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Why We Don’t Have to Tolerate Anti-LGBT Intolerance

Why We Don’t Have to Tolerate Anti-LGBT Intolerance

Newt Gingrich isn’t happy.

He says gay rights supporters are intolerant because we’re refusing to tolerate anti-gay comments made about Michael Sam’s recent and historic signing to the St Louis Rams — this made Sam the first openly gay active player in the NFL. There’s been lots of praise, but unfortunately also lots of homophobia, including the suspension and fining of Miami Dolphins linebacker Don Jones who, on seeing Michael Sam kiss his partner after getting the phone-call telling him he’d been picked, tweeted “omg” and “horrible.”

While Jones has since issued a full and unreserved apology, even seeming to admit that he’d failed his team (because let’s not forget this isn’t private speech but on social media), religious conservatives began crowing that he’d been censored.

Gingrich, appearing on CNN’s Crossfire as a co-host with Van Jones and former NFL player Jamal Anderson, sounded off saying:

Gingrich:  “You guys talk about how you want to be inclusive, except of course, if somebody tweets this, then having a death threat or ‘let’s send them off to sensitivity training.’ It strikes me, that’s repression, that’s not inclusive.”

Anderson:  “Is it repression to try to teach them to be understanding and open to other people, especially when you talk about people they have not been exposed to?”

Gingrich:  “Shouldn’t you also be teaching people who are gay to be open and understanding of people?”

A quick note: death threats are never okay, but as people who profess to be religious conservative have also thrown around their fair share, we’ll move on knowing where we stand on that issue.

Newt’s wider comments, though, represent an exercise in false equivalence. It assumes that the prejudice that people face for being gay, the taboo in fact that until this month had kept openly gay players out of the NFL, is the same as people condemning others for their homophobia. It tries to harp that these were religious objections (there’s actually no clear evidence of that from Don Jones’ particular tweets) but it’s also speaking to the wider battle where religious conservatives are contending they are victims of discrimination because people are refusing to tolerate their hostile opinions about LGBTs.

Another example comes to us in the form of twin brothers David and Jason Benham who recently were on course to have a show on HGTV, until it was pointed out to the popular channel that the brothers have a history of making claims about gay people like that they have a gay agenda and, essentially, are out to destroy Christians because they are inspired to do the Devil’s work.

I could cite examples from their past as their comments have been exposed in extensive detail, including how they tried to have a Charlotte,  North Carolina Pride event banned (how’s that for free speech?), but they actually confirmed their anti-gay stance to Glenn Beck just last week, so clearly they’re not shying away from their “Biblical principles.”

The most telling comment, though, came when Jason Benham told CNN: “We don’t feel wronged at all. This isn’t HG versus us, or us against the gay community. This is an agenda, and we’re getting to witness it right now. … It’s only going to get worse because there is an agenda that wants to silence the beliefs that we have.”

They insist that they aren’t meaning to implicate gay people with this comment, but anyone who is “silencing” the religious — so probably those who advocate for gay rights against religious objections to, say, gay marriage. We’ve detailed before the massive amounts of privilege the United States gives religion despite being a secular state. Yet it seems that the Religious Right is continuing to trade on the notion that they are being oppressed. That, essentially, gay rights have now gone too far (in much the same way we’ve heard of the eye-roll inducing “reverse racism” argument). That’s not true, though.

In both cases, and in several others such as the Duck Dynasty fiasco, all of those involved were allowed to speak about their beliefs. No one stopped them or attempted to silence them. Instead, they then had to face the consequences of not their beliefs but the way they had interpreted their beliefs to attack another group of people, whether in Duck Dynasty’s case, which ultimately ended in the tanking of their show, the Benham brothers having their show stopped in development, or in the NFL player’s case, being censured by his team (which, incidentally, has a nondiscrimination clause in its code of conduct which he signed).

What the Religious Right actually seems to want is a way of speaking with an added privilege: of never being criticized or challenged on anything it says. What’s more, they seem to believe that their opinions about gay people should be given even weight with opinions that are positive toward gay people. Again, this is misleading. It suggests that what underpins those opinions are of equivalent factual worth.

There are facts to support why we should accept LGBT rights and affirm that LGBTs can be valued members of society deserving of the opportunities others take for granted, like being able to advance to the top of your given profession. These things are grounded in scientific evidence, like the fact that there is no reason to believe homosexuality or trans identity are detrimental in any way to either a person’s character or to wider society itself, as well as general ethical concerns about freedom and not involving ourselves in the private lives of others because to do so restricts them and harms them.

