“I don’t hate gay people, I just believe in traditional marriage.” This is the new brand of anti-gay messaging that is trending among high profile conservatives. It is smart, it works well with the movable middle, and it is unbelievably infuriating for advocates of equality. This "it’s nothing personal" mindset attempts to create a false halfway point, where it is deemed acceptable to tolerate the existence of gay and lesbian people, but it remains unacceptable to offer them equal rights.
Lynn Vincent, the co-writer of Sarah Palin’s new book, Going Rogue, and Carrie Prejean, the beauty queen who will not go away, are the latest to exemplify this dangerous rhetoric. In an interview love-fest between the two, Lynn and Carrie bond over how they buck their “fanatical homophobe” labels because they have gay and lesbian people in their lives. Lynn’s sister is a lesbian activist, and her best friend and her “longtime lesbian partner” were bridesmaids in Lynn’s wedding, while Carrie’s hairdresser and the guy who taught her how to pageant walk are both gay.
These women obviously do not understand how deeply condescending, disrespectful, and offensive their argument is. They are basically saying that gay people should be able to do your hair and teach you a fierce runway walk, but should not be able to get married. Though Carrie’s examples fall on the comical side, Lynn’s are more disheartening. How can she have the lesbians in her life be a part of her wedding, yet still have the audacity to believe that they should never enjoy the same opportunity? Why is Lynn’s love inherently more deserving than the love of others?
Lynn says she longs for people to stop the name-calling and have a civil debate about marriage. Sounds good, but I don’t know what there is to debate. She wants the opportunity to have a legally recognized relationship with the person she loves. So do I. It is that simple.
If I sound rigid on the lack of middle ground, it is only because the marriage battles waged over the last few years have crystallized this issue for me. I urge Lynn, Carrie, and anyone else who thinks they can have gay friends and discriminate against them too, to envision the following:
Imagine being stopped outside your neighborhood grocery store and asked to sign a petition that takes away one of your rights. Then imagine seeing that your neighbors have actually taken the time to put up church-supplied signs in their yards advertising that they don’t want you to have the same rights they do. Finally, imagine the heartbreak involved when everyone in your state gets to vote on whether or not you should be treated equally or not.
It’s nothing personal?
The fact is that the issue of equality is nothing but personal. If we are going to change hearts and minds, LGBT people need to educate everyone in their lives on why marriage equality is important to them.
(Image courtesy of mtsofan's photostream on Flickr)