supported discrimination, hatred and bigotry. That includes you, Mr. Erickson.
I will give him credit for at least recognizing that the people who defaced signage are probably otherwise good people, and will extend the same courtesy to him. I have no doubt that Mr. Erickson opposes any form of violence or vandalism against gays or gay rights supporters, which automatically makes him better than the entire Russian government and a healthy chunk of the Russian people on this issue. But the fact that he is humane in one area of human rights does not cancel out his bigotry in others. In the 1960s there were undoubtedly people who thought blacks should be treated equally….except when it comes to marriage. Mr. Erickson has taken a similar position on gays judging by the rest of his op-ed. It’s a lesser bigotry, but lesser bigotry is still bigotry.
It’s no secret that media coverage disproportionately favors same-sex marriage. A candid admission in the Washington Post explains why “(many journalists) see people opposed to gay rights today as cousins, perhaps distant cousins, of people in the 1950s and 1960s who, citing God and the Bible, opposed black people sitting in the bus seat, or dining at the lunch counter, of their choosing.” (What goes unsaid is that the most influential civil-rights leaders, “citing God and the Bible,” opposed discrimination and segregation on religious grounds.)
Actually, what most often goes unsaid is that in almost every civil rights conflict, the Bible is quoted to support BOTH sides of the issue. This is because the Bible is murky, muddled, contradictory, and irrelevant to modern life. It’s primed to be manipulated and read however the reader wants to read it. Every civil rights movement (including the gay movement) has religious people on both sides, quoting the same scripture to say the opposite thing. It’s almost like the Bible is bullshit or something!
Regrettably, some infamous groups spew anti-gay rhetoric that is hateful and indefensible. But far too often the media amplify these voices and conflate all religious opinion with this easily assailable straw man.
Comparing you to the yahoos at Westboro Baptist Church or the American Family Association would indeed be tearing down a straw man. But that doesn’t mean that your views are not hateful or indefensible. Lesser bigotries, as before.
As such, they entirely ignore, as a Deseret News editorial put it, our “morally complex and pluralistic world” (June 30). A world where some religious faiths that only endorse marriage between a man and a woman also support nondiscrimination laws for gays and lesbians. And a world where some gays and lesbians oppose same-sex marriage “citing a belief that children benefit most from opposite-sex parents.”
Those are both minority opinions. Sure they count to some extent, but they don’t represent either group. More importantly, yes, we do live in a morally complex and pluralistic world. But that’s exactly why religion is growing more and more irrelevant every day, and why more and more people are leaving their churches. Religions too often speak in absolutes, in black-and-white morality, in unquestioned divine authority, in faith unsupported by facts and evidence, in the primacy of tradition over a society that adapts to improve the lives of real people instead of please the whims of invisible imaginary people. Religion just doesn’t fit any more, and it is slowly dying as a result.
Unfortunately, the situation is unlikely to change unless this civil-rights comparison is scrutinized. Here are three differences that deserve attention:
Scrutinize it all you want. It will change nothing, because your starting position, the very beliefs you stand on, are what’s really wrong with your argument.
First, laws prohibiting interracial marriage were designed to promote white supremacy. That’s why a unanimous Supreme Court invalidated these laws for having “no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination.” In sharp contrast as one gay-marriage advocate acknowledges, “Unlike racial segregation, to which anti-gay laws are often compared, the traditional restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples was not designed, in and of itself, to denigrate or harm same-sex couples.”
“One gay marriage advocate said something stupid, so that makes the stupid thing true!”
When North Carolina outlawed gay marriage in 2012, do you think that had any purpose other than to reinforce straight privilege? Straight people get the benefits of marriage, gay people don’t. Therefore, privilege. Straight people get to visit their dying spouses in the hospital, gay people don’t get that privilege. The law was designed specifically to reserve certain privileges to straight couples and deny them to gays. To argue that it serves any other purpose is absurd.
