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Are People Who Oppose Gay Marriage Bigots?

Jim Burroway

October 5th, 2012
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Marriage is on the ballot in four states this year. Voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington will decide whether same-sex couples will be allowed to marry, while Minnesota voters will determine whether to write discrimination into their state’s constitution. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the Witherspoon Institute, and many, many other organizations are mobilizing their resources to push their anti-gay arguments.  Professor John Corvino is intimately familiar with those arguments, having just published a book with NOM’s co-founder Maggie Gallagher titled Debating Same-Sex Marriage, the only book ever endorsed both by Rick Santorum and Dan Savage. Corvino has also posted a valuable series of videos taking apart those arguements, one by one. You can see the entire series here.

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Ryan
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Not all people who oppose gay marriage are bigots, but all bigots oppose gay marriage. So if I encounter someone who opposes gay marriage, the odds that they have at least some degree of animus towards gay people is pretty high.

Désirée
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

are all people who oppose interracial marriage bigots?
are all people who oppose jews getting married bigots?
are all people who oppose Iraqis getting married bigots?

what a stupid question. Of course they are bigots. Saying anything less is just appeasing our oppressors. Here it is: if you oppose equality for a group of people different than you, then by *definition* you are a bigot. The bigots may not like and may have all sorts of other reasons why they aren’t *really* a bigot, but words have meanings and bigot means some one who opposes equality for some others.

MattNYC
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Per M-W:

“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”

So, via the dictionary, I’d have to say Yes.

I do not believe that every opponent of ours has “hatred” in their hearts and minds. I think many of them are just ill-informed, mislead, and/or intentionally/unintentionally mixing religious and civil aspects of marriage in their minds.

But the first part of the dictionary definition most certainly covers a large chunk of the anti-ME crowd.

This will lead me to stop using the word “hater” and use “bigot,” instead.

Timothy Kincaid
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

I’m (not surprisingly) with John on this one.

Bigots oppose gay marriage because of WHO it impacts. They also oppose gay adoption, gay military service, gay pride, and anything else gay that comes along.

But some people oppose gay marriage because of WHAT it is. They may support civil unions (and not just as a least of two evils) and gay adoption. They may genuinely have gay people in their lives whom they love and enjoy spending time with. But for whatever reason – be it religion or Disney storybooks or even believing that the institution could be threatened in some way – they don’t support marriage.

Some may be prejudiced (hold old unquestioned presumptions), but others may not. I think it’s possible that some may just fear that this feeds culture war and want a go-slow approach. And there still are some out there who simply do not know many gay people and have never had anyone talk to them about the subject.

I don’t think they are right, of course, but they aren’t bigots and I think we lose an opportunity if we write them all off as such.

But I really am having trouble seeing Maggie as otherwise. I used to think of her as a strong opponent but not a bigoted one. But lately, some of the stuff coming from NOM is downright hateful. Either she is far removed from the operations of that organization and what they say or I have trouble distinguishing her brand of ‘non-bigotry’ from full fledged homophobic deep-seated hatred.

ZRAinSWVA
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

I’m with John on this one.

My parents are not bigots, nor are they critical thinkers. They have deeply-held religious beliefs and have never critically evaluated the foundation for those beliefs. They are willing to overlook contradictions in the Bible while holding the remainder to be infallible. And after spending half my life talking with them, arguing and yes even yelling, they’ve come to accept that I am who I am. They resigned themselves to the reality that I have a partner. They do not accept our marriage. They still think we’re going to hell. And I accept that it is still my duty and obligation to continue to have those conversations with them.

iDavid
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Is not the Bible a document that supports and upholds bigotry? And would not those that support such views be bigots, if even by default?
Sounds like a devil made me do it defense to let bigots off the hook because “they were born into it”. No court of law would ever let that slide, nor should we, even if they are family members. If the shoe fits wear it. Nuff of the soft shoe approach.
I see all that do not research issues and hold intolerance as their diploma, bigoted and harmful in their views. They have an obvious blind spot they would rather advocate than taking a look at it clearly and resolve it with common sense. Bible research in this case is researching other peoples bigoted views. God, the physical dude that physically walked in the garden with Adam, is the biggest bigot in all of human history. Until the blind spots about this are removed, all will be at effect of some sort of bigotry.

