One thing I have heard a lot recently is Christians who oppose marriage equality insisting, over and over again, that they are not homophobic. They don’t hate gay people, they love them, they really really do! Or at least, that’s what they say. And I remember being there – I remember saying the same thing, and meaning it. And so now, with all the recent hubbub over Chick-fil-a, I have to ask myself. Is it true? Can someone could be against marriage equality, and even think that homosexuality is wrong, and yet not “hate” gay people?
I’m not going to give you my answer to that question up front. I’ve been mulling over this for days now, and I’m going to hash out my thoughts on the subjects in two posts, one today and one tomorrow. So, you’re just going to have to keep reading!
Let’s imagine that people are whacking me with sticks over and over again, all the while saying “we don’t hate you, we really don’t!” You know what? In this situation, I really don’t care whether or not they hate me – I just want them to stop hitting me!
The first thing I would say to Christians who oppose gay rights, then, is this: It doesn’t matter whether or not you hate gay people, your actions are hurting them! What do you think opposing their rights feels like to them? Love? Heck no! Actually, it feels a whole lot like hate!
Of course, back in the day I would have said that I don’t oppose gay people’s rights, they have the same rights as anyone else – they can get married, they just have to marry people of the opposite sex. But now I know better.
I know that in many places in the country, gay people can still be legally discriminated against in things like housing.
I know that gay people who are legally married in one state may not have their marriage recognized in another state (something I don’t have to worry about when travelling across country).
I know that gay parents face huge legal hurdles when looking at adoption, even something as simple as legally adopting their partner’s biological child.
Gay people don’t want special rights. They want the rights everyone else has – to be allowed to marry a person they love, to raise a family with that person, to be legally recognized as next of kin in making medical decisions.
And so I would say this to someone who opposes gay rights and yet claims not to hate gay people: For not hating them you’re sure causing them a lot of harm. Take it from a gay friend of mine who had this to say when I discussed this issue with him: “From my perspective, I just feel hatred.”
Or maybe take a moment to read Sierra’s post, “I Don’t Hate Gay People, They Just Shouldn’t Get Married”: Chick-fil-A’s Supporters Need a Lesson on Structural Violence. Here’s an excerpt:
The point is this: opposing equal rights for LGBTQ people means placing them at a severe social disadvantage. It means singling them out as an inferior class. … It’s not the blunt force trauma of open, personal hatred, the baseball bat that hits you in the face but will eventually heal. “Hate” can barely begin to describe the acid burn of discrimination. It whittles away at your soul, turning supposed friends and loved ones against you, denying your right to voice your pain, insisting that if you could just bedifferent you would be accepted like everyone else.
The truth is, I would rather take a baseball bat to the face. I would rather live in a world where some people fervently hate me, but the rest recognize my rights as a free and equal citizen. Why should gay people care whether or not evangelical Christians hate them? It’s not about emotion. It’s about survival.
Disadvantaged people don’t care that you don’t hate them.
Or maybe listen to the Slacktivist, who pointed out that you can’t deny people their rights and be nice about it:
Look, here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter if you think you’re a nice person. And it doesn’t matter if your tone, attitude, sentiments and facial expressions are all very sweet, kindly and sympathetic-seeming. If you’re opposing legal equality, then you don’t get to be nice. Opposing legal equality is not nice and it cannot be done nicely.
Or perhaps see if you can find a way to answer the Friendly Atheist when he asks, if you oppose marriage equality what else am I supposed to call you?
There is no way to oppose equal rights for gay people without being a bigot/homophobe/asshole/pick-your-word.
You can’t say I love my black friends, but I don’t think they should be allowed to marry white people… without simultaneously being a racist.
It doesn’t matter how big of a smile you put on your face, or how many gay friends you (think you) have, or how often you’ve gone to a gay pride parade.
If you’re voting against marriage equality, you’re a bigot. If you’re denying somebody a right that you possess — for no rational basis whatsoever — I don’t know what else to call you. There’s not a single, credible, non-religious reason to deny equal rights to gay people.
Is bigot too strong of a word? It doesn’t matter. The hurt feeling you have when you get called a mean name pales in comparison to the hurt the LGBT community feels when you strip their rights away.
But you know what? Those people are all still trying to explain this nicely. The Blag Hag takes her gloves off:
I call you a bigot because you support those terrible things I listed above: legally denying GLBT individuals equal rights, slandering them publicly, damaging them through terrible psychological programs, and even killing them. You can call me a bigot if I start campaigning that Chick-Fil-A-Holes should not be able to marry, adopt, or serve in the military. You can call me a bigot if I ship my friends off for traumatic psychological boot camps because they dared to eat a chicken sandwich. You can call me a bigot if I compare being Republican to pedophilia, bestiality, or necrophilia.
Go ahead and yell until you’re blue in the face that you don’t hate gay people, if you are actively working to make them second class citizens by denying them equal rights, it doesn’t matter whether or not you hate them. Your actions are harmful, incredibly harmful, and to the people at the receiving end they feel very, very hateful.