As for “traditional marriage”, there’s no such thing. Racial segregation has a long and storied tradition as well, and not all forms of it were “designed” to reinforce privilege in one race. Many, like marriage, weren’t designed at all, but instead arose organically and only became enshrined in law later on. Regardless of whether opposite-sex marriage was ALWAYS designed to denigrate gays, there’s no questioning that RIGHT NOW it is. And that’s what matters.
Second, the Civil Rights movement, according to noted leader John Lewis, “was built upon deep-seated religious convictions” and, without such faith, “would have been like a bird without wings.” But it’s hard to imagine prominent gay-marriage advocates describing their movement as “built upon deep-seated religious convictions.” Indeed, it has often been hostile to religion.
To be sure, some of that hostility stems from perceived, and sometimes very real, denigration by some religious adherents. Nevertheless, the different roots of these movements appear to manifest sharply contrasting fruits. Compare, for example, the gospel-inspired Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” to the now popular mantra “Get on the right side of history!” Or compare the Christian perseverance evident in this preacher’s promise, “We will win you with the power of our capacity to endure,” with the conventional pride revealed in this politician’s bluster, “It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not.”
The past civil rights movements also took place in a time when religion had more political strength than it does today. As I already mentioned, our society is going through a slow process of secularization, and religion’s power is waning. It should come as no surprise, then, that religion has less of a role to play in current issues.
This doesn’t change the fact that there are indeed many Christians who support gay rights. As I discussed above, this shouldn’t be surprising to anybody, because the Bible says only what the person quoting it wants it to say.
Third, whereas segregationists fought to preserve their social status and political power, many in the religious coalition for man-woman marriage seek, in the words of President Obama, “to preserve and strengthen families.” Although in favor of same-sex marriage now, even President Obama acknowledges that their “impulse” to strengthen families “is the right one.”
Bullshit. “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” was a constant refrain amongst segregationists. It was alleged, without evidence, that mixed race families would be unstable, that allowing interracial marriage would lead to black men raping white daughters, that mixed race children would not turn out as well as “pure” children. The gay marriage opponents make all the same unsupportable claims, saying children of gay parents will turn out bad, comparing gays to pedophiles, and insisting that only opposite sex marriages can be stable. Nothing has changed except the identity of the minority being denied its rights.
Notwithstanding these differences, discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation should be addressed. Marriage, however, is about more than civil rights for individuals. Marriage has profound implications for a historically vulnerable and underrepresented class of persons — children.
That’s what the opponents of interracial marriage said. They were wrong, and so are you. Their beliefs were based on superstitious misapprehensions of a minority, and so are yours. Because of white privilege, they couldn’t see (or wouldn’t see) how they were harming others. The same goes for you and your straight privilege.
In the fortieth year since Roe v. Wade, public opinion has settled on a middle ground that recognizes the concerns of both pro-choice and pro-life advocates — approving of abortion for threats to a mother’s health, rape, incest, and birth defects, but disapproving for elective birth control, selecting birth traits or avoiding parental responsibility.
If the public discussion on marriage is not prematurely curtailed, public opinion might yet arrive at a common ground that recognizes the dignity of gay and lesbian Americans while also preserving marriage between a man and a woman as the surest foundation for the future of children.
How would you like it if we found a “middle ground” when it comes to YOUR rights? You seem to be fine when the rights of gays and women are on the line, but what if we start curtailing yours because of “the children”? That sound good to you? Would you like it if the people took a vote on your marriage? Would you like it if we declared, based on no evidence, that Mormons make bad parents, and that therefore you can’t get married? Would that be okay with you? Would you feel that we were “respecting” your “dignity” if we prohibited you from visiting a dying spouse in the hospital just because we disagree with your faith/lifestyle, based on such stupid arguments? You can’t respect people’s dignity while denying them certain basic privileges which you reserve to yourself. So long as you insist on doing so, you are a bigot, and you are discriminating.
Oh, and the Mormon church didn’t allow blacks to be ministers until…what? 1975? 1976? Some time around then. But you’d rather we forgot all about that, wouldn’t you, Mr. Civil Rights Man?