Blog 059: Gay Marriage and Hate Speech, Part I

Part I: The American Religious Right Goes Ballistic

David Rand

The White House lit up to celebrate the SCOTUS decision. Photo: CNN
The White House lit up to celebrate the SCOTUS decision. Photo: CNN

You have undoubtedly heard of the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) legalizing gay marriage in the entire country and striking down any state-level legislation banning gay marriage. This is of course a major victory for gay rights in particular, for human rights in general and especially for secularism because the forces which oppose and continue to oppose gay rights base their homophobia principally on religion and, in the USA, especially on Christianity.

Although the SCOTUS decision is remarkable, even momentous, we must not forget that gay marriage is already recognized in a score of other countries. It is about time the USA caught up and began to get civilized. What is even more remarkable than the decision itself is the intensity and profound stupidity of the reaction against it. The civilization process of the USA evidently takes time.

For example, Ted Cruz, US senator for Texas and a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, has proposed that the justices who ruled for marriage equality be thrown out. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Governor and also a candidate for the Republican nomination simply declared “Let’s just get rid of the court”. Both Cruz and Jindal would like to amend the US constitution to enable states to outlaw gay marriage, regardless of the SCOTUS decision. Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor and yet another Republican presidential hopeful has declared that he will not accept the gay marriage ruling by this ‘Imperial Court’, adding:

The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity…
…this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty…

Huckabee even compared the recent ruling to the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857 which ruled that blacks are not fully human, thus helping to trigger the American Civil War. Huckabee is wrong by 180 degrees: the Dred Scott decision was a refusal to extend equal rights to blacks in addition to whites, whereas the recent decision in favour of gay marriage extends rights to gays in addition to heterosexuals. Furthermore the issue of states’ rights promoted by opponents of gay marriage was also a key argument used by those who supported slavery. The arguments used by opponents of same-sex marriage are very similar to those used by opponents of racially mixed marriage (between blacks and whites) in the USA, which is not surprising given that the same people usually oppose both. Those reasons include that it is unnatural, that it will lead to the destruction of the nation or the end of civilization, slippery-slope arguments, etc.

Bryan Fischer, former Director of the American Family Association (AFA), compared the Court’s decision to the destruction of the World Trade Center on 2001-09-11 and to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, declaring that “From a Moral Standpoint, 6/26 is Now Our 9/11” and asserting that the justices who approved gay marriage are “moral jihadists” and “rainbow jihadists.” Recently, Fischer criticized the Obama administration for promoting “sexual deviancy” and “fast tracking sin” by appointing homosexual and intersexed persons to positions of authority. Fischer’s malevolence towards intersexed persons — to whom he refers as “whatever that is” — is particularly mean-spirited.

So why are these neanderthals so upset? Huckabee’s comment about “a serious blow to religious liberty” hits the nail almost directly on the head, except for one very important word. Rather than “liberty,” the operative word here is “privilege.” That is to say, they are whining about their painful loss of religious privilege. Christians in the USA (and in Canada and other countries to a lesser extent) have until recently been given almost complete free reign, their supernaturally-based moral codes having traditionally been given complete validation as unquestionable. But in recent years they have lost some of the prerogatives to which they have become accustomed. Sexual mores have evolved. Abortion and homosexuality — two subjects about which they constantly obsess — have become socially acceptable to some extent. Christians no longer have complete impunity when they attempt to impose their antiquated morality on others who disagree with them. And like spoilt children deprived of a favourite toy, they whine, and they whine very loudly.

Some of these insane declarations could be considered a form of hate propaganda against gays and lesbians, although not as serious as the statement of an Arizona pastor calling for the killing of gays as specified in Leviticus. To the best of my knowledge there is no American legislation prohibiting hate speech, but Canada does have such a law. Paragraph 318 forbids promoting genocide while paragraph 319 prohibits inciting hatred against any identifiable group. Of course the criminalization of hate speech is a dangerous measure because it may very well be more widely applied than expected and be used to suppress important discussion such as criticism of political or religious ideologies. So I am not proposing that these wacko statements be criminalized in order to silence them; indeed the American public may well be better off knowing who is thinking such thoughts so that they know who not to vote for. It is nevertheless interesting to consider whether their statements might be illegal in Canada.

Go to Part II: Hate Speech Legislation in Canada

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