Friday, May 04, 2007

Using Equal Rights To Justify Discrimination and Hatred

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The Christian Taliban opposes the hate crimes bill just passed by the House -- no surprise there. It also should come as no surprise that Christianists are cloaking their loathing for gay and lesbian people in the language of equal rights, and using self-hating gays and lesbians to spread their homophobic message to the world:

The world’s largest gay outreach ministry denounced the House’s approval of legislation that could ultimately strip away the right of Christians to express a biblical view on homosexuality.

The House voted Thursday to expand federal hate crime categories to include violent attacks against gays and people targeted because of gender, acting just hours after the White House threatened to veto the bill – H.R. 1592.

Randy Thomas, Executive Vice President for Exodus International, said it was “a sad day for those who esteem equality in America.”

“This legislation assigns special protections to certain groups and less to others,” noted the ministry leader, in a statement released by the group. “As former homosexuals, we are now considered less deserving of legal protection than when we were living as homosexuals. The proposed law stands in direct opposition to the truth that every citizen is of equal value and should be afforded the same protections under law.”

First of all, every human being is of equal value, regardless of citizenship. And nobody is saying that "pastors" (I'm sorry, I can't take that honorific seriously when applied to people who preach against the word of God, which is that all human beings were created in God's image and have within them the divine spark) cannot sermonize to their evil heart's content about how God "hates fags." In this country, they have that right, and may it always be that way.

What they can't do is use free speech as an excuse to allow homosexuals to be attacked and terrorized because of their homosexuality. If these so-called "men of God" claim the right to verbally attack other human beings from the pulpit because of who they are and who they love, and if they are so afraid that doing so will make them legally responsible for people who then go out and beat up gays and lesbians, and torture them, and kill them, then it should be up to them to make it very clear from those same pulpits that words and actions are not the same thing, and that no one listening to their anti-gay sermons should take that as license to go out and physically attack people or their property. I'm sick of hateful people misusing freedom of speech as some kind of permission to condone physical violence without actually committing the act themselves.

It's really not that hard to understand. If some racist minister wants to rail against illegal immigrants, or Muslims, or black crime, he can do that. But if someone goes out and burns a cross on someone's lawn, or assaults or murders a person because of their nationality or their citizenship status, or their religion, or their skin color, that's a hate crime, and it's punished more severely than if the victim had been randomly chosen, and that's how it should be. It's no different from federal laws that make killing a police officer a more heinous crime in terms of sentencing guidelines than killing an ordinary citizen. It goes to public policy, and to societal priorities. We have a public policy that says, because police officers serve a vital function in society, and because that function involves serious risks to their physical safety, we have to make the legal consequences for harming them stronger than they would otherwise be.

It's the same with hate crimes. We have (or should have) a public policy perspective that says people should not be targeted for aspects of themselves that are not under their control -- like whether they are male or female; whether they are white or black; whether they were born in the U.S. or somewhere else. And like whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. It's not a choice, and even if it were a choice, it would be a legitimate choice, like deciding to marry someone from Spain, or someone from another ethnic or religious background. And because this is such a core value for our society (or should be) -- namely, that human beings should not have to live in fear of attack simply for being who they are -- crimes that are motivated by hatred for who the victim is should be classified as hate crimes and punished more severely.

Not that I expect anyone to agree with this who doesn't already. That's what so awful about homophobia, and all the other phobias people have against other people for their skin color, or their religion, or where they come from. They are not subject to rational discussion, because they are rooted in some deeply irrational part of the human psyche.

Cross-posted at Shakesville.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Totally agree discrimination is irrational. I think it takes a lot more effort to hate than to love, which is natural, instinctual.

There's a lady who runs around the country talking to people about the consequences of homophobia and she's in this new movie called God & Gays: Bridging the Gap ( Might be of interest to your readers who are looking for ways to handle conversations about this topic without getting into fights. :)