The Lauderdale
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

“Not all people who oppose gay marriage are bigots, but all bigots oppose gay marriage.”

? Anti-gay bigotry is not the only bigotry. It is possible to non-bigoted toward gay people – or to be gay oneself – and still be bigoted toward other groups.

I try to talk about bigoted actions rather than calling people bigots. That may be disingenuous (it smells a lot like “Love the sinner, hate the sin”) but it seems more conducive to actual dialogue and changing minds.

Ideally, anyway. I still get mad, and I still stumble.

Jarred
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

It seems to me that some are falling for the fallacy that it’s a greater offense to call someone a bigot than it is to engage in bigotry.

Ben in Oakland
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, you once wrote that not all bigotry is hate. I’ve come to see a good deal of it as the completely unwarranted belief in one’s own self assigned but otherwise wholly imaginary superiority as a human being, or a Christian, or a moral person, or merely as a heterosexual.

That’s what makes it bigotry, it might be a softer bigotry, but it is still bigotry.

Priya Lynn
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Are people who oppose marriage equality bigots? Of course they are, its absurd to suggest otherwise.

But note that John Corvino never answered that question but instead spoke of why he thinks its not a good idea to call the other side bigots. There’s a big difference between saying “anti-marriage people are not bigots” and saying “we should not call anti-marriage people bigots.” Obviously I can’t agree with the first statment, but if someone wants to try to convince me the second is true then I’m open to that.

CPT_Doom
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Are all people who oppose marriage equality (there is no such thing as “gay marriage”) bigots? Of course not. Many have simply not thought deeply on the matter, or have been told by their religious leaders that they have to oppose it on religious grounds. However, I cannot think of a leader in the anti-gay hate movement who is not a bigot, including Ms. Gallagher.

Just as FRC did not earn its hate group designation because of its stance on marriage, Ms. Gallagher, et. al. are not bigots simply because they think marriage should be limited to relationships that include both a penis and a vagina (and that is really the only requirement they care about). They are bigots because they attack, defame and dehumanize LGBT people in an attempt to convince others to oppose our equality.

If an organization like NOM or an individual like Ms. Gallagher were not bigoted, they would either a) not be fighting our equality or b) be fighting to strip all “non-ideal” families of civil rights in an attempt to drive people to the relationship they claim is best. But despite their rhetoric about “what’s best for the children” the one and only family structure they are actively trying to prevent is one with same-sex parents. Sure Ms. Gallagher has also railed against single parents, but she has not advocated for any limitation on the rights of those parents nor for any different treatment of their subsequent marriages. That she is in such a family likely has something to do with that.

Timothy Kincaid
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Ben,

Yes, not all bigotry is hatred. Some is just the presumption of superiority.

But not all opposition is bigotry. Not all is housed in superiority. Some is prejudice, some ignorance, some just a lack of thinking about the issue.

Lots of shades of gray. It makes it tougher to put people in boxes, but isn’t that a good thing?

Blake
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

It is a fine line to walk to be opposed to gay marriage and not stray into bigotry or bigoted positions. Although I think it’s extremely important to not assume that an opponent is a bigot even when they start espousing bigoted positions . I believe we should still grant them the benefit of the doubt so far as they may be relying on sources which are themselves bigoted and it is not the opinion of the person per se but an expression of trust for that organization who may very well have done great things or given great advice to them in other areas of their lives.

I think we sometimes mistake our opponents for being bigots due to a particularly religious way of thinking that lumps us and our concerns in with other sexual-sins so far as ministerial focus is concerned. Consider a Christian ministry who is really good at offering marriage & family counseling that chooses to parrot what the AFA says about gay folks because their focus is Matrimony & family-life, not sexual-sins. So they simply rely on a source who is nominally Christian & focused on sexual-sins for their information about sexual-sins. Then run-of-the-mill-folks in the pews or not-thorough pastors might adopt the AFA’s view because they trust the counseling ministry.

