Opposition to Gay Marriage
In most contexts, opposing something means that someone holds unfavorable attitudes toward it. In the case of activists, one may oppose something in the sense of trying to change it. But in the context around gay marriage, opposition takes on a more specific meaning.
"Opposing gay marriage" in this context refers to not merely to one's attitudes, or even the desire to change something, but also to legislation. Opponents of same-sex marriage seek to prevent it from occurring through legal means. They favor a definition of marriage that restricts it to something that a man and a woman do. They commonly refer to this as necessary to protect "the traditional definition of marriage." Regardless, they want to ban same-sex marriage.
This means that the statement "Ted opposes gay marriage" is equivalent to "Ted believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman and favors a legal ban on same-sex marriage."
Does Opposing Gay Marriage Make One a Bigot?
Before responding, consider the following:
- Does opposing African American marriage (i.e., defining marriage as between two whites and seeking to prevent two consenting African Americans from being married on the grounds that they are African American) make one a bigot?
How about a different example?
- Does opposing atheist marriage (i.e., defining marriage as between two theists and seeking to prevent two consenting atheists from being married on the grounds that they are atheists) make one a bigot?
So does opposing gay marriage (i.e., defining marriage as between a man and a woman and seeking to prevent two consenting adults from being married on the grounds that they are of the same sex)make one a bigot? Absolutely.
Religion Enters And Things Get Messy
There is a reason that the debate over same-sex marriage has not gone away yet, and no, it is not simple homophobia. The reason is religion. You see, when opposition to same-sex marriage is clothed in religious garb, those who would normally recognize the inherent bigotry get nervous. They do not want to be perceived as being intolerant to religion.
To call someone a bigot for campaigning against same-sex marriage is one thing; to call someone a bigot for doing what the think their "holy" book tells them to do is something else. Or at least, that is how many people feel. We are so used to treating religious belief with kid gloves that many of us do not feel comfortable looking beyond it to the bigotry it shields. Who knows, we might even be called bigots ourselves!
When opponents of same-sex marriage introduce religion into their arguments, they obfuscate the real issue (i.e., their bigotry) to those who are convinced that religion must remain immune to criticism. This is one reason why atheists can be useful allies for those in the GLBT community.
When religion enters the debate, those who want to ban same-sex marriage end up calling the rest of us bigots. Why? Because we have the nerve to expect them to treat people equally! Imagine that.
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