The Religious Right’s homophobia, however, is based on private belief. As must necessarily be the case therefore, that private belief is not evidence. It is faith and not fact. No matter how sincerely held, it also cannot claim to be advancing a kind of good when there are many religious people who choose to interpret their religion differently and in an LGBT-affirming manner.

We can all agree those on the Religious Right must have the opportunity to speak out about their beliefs and, make no mistake, in America today they not only have the power to do have that but they also have the freedom to do so in a manner that is actually openly antagonistic, for instance in the case of the Westboro Baptists, who are allowed to picket the funerals of gay people, dead soldiers and gun crime victims.

What the Religious Right does not  have — what none of us has — is the right to use our freedom of speech free of consequence. What they are feeling now is the push-back against their unpopular speech. As a society we’re no longer tolerating homophobia, not in our sports, not in our media, and not in our social lives — and that’s a good thing.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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128 comments

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10:43AM PDT on Sep 7, 2014

Ignoring a problem won't make it go away.

All gays I have met are wonderful gentle people. They will stand up for their rights but they are not nasty about it.

How many of us can say that about ourselves?

12:45PM PDT on May 26, 2014

In response to my telling Darryll G. (again) to stop sending me personal messages, he sent me this personal message:

"what's the matter afraid of someone who will give you back your lies"

No, Darryll, I only read and answer personal messages from people I want to talk to, you are not one of those people.

If you have something to say to me, say it on the public forums or don't say it at all.

I have asked you before not to personal message me with your garbage. If you do so again I will report you to Care2. Do you "get it"?

12:40PM PDT on May 26, 2014

No one has to tollorate any one standing near somebody who decides to go into a spew about their beliefs. If someone starts in on Obama, gays, women, ect. I usually do not hesitate to speak up and say, I like President Obama [who ever] and I will not listen to your nasty insulting talk so put a lid on it and shut the full cup. GRIN

9:41AM PDT on May 25, 2014

I've heard Gingrich described as an American politician, historian, author and political consultant, but making the statement "as religious conservatives began crowing that he’d been censored." and then cutting to Gingrich does not, nor will it ever make Gingrich a religious conservative, as religious conservatives are in overwhelming agreement that marital infidelity is a disqualifier for public office.

And statements like "What the Religious Right actually seems to want is a way of speaking with an added privilege: of never being criticized or challenged on anything it says. What’s more, they seem to believe that their opinions about gay people should be given even weight with opinions that are positive toward gay people. Again, this is misleading." is just as misleading, and then go on to site David and Jason Bentham, reality TV based on a decade of flipping houses?

1:06PM PDT on May 24, 2014

Darryll, I have told you before, do not send me personal messages.

1:05PM PDT on May 24, 2014

Darryll, try and twist things all you want, the countries you speak of were ALL predominantly CHRISTIAN!

12:56PM PDT on May 24, 2014

Although he considered himself an Atheist as an adult, Mussolini was born and baptized as a Catholic, and raised by a Catholic Mother. Personally I don't think it matters much one way or the other. His Mother surely instilled many ideas in his mind as only a Mother can, and she was catholic. The notion that his being an Atheist however has little point. An Atheist is no more than a person who, such as myself and many others have no belief system at all. Being atheist would have no impact on his less than humane ways. Being an Atheist does not instill any particular way of treating people, morals or lack there of. Being Atheist is not a way of life rather it is only a way to define people such as myself that have no belief system at all. We as Atheist do not believe in a higher deity. The Catholic church however believes in a Deity and uses that belief to torment and oppress any one who does not follow their beliefs and teachings.

12:39PM PDT on May 24, 2014

"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

-Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)

9:52AM PDT on May 24, 2014

that knocks down two of your so called Catholics, want to try for more

9:51AM PDT on May 24, 2014

Pam W. -check our what his religion was, Franco Mussolini- Born Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini
29 July 1883
Predappio, Forlì
Kingdom of Italy
Died 28 April 1945 (aged 61)
Giulino di Mezzegra, Como
Kingdom of Italy
Resting place San Cassiano cemetery, Predappio, Forlì, Italian Republic
Nationality Italian
Political party National Fascist Party
(1921–1943)
Other political
affiliations Republican Fascist Party
(1943–1945)
Italian Fasci of Combat
(1919–1921)
Fasci of Revolutionary Action
(1914–1919)
Autonomous Fasci of Revolutionary Action
(1914)
Italian Socialist Party
(1901–1914)
Spouse(s) Rachele Mussolini
Relations Ida Dalser
Margherita Sarfatti
Clara Petacci
Children Benito Albino Mussolini
Edda Mussolini
Vittorio Mussolini
Bruno Mussolini
Romano Mussolini
Anna Maria Mussolini
Profession Dictator, politician, journalist, novelist, teacher
Religion None (atheist)

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