Plus what difference does it make what moral category we believe our opponents fit in if the panacea remains the same: knowledge & witness; graceful persistence & patience.

Regan DuCasse
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

A good deal of the time, it’s the folks with the bigoted assumptions who cut off all means to conversation. Invoking God and the Bible is one way of doing it.
It’s actually our side that doesn’t get nearly as much opportunity, nor value placed on what we have to say.

The harm of defamation is ignored by our dissenters who simply dismiss it as such. They do whine and complain in advance of actually being called bigots. Whether we call them that or not, they cut off conversation by again, claiming the role of victim in all this.

It’s a fair definition to call such people two faced. They have two ways of speaking in public and in private.
And want very much, public policy to reflect that behavior.
Changing up the standards set for everyone, then denying they have anything to do with changing them up exclusively against gay people.
Making God, of course, the default reason if it happens at all.
What makes it bigotry, is how extremely difficult it is to have an honest conversation in the first place.

Jarred
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

I believe we should still grant them the benefit of the doubt so far as they may be relying on sources which are themselves bigoted and it is not the opinion of the person per se but an expression of trust for that organization who may very well have done great things or given great advice to them in other areas of their lives.

I’m liable to chalk that up as a distinction without a difference. If someone is spouting NOM talking points, they are claiming those talking points as being reflective of their own views.

At least I don’t go around spouting the words of someone I don’t happen to agree with (except in the case where I’m deconstructing what they said in order to point out exactly why I disagree, of course).

Blake
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

If someone is spouting NOM talking points, they are claiming those talking points as being reflective of their own views.

What if they’re spouting talking points because they’re lazy, naive, or misinformed. Are they still a bigot?

I’m not saying NOM and like groups don’t misinform others I’m just saying they may not realize it. For example, they may think that bad information is actually good information that has been suppressed for the sake of political correctness.

This appears as bigotry to us because it comes across as them stubbornly refusing to accept facts and information. Here’s an example conversation.

Bigot-Bobby: “Homosexuals are a menace to children”
Rational-Roger: “Actually that is a false perception. Studies haves shown otherwise.”
Bigot-Bobby: “You’re a fool”
Rational-Roger: “You’re a bigot”
Bigot-Bobby: “You’re the Bigot”
end conversation

I think everyone would agree that after that encounter we all think that Bobby is a bigot. But what if it’s like this:

Bobby: “Homosexuals are a menace to children” because that’s what my fishing buddy, the least hateful person I’ve ever met, told me .
Roger: “Actually that is a false perception. Studies have shown otherwise.”
Bobby: “You’re a fool” For being duped into believing liberal studies by liberal scientists at liberal institutions. I trust my friend over your liberal scientists.
Roger: “You’re a bigot”
Bobby: No I’m not! Because if I was then so would my fishing buddy and I KNOW he’s not a bigot. So “You’re the Bigot” because fishing buddy is a good christian man, not a bigot, and not a liar; and you must be bigoted because people who I trust reach different conclusions and there’s only one set of information y’all all be looking at.

If you suppose that Bobby were having a thought process similar to what I assigned him than he’s not really bigoted, just misinformed and distrusts Roger.

I’m not saying they don’t appear to be bigots. They certainly do. Just next time one of them strikes you as a bigot ask them WHY they came to that conclusion. If they say, “Because I hate gay people and oppose their equality” than they’re a bigot and you can walk away. IF they say “my fishing buddy told me” your conversation can continue.

Nothing good happens from assuming that you’re already speaking with a bigot.

Timothy Kincaid
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

I’ve had numerous conversations in which I don’t try to change opinions, just clarify facts.

I like to approach those with “quotes” by suggesting that they are good decent people who others are trying to fool and lie to. How sad that others are doing that to this good decent person. How awful that they are being lied to and it makes me mad that they’re lying to you and making you look like a bad guy with bad information.

It doesn’t always result in an immediate conversion to a pro-gay position, but it does plant the seeds of thought.

Jarred
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

What if they’re spouting talking points because they’re lazy, naive, or misinformed. Are they still a bigot?

