Saturday, September 24, 2011


Last week I was told I was a hateful bigot. That remark came from a friend, no less. What can motivate someone to say that about a person whom they otherwise like? Given the title of this article I bet you can imagine what the conversation was about that led to the accusation.

This accusation affected me deeply. The hateful part is easy to shrug off, because it is patently untrue. While I might not be a model Christian (by far), I can honestly say that I don't hate any group, or even any individual, even those that I feel have done me serious wrong. You may think that's a big feat, or you may think that I'm lying, but I assure you it is no big thing not to hate. I believe hating takes as much effort as loving, and if you aren't taught to hate ad don't practice it, it is no big deal to avoid it. That's not to say I love everybody, either. There are people I find distasteful, that I'd rather have nothing to do with. That is far from hate (actively seeking what's bad for the other person).

The title of "bigot" bothered me though. I don't think of myself as a bigot, but I suppose neither did Archie Bunker, or for that matter George Jefferson (for those who are not as ancient as I am, these are two notoriously prejudiced characters from the 1970s sitcoms "All in the Family" and its spinoff "The Jeffersons"). I decided it was time to reexamine my actions.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines bigot as follows:
big·ot noun \ˈbi-gət\
Definition of BIGOT
: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
and further defines intolerant as:
in·tol·er·ant adj \-rənt\
2 a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters
b : unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights : bigoted
Well, I'm off the hook, because to be a bigot I'd have to treat people with hatred and intolerance, and I don't treat people with hatred. However, my friend equates intolerance and hate as being the same thing. Am I intolerant?

Obviously, the primary definition of intolerant is not what my friend was alluding to. If that were the case, and since she is unwilling to grant me freedom of expression of my religious views, the term bigot would apply to her, not to me. I don't think she intended to be a bigot by calling me one. So she must mean that I'm unwilling to grant social, political, or professional rights to homosexuals.

That's a serious accusation, but is it true? What rights are homosexuals denied that changing the definition of marriage would grant them? Are they being denied the right to life? No, last I looked nobody was killing them. Are they being denied their liberty? No, last I looked they weren't being put in prison. Are they being denied the right to participate in economic activities, own property, and enjoy the fruits of their labor? No. Right to bear arms? No. Right to Assemble? No. Right to free speech? No.

I continued down through the Bill of Rights and other aspects of law, and I can't find a single right which is not granted them. OK, let's talk about "rights" in a looser sense, and look at lifestyle choices. Are they forbidden from practicing sexual acts in privacy? No. Are they forbidden from living together as a couple? No.

So what rights do they claim they are being denied (other than being able to change the definition of institutions like marriage, and I dictating changes to society is not a "right" in any sense of the word)? The things that I have heard brought up in conversation are:

They can't get family health benefits from their employer for their partner. That's a fair point. Shouldn't I be able to purchase benefits for anyone I want? Oh wait! There's a thing called an insurance company, and I can pay them to purchase health insurance for anybody, not just my family. The problem is that insurance companies have made it expensive to do so. So, no right has been denied.

Still one can make the argument that if insurance companies are going to give a discount for a family policy, shouldn't that include all the people who live in my household whom I support? Suppose my elderly mother lives with me, or my aunt, or cousin who's our of work? Insurance companies now have ways to address some of these issues (like elder care and same sex partners). Here in NJ, same sex partners are by law treated equally with married couples for insurance purposes. I think if anything that should be expanded to include the other cases (e.g. anybody I support). If I'm willing to pay for it, there's a market.

So there's an argument that falls flat on its face, both as a reason to say they are being denied rights and as a reason to say I'm a bigot.

Reason number two is that same sex partners aren't treated as spouses when hospitals grant visiting privileges. Again fair point, but that's a hospital policy, not anything to do with the institution of marriage. I can understand that hospitals have to limit visitors for the patients' benefit and that without the patient's ability to designate who should visit they have to come up with a rule. On the other hand, a patient should have people who love and care for him able to visit. This is something that I think needs to be addressed by modifying hospital policies, not marriage.

Reason number three is adoption. Same sex couples need to be married to legally adopt children. Without getting into the moral issues of whether this is good, let me cut off the argument right here by saying that they can. This argument is false. While Catholic adoption agencies do not place children with same sex couples, there are other agencies that do. A simple web search comes up with sites like Adoption Open, which lists "gay friendly" adoption agencies.

When you go through the list of all the justifications for changing the institution of marriage, there is none that is an actual justification. The last resort argument that I have been given is that it makes them feel like their relationship isn't accepted by everyone. That's true in a way. Their relationship probably isn't accepted by everyone. But is that what marriage is about? Is it merely a title, a piece of paper, a popularity contest? I've been told by so many, and I believe it to be true as well, if your relationship is based only on a piece of paper, it's not worth the piece of paper it's written on.

I was going to talk about the other side, but this post is getting long so I'll continue this discussion in another post about reasons not to change marriage. I think I've debunked the reasons given for wanting to change it, though if you know of any reasonable arguments that aren't covered please comment below.

Next, see Bigot Part 2.


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