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04/10/2015

So now the anti-gay right is fine with the 'bigot' label?

by Jeremy Hooper

I'm not an ad hominem guy in general. It's just not really in my nature to call people a name based on characteristics or even actions. I much prefer to address the actions and unpack the complexities rather than reduce a person at a center of a situation to a one word term. That's the main reason why I, when I started writing about LGBT issues, chose not to call people words like "bigot" or "hater" or "hate monger," etc.

The other reason is because I knew the other side found it both unfair and convenient. By unfair, I mean many of them sincerely thought it was an unfair reduction of their views which, especially at the time that I started this work (2005), were truly more complex than just "hate." By convenient, I mean they loved to use it against us to suggest that we had no credible arguments so therefore we must call them names. I found those truths to be compelling reasons to not give them the "in." Coupled with my own natural resistance, I have managed to go ten years now without ever writing the word "bigot" other than in reference to something someone else said or to make some other kind of point.

But lately I've noticed something very interesting. As the anti-LGBT right loses more battles and therefore becomes more desperate, they are increasingly quite okay with suggesting that those of us who challenge their ideals are, in fact, bigots. For example, check out this new interview with the Washington florist who turned two customers away from the public accommodation that she runs simply because the customers were two grooms rather than a bride and a groom. The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, makes such a point of suggesting that those who stand against her discriminatory practices are the real "bigots" that The Daily Signal (a publication of the Heritage Foundation) makes it the headline:

Q&A With Washington Florist on Religious Freedom: ‘Who Are the Real Bigots Here?’ [Daily Signal]

And this is just one example. I see it all the time now in just about any situation where LGBT people stand up for themselves in matters of discrimination:

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 At 2.08.48 PmScreen Shot 2015-04-10 At 2.09.08 Pm

And you know what? It's bull.

First of all, it's most always wrongheaded. The mere idea that customers who public accommodations turn away could be "bigots" is just way off base. You might not agree with nondiscrimination protections that afford LGBT people a right to obtain goods and services without undignified, embarrassing, and even cruel treatment, but the many people who do are not "bigots" for supporting a basic concept that we have understood in this nation of quite some time now. And no, you don't have any more right to use the "bigot" reduction if you profess that your views are guided by your faith. In fact, some (most?) would say your own standard gives you less entitlement to use such unfair reductions.

But more than just being wrongheaded, it's also downright hypocritical. For years we've listened to these people, who were very much trying to defeat our rights and our protections in any number of ways, insist that we automatically lose the debate and show our true colors if we let our understandable anger manifest in a certain characterization of our debate opponent. But now it's perfectly okay for them to use the "bigot" word directed at us? And not only at us, but in a blanket form (which is its crudest and most anti-intellectual form) that puts whole swaths of Americans from all walks of life in a "bigot" box for simply rallying to the defense of basic consumer protections (in the case of Stutzman) or basic civil rights (like in the case of marriage, nondiscrimination, etc.)? No! That is not okay.

You can't spend years demanding that certain words are unfair and off-limits in a debate and then turn around and started dishing them freely once your political fates change. I mean, you can do that—but you can't do it without your rhetorical victimhood looking as fake as manufactured as just about every other aspect of your political movement.

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