I would say so, yes. A person doesn’t get a pass for not doing their own homework and merely taking someone else’s word for it.

And in the end, the harm they cause is the same either way. Neither intent nor motivation changes that.

Jarred
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

IF they say “my fishing buddy told me” your conversation can continue.

The conversation can continue regardless of whether I think someone is a bigot. And I think therein lies the problem. You consider classifying someone as a bigot as an end to all further conversation or even that it dictates a particular response to said person on my part. I do not share that point of view.

Priya Lynn
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

If someone is spouting NOM talking points, they are claiming those talking points as being reflective of their own views.

Blake said “What if they’re spouting talking points because they’re lazy, naive, or misinformed. Are they still a bigot?”.

Of course they are. One doesn’t spout someone else’s talking points just because they are lazy, naive, or misinformed. One spouts someone else’s talking points because they agree with them.

Blake
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Jarred if you call someone a bigot or imply as much you may still be talking but I can guarantee you’re not having a conversation.

Jarred
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Blake: Note that you asked me whether I thought such a person was a bigot, not whether I would say to them, “Hey, you’re a bigot.”

As for how the conversation goes, this comes back to my earlier statement where we live in a society that feels that being called a bigot is a bigger offense than being harmed by bigoted behavior. I’m supposed to accept that “[My fishing buddy says that] letting you and your partner the same rights as me and my wife will destroy America [and I agree with him]” as something a decent person would say, but “Hey, holding that opinion and harming me makes you [and/or your fishing buddy] a bigot” is a horrible thing to say? I don’t think so.

Priya Lynn
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Blake, If you want to convince LGBTs they shouldn’t call anti-gays bigots then you should make that case but its a conversation stopper when you try to tell LGBTs something that is obviously not true, that some anti-gays are not bigots.

Look at the way John Corvino handled it, he never said the anti-marriage crowd weren’t bigots, instead he gave reasons why he thinks its better not to refer to them that way.

You have to ask yourself what your goal is. Do you want to convince all LGBTs some of the anti-marriage crowd aren’t bigots, something that you’ll never achieve because its a conversation stopper, or do you want to convince all LGBTs that although all of the anti-marriage crowd are bigots there are good reasons not to refer to them that way?

Blake
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Corvino’s a spokesman and an academic. He has a reputation to maintain. I’m nobody. I ain’t got nothing to lose, if you’ll pardon the Southernism, Pryia. So, yes, you read my motivations correctly in that I’m taking the argument a step further and positing that most of our opponents are not bigots. Some are, but they tend to live in Kansas, come from the same family and go to the same church.

They certainly seem to be bigots but as Marcus Aurelius reminds us “Everything we see is perception, not the truth.”

Jared, as JFK observed about the American people, “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” You’re not supposed to accept that people rely on their buddies more than proper authorities as rational, Jarred. You just have to accept that it’s common and typically American.

Also, I’m not sure if this was clear but the italicized parts of the hypothetical conversation were a window into the unexpressed. The conversation remained the same. The fishing buddy wouldn’t have come up unless Roger-rational checked his instinct to call Bobby out on his perceived bigotry.

Jarred
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

They certainly seem to be bigots but as Marcus Aurelius reminds us “Everything we see is perception, not the truth.”

If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it probably isn’t a cow.

You’re not supposed to accept that people rely on their buddies more than proper authorities as rational, Jarred.

So how is that not prejudiced and bigoted. They’re making opinions based on beliefs — whether their own or what their buddies told them — rather than actual facts. Those opinions and the actions they take based on those opinions harm other people.

You’re basically assuming that people aren’t bigots without any evidence despite the fact that all the evidence points to bigotry. Why?

You just have to accept that it’s common and typically American.

That doesn’t make it any less bigoted, Blake.

Jarred
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

I really don’t see why I should extend the benefit of the doubt to someone who clearly has no intention of extending me the same courtesy.

Timothy Kincaid
October 5th, 2012 | LINK

Jarred

I guess it comes down to this: do you want to persuade them and change their minds or do you want a reason to hate and dismiss them?

