I hope that other marriage rights advocates will join me in putting away charges of hate against those who would discriminate against us, our loved ones, our fellow Americans.
Recently, Matthew Franck of the William E and Carol G Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute wrote an essay in the Washington Post asking that advocates of personal liberty not “play the hate card”. I promise that I will not ‘play the hate card’ and I also will ask that others will join me.
Why? Because my goal is the fair and equal treatment of LGBTQ folks and their families and I know the law is on our side. I know from history that with consistent hard work of justice minded people, the Constitution will protect individuals from the tyranny of the masses. We are not backing down and the wheels are set in motion–with our perseverance and courage and social justice co-laboring and allied work we will win what is rightly due.
So I will be as kind, compassionate, and understanding as I can be as we continue on our righteous path.
Just as we justice workers have learned the language difference between:
“You are a racist” versus “What you just said sounded racist”
we can learn to approach our those who would withhold liberty by not calling them hateful or bigots.
Franck in his essay says he and others feel tired of being compared to those who stood in the way of civil rights and supported anti-miscegenation laws. While we don’t need to compare Franck and detractors of liberty to those movements, we can most likely agree that Franck and many members of those past movements were honestly doing their best. They had good intentions, were motivated by perhaps their faith, their care for the nation, their care for society. That is a hard pill to swallow, but gay marriage advocates would do well to accept that for any given individual from the ‘traditional marriage’ movement, it may be love (albeit misguided and twisted) not hate that is motivating them.
This is to our favor to recognize. Who better to speak the language of love than those who wish to marry and their loving allies? We know what it is to love, so let us engage them at the level of love. Franck may be right on this point: call someone a ‘hater’ and the conversation is pretty much over. Begin to share to your experience of love and romance, and you may well have their attention.
A few words about ‘hate’:
So while I’m not going to level charges of hate against individuals, I think it is important to see why the use of ‘hate’ has been used to describe the anti-liberty movements.
1. Hate speech laws. Hate speech laws need not investigate the interior emotional state of a person or their disposition towards the aggrieved party. All that is needed is proof that there may incite prejudiced action or violence, or may be libelous towards a lawfully protected group. When an individual advocates the discrimination of a protected group, it can be valid to investigate whether their actions qualify as hate speech. It is always well for us LGBTQ folk and allies to remember to remind our detractors that we would do the same if someone sought to discriminate against them. We can remind them: “Its not personal. I’m just standing on the side of righteousness and justice. If you ever are denied justice, I’ll be in your corner too.”
2. ‘Hate’ has a variance of meaning. For example, Jesus said that to follow him, one had to hate their parents. That doesn’t mean one must scowl at their parents and begrudge them. Many preachers and commentaries have pointed out that Luke 14:26 says one must ‘hate their family’ as well as their ‘own life’ and simply means that one must ‘value with less esteem’ or with ‘lower priority’ these than the Divine. By Jesus use of hate, is it hateful what Franck and the Witherspoon Institute are doing? Well, being made into a second class citizen would seem a bit like being given ‘lower priority’. Discrimination and poor treatment need not have ‘gut feelings’ of anger, spite, vitriol. Again, we advocates for marriage equality would do well to remember we cannot see the inner state of another. We can take a page out of the Christian scriptures some like to use as a weapon: “judge not”.
I’m happy to put aside “hate” because US law and the common grounds of reason are on our side.
If ‘hate’ language like Mr. Franck says, stops a debate I won’t use it because I am assured that the grounds of reasoned debate will favor LBGTQ families.
Be very sure of this: just because I won’t use the “hate card” doesn’t mean I will stand by for a minute and allow any word or deed that may incite violence or disparage my loved ones. In the public arena through compassionate debate and vigorous social justice action and through applying all the laws that protect against discrimination, I will be steadfast against those who would molest liberty and my loved ones’ full enjoyment of life.
Our cause is assured and our goal is near. Just because some oppose me does not mean I need make of them my enemy. When this issue is settled I will extend to them the very Christian forgiveness and love that they seemed unwilling to share to us.
NPR’s coverage of Franck’s essay:
Matthew Franck’s essay in the Washington Post: