June 22, 2014

The Real Victims of Intolerance

Mike Huckabee in 2007 in Washington, DC at the Values Voters conference
The reactions of conservative Christians in the United States to the issue of same-sex marriage have been interesting to watch. Embarrassing, sick, and twisted, but interesting nonetheless. Here's how JT Eberhard summarized them in a recent post:
The narrative from the anti-gay crowd has been either “We’re not discriminating by insisting gays shouldn’t be able to do what straight people can do!” or “It’s we who are being discriminated against when gay people are allowed to do what we do!” In both cases, discrimination is being treated as the horrible thing everybody acknowledges it to be.
Admittedly, the claim that they are not engaging in discrimination by legally prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is sufficiently absurd that someone using it can likely be mocked with confidence. We should know by now that the whole "separate but equal" thing doesn't work. As long as opposite-sex couples are going to be allowed to marry, same-sex couples must be allowed to marry. This narrative, while comical, strikes me as much less interesting than the second.

This second strategy - the one of claiming that those doing the discriminating are really the victims - is the one that appears to be winning. This narrative has been echoed by a number of prominent conservative Republicans. Conservative values (e.g., bigotry) are under attack, they tell their audience. The "sanctity" of marriage and Christianity itself are under attack by the forces of intolerance (i.e., secular progressives). And because change is often threatening, their message has been appealing to some.

Christian extremists Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum attended the hilariously small anti-same-sex marriage protests at the Capitol. Huckabee railed against "judicial supremacy" and characterized Supreme Court decisions he disagrees with as the "greatest heresy of our time."
“The government doesn’t give us our rights,” he said. “The government only has the responsibility to protect the rights God gave us.”
If one did not realize he was pandering, one could be forgiven for suspecting that he still doesn't understand how our secular Constitution works. His message, by and large, continues to be that the bigots are really the ones being victimized by intolerance. All he's trying to do is deprive a select group of people of legal rights. How dare some accuse him of intolerance! That in and of itself is intolerant.

Meanwhile, Santorum insisted that his opposition to marriage equality is all about love. Sure it is! He loves LGBT persons so much that he is willing to deprive them of the right to a legal marriage, a right he himself enjoys. Makes perfect sense.

Comments made by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the recent Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference suggested that the Democrats are the intolerant party and that Republicans need to stand up to this intolerance.
"Theirs is the party that is intolerant," Christie said. "We should no longer sit around and allow ourselves to be punching bags."
Right. Because supporting marriage equality and reproductive rights is somehow intolerant while seeking to legally prohibit them is not. This is the sort of argument one might make when one realizes that one's reasons for banning same-sex marriage are indefensible.

Conservative Republicans and the conservative Christians who support them are on the losing side of history here. Huckabee is no civil rights leader. I have little doubt that same-sex marriage will eventually be recognized in every state. In fact, I now think that I might live long enough to see it happen.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the opposition to same-sex marriage is largely rooted in religiously-motivated bigotry. Supporters of marriage equality are increasingly willing to call out this bigotry, even when it comes cloaked in bible verses and claims of piety. Marriage equality is coming, and the bigots are running scared. Their last refuge appears to be claim that they are the real victims of intolerance. But as long as they seek to deny people the rights they enjoy, this refuge will offer little protection.

For more on the sort of Christian values on display at the 2014 Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference, see this post at Progressive Secular Humanist.

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