Jarred
October 6th, 2012 | LINK

Timothy: Again, you’re making assumptions. I can think someone is bigoted and still speak persuasively. And sometimes, “Hey, no matter how nice you think you are what you are doing is not acceptable, not cool, and not something a nice person does,” can be a very powerful and persuasive argument. Especially if you force them to focus on the outcomes of their actions rather than their self-perception, as the latter can often be completely disconnected from the reality of the former.

Also, I don’t think that thinking someone is a bigot means I have to hate them. Please quit attributing thoughts and motives to me.

Jarred
October 6th, 2012 | LINK

Seriously, I’m always amazed at people who want to make excuses for why those who would continue and support the oppression of any disadvantaged group aren’t such bad people, but are willing to immediately assuming that my intent is to be hateful and dismissive when I say, “Excuses and motives don’t matter. If you contribute to the oppression of others, you will be viewed as someone who does exactly as that.”

Lynnette C.
October 6th, 2012 | LINK

OK, I may be a bit of a pollyanna, but here goes.
I have met bigots, and I have met fear. This is what I discovered.
Rhinocerous’ are not bigoted, they are blind. What you ask? Simple. A Rhino will charge anything in its path that it does not understand (see). People do the same thing. If we do not understand the action, belief, feelings of another we attack it. What creates the attack? Fear of the unknown. Fear of the possibility this thing in front of me could hurt me. Fear that, “I feel these “feelings” is it possible that am gay?” No, attack, that way the feeling will go away.
No diffrent than a rhinocerous attacking a moving jeep, it could be another rhino for all our blind, one-horned bully knows.
Allow this thought to roam around for a moment…if we do not understand the process another goes through, straight or not, do we also attack in some form? Does that make all of us bigots?
Just askin’

TampaZeke
October 6th, 2012 | LINK

Let me put it this way.

I grew up in rural MISSISSIPPI in the 60’s and 70’s and I’ve NEVER met a SINGLE person who self identified as a “bigot”. I’ve also NEVER met a SINGLE bigot who didn’t take offense at being called a bigot and I’ve known hundreds, if not thousands, of bigots personally. I’m even related to quite a few of them.

Think about that.

Eric in Oakland
October 7th, 2012 | LINK

I am slightly confused about why we are asking this question. We can’t even agree on the meaning of the word, which is a prerequisite to deciding who fits in the category. And if the only difference between a non-bigotted opponent of gay rights and a bigotted opponent is some nebulous emotion or degree of animus, then what practical difference does it make? Either way they are opponents and their opposition is based on something other than sound evidence or rational discourse. You can’t reason someone out of a position that they did not arrive at through reason in the first place.

If we were discussing the opponents of desegregation or women’s suffrage, would we be asking this question?

ZRAinSWVA
October 7th, 2012 | LINK

TampaZeke, you make a great point. The reality in those days, though, is that you might have had one or two television stations and access to one newspaper. The opportunity for hearing alternative views was far-and-few between–and to go against the ‘norm’ was to risk being ostracized. I know, having grown-up in rural Appalachia. Today, though, one has to be intellectually lazy to not encounter a host of differing viewpoints on a daily if not hourly basis. My point being, there are a great number of people out there who deliberately choose to limit their news sources to those that are ‘comfortable’. If they do so, in my mind, they are choosing to be intellectually lazy bigots who likely don’t want to have a conversation that challenges their world view. They are generally not worth my time because they really just don’t care to think outside their little box and don’t want anything to challenge their worldview.

Priya Lynn
October 7th, 2012 | LINK

Eric in Oakland, you win the thread – great point.

Désirée
October 7th, 2012 | LINK

wow – so much hand wringing trying to justify bigotry as not really bigotry. I don’t care what their motivation or reasons are. If they are acting in a bigoted manner (and opposing marriage *equality* for whatever reason) is acting in a bigoted manner. It is saying “you (gay person) do not deserve the same thing that I reserve for myself” How is that not bigotry? Claiming it is from the bible or from your pastor or your fishing buddy simply doesn’t matter. It’s bigotry. I’m not going to get my panties in a twist feeling bad about calling something what it is.

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