Saturday, April 4, 2009

Being Out in Public

As expected, some people are not happy that the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that banning same-sex marriage in the state was unconstitutional. Rod Dreher at beliefnet laments,

This morning, I had breakfast with some guys, including a lawyer. We weren’t aware of this decision, but we talked about this issue. The lawyer said that as soon as homosexuality receives constitutionally protected status equivalent to race, then “it will be very hard to be a public Christian.” By which he meant to voice support, no matter how muted, for traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and marriage. To do so would be to set yourself up for hostile work environment challenges, including dismissal from your job, and generally all the legal sanctions that now apply to people who openly express racist views.

First, being a “public Christian” does not mean being a pompous, arrogant, and sanctimonious prick. A lot of people who profess their faith in public are supportive of the basic concept of Christianity, which, according to the words attributed to Jesus Christ, is to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” And a lot of Christians, including a lot of denominations, support the basic concept of constitutionally protecting all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, from discrimination and granting them the same rights as everyone else. And these Christians welcome gays and lesbians into their congregations and celebrate their marriages and families. So I guess the “public Christians” this lawyer is talking about are just the loud-mouthed asses who hijacked the faith and proclaimed themselves to be the true believers. But isn’t there something in the bible that warns against false prophets?

Second, as the Anonymous Liberal notes, if Mr. Dreher’s friend thinks it’s tough to be a “public Christian,” he should try being publicly gay. Even in enlightened cities or workplaces where discrimination against gays is illegal, there’s still the stigma against being out in public, or “flaunting it” with such outrages as putting a picture of your partner on your desk or talking around the water cooler about your Friday night date with someone of the same sex. Smiles become fixed and awkward laughter ensues. Compared to the public displays of Christian faith that are accepted as the norm — Christmas decorations, desktop nativity scenes, iconic jewelry — being gay in public is still considered cutting-edge. Most of us still have memories of what it’s like growing up gay and remember all too well the scorn, derision, and outright hatred we got from the so-called “public Christians.”

So forgive me, Mr. Dreher, if I really don’t give a popcorn fart about you and your offended sensibilities about not being able to publicly speak out against your fellow citizens and having to take responsibility for your bigotry and medieval superstitions. I know you’re shocked at the radical idea that all citizens are entitled to the equal protection of the law, but that’s how we do things in a country that aspires to democracy, not theocracy. If someone gets fired for calling someone a “faggot” the same way they would if they used the N-word around African-Americans, well, that’s just the price they pay for being a “public asshole.”