Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Own Up to Your Bigotry

From the Letters to the Editor in the Miami Herald:

Leonard Pitts’ comparing blacks’ struggle to that of gays is unbelievable (Some blacks forgot sting of discrimination, Nov. 12). I don’t remember seeing signs that read ”No gays allowed.” Gays have not been sent to the back of the bus or blatantly denied jobs or housing.

Gays are protected by our equal-protection laws. America was founded on Judeo/Christian values, which do not include gay marriage.


Dear Mr. Harrison:

Just because you “don’t remember” seeing discrimination against gays doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and doesn’t continue to this day. Let me cite you some examples.

1. The United States military specifically states that gays are not allowed to serve openly in uniform and they will be discharged if they are outed. That pretty much says “No gays allowed.”

2. Many private schools, including those not affiliated with a religion, refuse to hire gay teachers because they believe that children aren’t safe around us, perpetuating the stereotype that all gay people are pedophiles. (Note: most of the teachers arrested for inappropriate contact with students are straight.) The same goes for some nationally-recognized summer camps.

3. In 1993 my partner and I tried to book a vacation at a couples-only resort in the tropics. We contacted the resort’s booking office and were told that they only allowed straight couples at their facilities, including those located in the United States. If we really wanted to come, we could book separately and stay in separate rooms and be charged the full rate per person instead of the double-occupancy rate given to couples. By the way, straight couples at these resorts didn’t have to prove that they were married to each other.

4. The state of Florida specifically bans gays and lesbians from adopting children. Perhaps you missed the recent court cases that are fighting — and winning — for the right to do so, but the state is promising to appeal the ruling. That right there is a clear-cut case of denying equal protection. And of course there’s Amendment 2 that passed in November. Again, a denial of equal protection in that while straight people can marry the person of their choosing, gay people cannot based solely on their sexual orientation. Same-sex couples are not entitled to the same inheritance or hospital visitation rights that straight couples have, nor are they allowed to receive the Social Security benefits that a widowed mate would be entitled to. That is not equal protection.

5. In 1988 I had to explain to my skeptical landlord in Longmont, Colorado, that my partner and I would be sleeping in separate bedrooms before he took my deposit check. Fair housing laws in many states and municipalities cover discrimination against tenants or homeowners based on race, color, creed, or national origin, but they are still allowed to refuse to rent to gay couples, and a lot of landlords refuse to do so based on their so-called “Judeo/Christian” values.

Mr. Harrison, it’s not so much the fact that you’re ignorant of the facts right in front of your nose and the discrimination that your fellow citizens face every day. It’s the fact that you try to hide your bigotry behind the excuse that “America was founded on Judeo/Christian values, which do not include gay marriage.” (That sounds noble, but as Robert Wuhl noted, America was actually founded by a bunch of rich white landowners who didn’t want to pay taxes.) One of the principle Judeo/Christian values is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So either I get to decide whether or not the marriage of a man and a woman is subject to a vote, or I am entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship that everyone else is entitled to. Rights, after all, are binary; you either have them or you don’t, and if you are going to deny one group of people a right based solely on an innate quality such as race, gender, or sexual orientation, you might as well deny them all. Fortunately for you, I believe that all people, regardless of who they are or who they love, are entitled to all the rights under the law.

So, Mr. Harrison, I say with all sincerity, own up to your bigotry. Stop hiding behind the curtain of religious dogma and come right out and say it: you don’t like gay people. You’ve already taken the first step by writing your letter to the editor. Your next step is to tell me or any other member of the LGBT community to our face exactly what it is that we have done to you to make you hate us so much that you would deny us the same rights you apparently take so much for granted.