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'Bigot': The less we use it, the more they claim it

by Jeremy Hooper

Regular G-A-Y readers know that I never use words like "bigot," preferring to instead focus on concrete advocacy rather than whatever might be motivation the action. In fact, in over six years of this site and a gagillion words spilled on the subject of marriage alone, I've never once used the word "bigot" (except in reference).

Yet despite my personal editorial choices, I've always been cognizant of the fact that some do. I've understood it, too. This stuff is highly personal and deeply hurtful. For those of us who get soul crushed by it, it can be difficult to temper the pushback. Some don't want to temper the pushback -- and I've always understood that. I've never said that my perspective is *the* perspective, only that it is my own personal approach to a "culture war."

But something interesting has happened over the past few years. In any given 365 day period, I go to lots of LGBT and associated political events, take lots of meetings with various organizations, spend time within (or at least privy to) various campaigns, and certainly read a whole heck of a lot about this ongoing fight. Within this world, I've noticed a shift. It's subtle, but it's there. Whereas the more generalized view of the anti-LGBT opposition was once along the lines of "Ugh, those haters," lately there's more of a tendency to roll eyes, sidestep the onslaught, and laugh at the other side's ridiculousness.

Or sometimes it's pity. As in, "Those poor misguided folks who can't accept LGBT people -- such a loss for them." As we progress in such momentous ways, there's been a little more ease in this area. Less raised fists, more snarky, knowing smiles.

Now don't get me wrong: There's still anger at this fight. I myself holds lots of anger towards the fact that we still have to challenge this stuff. But what I'm saying is that if I had to assess the movement, I'd say that the organized coalition of 2012 is much different from the organized coalition at mid-decade. With greater gains we've found greater confidence; with greater confidence, we're founded greater ability to brush aside the ridiculousness.

Okay, so why this generalized thought exercise now? Well, because I've noticed something else interesting. That is: As the aforementioned has happened on our side, the other side's chorus of self-victimization has grown exponentially. Like take Bishop-Obrienthis, a snippet from an Op-Ed that Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien of the Archdiocese of Baltimore contributed to The Baltimore Sun:

Fortunately, people of good will in Maryland, a state founded on the belief that everyone can practice his or her faith without government interference, still have this right. They should be able to vote their consciences in November without fear of being labeled "intolerant bigots." Sadly, that is but one of the ugly volleys lobbed by some at those who want simply to protect the institutions of marriage and the family, believing it is what is best for society — not out of some hostility toward our sisters and brothers who are attracted to others of the same sex.

Might we be experiencing, indeed, intolerance behind the mask of "tolerance?"

Ironically, it is the very people crying intolerance who are practicing it. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of theU.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, perhaps said it best in defending the Catholic Church against such baseless claims: "We reject all hatred and unjust treatment against any person. Our profound regard for marriage as the complementary and fruitful union of a man and a woman does not negate our concern for the well-being of all people but reinforces it."

This effort has proved ugly on many fronts.
FULL: A radical redefinition of marriage [Balt Sun]

Now, the truth is that Maryland's pro-equality side is not, by and large, engaging in any of the rhetoric that O'Brien lays at our feet. No one who speaks for our side would ever go in The Baltimore Sun and actually say "you are a bigot." Sure, independent voices say any number of things, on both sides of this debate (you should see my inbox!). But the people who brought this law into being -- lawmakers, the governor, the campaign on our side, etc. -- focused on the merits of marriage equality, its concrete basis under law, and its deservedness, which exists regardless of anyone's personal view on gays or religious opposition to the same. And in fact, our side is always making it clear that we FULLY SUPPORT people's right to oppose us and even deny us of religious services.

But that's the thing about it: Just as progress has brought us a greater sense of ease, loss has brought our opposition a greater sense of desperation. So true to form for that side, desperation breeds obfuscation. The other side -- led in no small part by conservative thought leader Maggie Gallagher, who was one of the first and loudest to start putting these "they'll call us bigots" claims our there -- there has been an aggressive attempt to tell America that gay activists are all out there hurling insults and showing "intolerance" to religious people, regardless of the obvious truths that bely their spin. They, the supposedly "moral" folks who are duty-bound to bear accurate witness, have no problem misrepresenting us and our fight, in hopes that our neighbors will cast a few more stones.

I am politically astute enough to know why they do this: It's surely because their polling shows that they get mileage out of it. But the tactic is immensely detrimental to the national conversation. It's politicking at its worst; "values voting" at its most cynical and/or manipulative.

Do some people on our side use the word "bigot"? Sure.

Do far more people on our side, especially the ones directly challenging Cardinal O'Brien, focus on the merits of marriage equality? ABSOLUTELY.

It's past time for those who strategically adopt and misappropriate this "poor, pitiful me" act to start owning the slate of biases that have earned them their most heated criticisms. This effort has proved ugly, indeed.

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