Hillary Clinton gave a speech about equal rights for gays and lesbians in Geneva last week and most of it was quite laudable. But there was one section in it that is clearly false and contrary to reality. She said:
The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.
In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.
Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings.
Okay Hillary, how about joining the rest of us in the real world? Religious traditions have always been in conflict with the protection of human rights. Yes, there are many religious people who are passionate defenders of human rights, including for gay, lesbian and transgendered people; but only the most delusional would deny that the primary source of hatred and bigotry toward those people is religion. And that is not true only of gay rights, it was true in every previous civil rights struggle as well.
In the battles to end slavery and to give equality to women and black people, there were of course many religious people on the right side, but it remains true that those people were almost always fighting against their own religious traditions. The dominant view of Christendom was on the side of slavery, not just in this country but around the world, for centuries. The dominant view of Christendom was against “miscegenation” and against equal rights for women, not just here but all over the world. All of those injustices were justified on the basis of the Bible for the past three millenia or more. Pretending otherwise is absurd.
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