Spreading Hate

On election day, something unexpected happened: California voters elected Barack Obama as the next President but also voted yes on Proposition 8. For those unaware, Prop 8 was an amendment to the California Constitution meant to rescind the right for same-sex couples to marry. It had been granted earlier in 2008 when the California Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional not to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Naturally, there was a horrendous backlash. Gay rights activists all over the country screamed bloody murder. In California, local activists started targeting businesses that were owned or managed those known to have contributed to the “Yes On 8” campaign. El Coyote, a mainstay restaurant in Los Angeles (a really awesome place, I’ve been there and I love it), was targeted because the owner’s daughter–also a manager–had given just over $1,000 to Yes On 8. The negative publicity forced the manager to resign. Many were forced to resign in the face of vehement demands that they do so. The gay community fronted the targeting of these people and did so shamelessly–and still claim they are right to do so because “we’re trying to stop hate.”

I guess that depends on how you define hate.

It’s popular at these gay rights rallies to hold signs reading “stop the h8,” “stay out of my relationship,” and “stop the Christian taliban.” One woman stripped to her thong underwear, put tape over her nipples, and wrote “stripped of human rights” across her chest in black electrical tape. If it weren’t crude enough to get me kicked off, I’d post it. Since when is marriage considered a human right? If marriage is a human right, then why are churches not penalized for refusing to marry straight couples who refuse to go through their marriage counseling course? Starving someone, beating them half to death, publicly humiliating a person with violence, raping them–those things are stripping someone of human rights. It makes you look ridiculous to claim hate and a violation of human rights over something that small. In light of the true violations going on in our world, yes, gay marriage is small.

My father doesn’t agree with gay marriage. Does that mean he hates me? Absolutely not. My father and I are now very good friends; we disagree on some things, but I know that my dad loves me. I take it very personally when people decry as hatemongers those who vote for marriage protection amendments because of the kind of man my father is. Same with my brother…I know he loves me and the fact that I’m gay is little more than a second thought. The people I’m closest to aren’t trying to limit my life or make me a second-class citizen; they just don’t see the point of altering what marriage has been all throughout history. It is perfectly okay to agree to disagree.

When I was a teenager going to church, bands like Five Iron Frenzy and the Supertones were big names. I still have very fond memories of going to the ska/punk shows with my church friends, though now many of them won’t give me the time of day. Two years ago, the death of one of our friends brought us all back together quite unexpectedly. All of us had changed in many ways, but one thing was made very clear: some of them did not want to continue to speak to me after we all parted ways. One of them at least had the guts to tell me why, because they didn’t approve of the fact that I had come out, and some didn’t believe that the friend who had died approved of it, either. If that’s their view, fine. That just means they weren’t real friends to begin with. The church I went to after that was shocked and openly disapproving when I finally admitted to them that I was gay. But I’m not willing to accuse any of them of real hate. Sure, they’re jerks for acting like that, but hatemongers? I save that title for the lone “friend” who threatened to kill me after I came out.

Using the accusation that someone is a bigot or a hatemonger over issues like this only sounds hysterical. We’re not winning anyone’s hearts and minds with this kind of behavior. In fact, I think we stand a very good chance of losing all we’ve gained if we keep this up. We need to be far more wise in our application of titles such as “hate.” And if you’re only using this accusation to stop an argument, you’re doubly wrong. Fred Phelps is the perfect measuring stick, folks–if someone is doing things like what he does, it’s hate. If it’s little more than disagreeing with one aspect of a larger issue, you sound ridiculous and you make us all look just like you.

I’d like to be able to have a civil conversation with those who are against gay marriage. This sort of thing makes them want to shut us all out.