Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do the motives really matter?

The civil rights battle of today, in the United States, bar none, is that of equality of rights for gay and lesbian citizens. It is absolutely impossible for the issue to be avoided as two cultures and concepts about rights clash with one another. In one corner you have the classical liberal/libertarian concept of limited government and individual rights and in the other corner you have a conservative/authoritarian view that individual rights must be sacrificed to some perceived collective good and tradition.

In the conservative/authoritarian corner are a huge number of fundamentalists who seem quite literally obsessed with hatred for gay people. One need only read the material that these people put out to see precisely how viciously cruel and hateful these people are. The lies they resort to, in order to demonize gay people in general, are often so extreme that they betray the bigotry behind those campaigns. These are people who want to deny gay people equality of rights precisely because they wish to inflict pain and suffering upon a class of people that they hate.

There is also a second class of people who support inequality of rights but who honestly and sincerely believe that they are not bigots. Take college quarterback Matt Barkley as an example. When the Obama administration said it would continue to defend the Defence of Marriage Act Mr. Barkely tweeted: “Gov’t says it won’t defend constitutionality of law that bans recognition of same-sex marriage.” He commented: “SMH.” In tweeter-talk that means “shaking my head” and is meant to be derisive.

In an on-line discussion with my favorite singer, Spencer Day, the topic of marriage equality was raised by Day, who supports it. A couple of his “fans” were dismissive of the idea though most were supportive. I asked a question, which I believe the “moderate” opponents of equality, have to answer.

Denying gay people equality of rights, whether for the reasons given by the extreme bigots, or for the reasons given by these alleged moderate opponents, has precisely the same results. In spite of the reasoning used the end results are identical. So, in practice, precisely how do the “moderates” differ from the extremists?

In recent days we worked long and hard on the case of Laurent Ghilain, Peter Meurrens and they son, Samuel. You will remember that the Belgian government denied Samuel, who was born to a surrogate in Belgium, a passport. This effectively exiled the child to an orphanage for 28 months while his parents tried to persuade an uncaring bureaucracy to change their mind.

Would it make it any less painful to this couple had their child been denied them because someone explicitly and openly hated them?

Henry Valandia and Josh Vandiver were legally married in Connecticut in 2010. Josh was born in Colorado and a Ph.D. student. Henry, however, was born in Venezuela. Before their marriage they were together for about four years.

Assume that a group of anti-gay extremists forcible broke into the home of this couple, grabbed Valandia, and shipped him overseas so that he couldn’t be with his husband. That would be pretty awful, wouldn’t it?

Instead, however, the moderates come in. They don’t actually hate they just are “standing up for their beliefs” or “protecting the family.” They hire a group of men who come in and grab Valandia and whisk him out of the country. Does it make a difference that they aren’t explicitly and openly hateful? Either way the results are exactly the same.

Some of the “moderates” honestly believe they are helping people escape a “sinful” lifestyle that puts their alleged immortal soul in danger. This was the logic used by witch-burners throughout history. They wanted to save the souls of the people they burned at the stake as well as prevent them from “contaminating” others. Certainly protecting someone’s “immortal soul” is a selfless, loving thing whatever you think of the results. But how do the end results in reality differ from plain old killers?

The reasons people give for making other people second-class citizens are entirely unimportant to their victims.

The moderates like to use the presence of the extremists to assure themselves that they really aren’t bigots. They simply prefer to ignore the reality that the results of their policies differ not a whit from those of the extremists. They find the rhetoric of the extremists comforting because they can pretend they occupy some middle ground, though the results are precisely the same.
So, the question I have for anyone who thinks they are a moderate on this issue, because they wish to deny equality of rights to gay people, for the “right reasons” is this: Precisely what difference would it make to gay people if your reasons for making them second class citizens were the same as those of the bigots? If it makes no difference to them whatsoever, they why are you comforted?

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