Hitched: On Love, Politics & Bigotry

The Democratic Party is set to officially incorporate a pro-gay marriage stance into its 2012 convention platform after a 15-member draft committee approved the new pro-marriage equality language over the weekend.

Much like the reaction to President Barack Obama’s recent (supposedly) conversion to pro-gay marriageness, reasonable people are saying: Hooray!

And also duh. And also about time. 

The thing is, I don’t think you have to be a Democrat — or young — to appreciate the fact that civil rights for all people are a good thing. Maybe I’ve spent too much time reading Yo! Is This Racist? but I am both young and a Democrat and my patience wears ever thinner for people who can’t get with the fucking program on not being hate-mongering idiots.

To be sure: at least one Democrat, Travis Childers from Mississippi, isn’t down with the new platform. He told Politico that he and his ignorant, hateful friends aren’t on board, saying, “I think the conservative Democrats, especially in the South, a great number will disagree with that.”

Let me speak up, then, as a Southerner: if you’re against gay marriage, writ large, you’re a bigot. You’re a hateful, ignorant person. Oh sure, you might also be a loving grandmother, a doting father or a successful business person. You might be a great tipper. Maybe you changed a stranger’s tire just to be nice. Maybe you rescue all the abandoned puppies and kittens. But if you don’t think gay people should get married, for whatever your important and deeply personal hateful reasons are, you’re an ignorant (willfully or not) homophobe.

Sadly, if you’re against gay marriage, you’re also just about one out of every two Americans. And I’m embarrassed for all 150 million or so of you.

I know I’m talking about some of my friends. I’m definitely talking about some of my family members. But I guess there’s a point at which I don’t feel like I have to be polite about the fact that vast swaths of the American population believe some human beings are naturally inferior to others and shouldn’t be accorded basic civil rights and access to public life.

Which got me wondering: what does hate look like, anyway? I immediately thought of this photo of white folks having a lovely time lynching two young black men. Probably some of the people in that photo read their kids bedtime stories every night and helped little old ladies across the street and donated old clothes to charities. And, you know, thought it was good fun to lynch black men.

To be clear, I am absolutely not equating the oppression of black people in America or lynching or any acts of oppression or violence against any race with the denial of legal marriage for gay people; these are wholly separate issues with different implications, origins, histories, practices and manifestations. But they are all fueled by hate.

Hate is a rope; hate is a gunshot. Yes. But hate is also pointed silence or quiet exclusion. Hate doesn’t always manifest itself through anger or screaming or violence; that’s why it’s so hard to confront the fact that people we know and love believe and do terrible things.

Hate can be silent: signs that read “White” and “Colored” over water fountains. Hate can be quiet: the institutional Anglo-ization of American Indian orphans. Hate can be inaction: refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Hate is blustering Rush Limbaugh and your beloved aunt who makes a brilliant banana pudding and uses the N-word.

But so many people want to hide their hate — and fear — of gay folks behind their religious beliefs, which is the most disgusting part of all. Loving people don’t consider other human beings to be less than, but right-wing Christians (and many, many mainstream ones) seem to believe that their reading of some ancient religious texts gives them the right to tell other folks how they can and should live as second-class citizens. Hate isn’t lessened because it stems from an ostensibly loving religion; instead, its insidiousness is strengthened.

But because we love freedom, and I’m using that term in the unironic, actual freedom-loving way, Americans simply don’t ban things because it goes against some people’s — or even most people’s — religious beliefs. And we don’t force people to do things just because they align with anyone’s religious beliefs.

America is a Christian nation in that Christianity is the dominant religion; it is not a Christian nation in that we like our laws to mirror those in the Bible. After all, we don’t define marriage as between American soldiers and virgin prisoners of war.

I love it — by which I mean I can’t stand it — when anti-gay marriage folks act like gay marriage is gonna make their heterosexual unions evaporate into Lisa Frank unicorn rainbow dust. “Traditional marriage” isn’t threatened by gay marriage, but gay people are threatened when they live in a society that doesn’t accord them the same rights as heterosexual people.

Banning gay marriage is prescribing a way of life for other people; legalizing gay marriage is allowing people to do something that has absolutely no effect on anyone else’s life — except, maybe, to make people like me happy they get to go to more fun weddings.

If you think your “freedom” is threatened by gay marriage, you’re right, but you’re worried about the wrong “freedom.” Your marriage is safe. What’s endangered is your “freedom” to live in the world and not be considered a hateful, ignorant homophobe.

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