Why This Primary Season is Even More Unpalatable than Usual
Like most of us, I’m trying to maintain my sanity during this presidential primary season, but it’s no easy task. Whether it’s on the news or my newsfeed, I’m finding it impossible to digest the unsavory Republican rhetoric without it repeating on me. It’s downright nauseating to witness a group of supposedly intelligent men vigorously clamor for the GOP nod by promising to reverse Supreme Court decisions and trash the equal rights of over ten per cent of the American population. To attempt to watch a GOP debate, with all the mocking facial expressions, distorting of facts, and shameless pandering to a constituency of bigots, is about as pleasant an experience as drinking a glass of wine and realizing the lipstick print on it isn’t mine. The rhetoric surrounding the argument of religious freedom vs. civil rights is the most distasteful and clearly illustrates just how unsettled the recent progress of the LGBT rights movement has left the Right.
Why is marriage equality even up for debate anyway? Isn’t the Supreme Court’s decision supreme? They ruled that treating gay couples differently from straight couples is unconstitutional, so I can’t, in the name of Edith Windsor, understand how conservatives continue to get away with painting themselves as Christian martyrs to manipulate the conversation about religious freedom. Are rational people that afraid of speaking out against bigotry veiled in religion lest they be labeled bullies and have their own religious values called into question?
The whole point seems rather moot. While I’m not a constitutional scholar or expert on the intentions of our forefathers in any way, I’m pretty confident that the term “religious freedom” was coined to protect a person’s right to worship any religion they choose, any god, tree or doorknob, without persecution. But I’m hard-pressed to believe our founding fathers would approve of this being used as an excuse to disregard the law or as a shield behind which people can hide their motives to discriminate against other Americans whose lifestyles they don’t approve of.
For the latter point we have everyone’s favorite Kentucky town clerk, Kim Davis, who proclaimed with a straight-face (if you’ll pardon the expression) that she, a woman three-times divorced, was exercising her “religious freedom” denying a gay couple a license because she felt gay marriage destroyed the sanctity of traditional marriage. A loving couple trying to marry doesn’t destroy marriage, divorce does. And with an approximated 50% of heterosexual unions ending in divorce, straight people like Kim Davis have been crapping on this sacred institution well before the gays came late to the reception. Backlash against Davis and other religious zealots like her doesn’t make them victims of anything. It exposes the hypocrisy of extremists who feign being victims to promote their hate-fueled agendas.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the height of my fear of an anti-gay Republican presidency is occurring during the Lenten season. As the Catholics observe their ritual fasting in preparation for Easter, I’m reminded of a Good Friday not long ago when my Catholic friend of more than thirty years, Anne, and I went out to breakfast. We have religious differences—she’s Christian and I’m not—yet shockingly, those differences did not cause conflict or ruin in any way our ability to enjoy breakfast together. Since I’m not Catholic, I was free to order a stack of scrumptious blueberry pancakes with a side of sinfully delicious bacon. Anne, a Catholic, also ordered pancakes but not bacon. However, what separated Anne from your average rabid evangelical is that she did not stand on the table and protest my choice to order bacon, claiming the sight of me devouring crispy strips of pork was destroying the sanctity of her Good Friday breakfast; nor did she petition members of Congress demanding that bacon and all other meats be banned from restaurants on Good Friday because it offends her Christian sensibilities. Anne simply ate what was on her plate, and I ate what was on mine, and we managed to accomplish this without judging and condemning each other for our menu choices.
Is marriage equality really that different from ordering bacon at restaurants on Good Friday? In either case, Christians follow one set of beliefs and non-Christians another, yet no candidate is exploiting processed meats (Trump steaks?) for political gain, mainly because that would make them look ridiculous. But for some reason, threatening to rob the civil rights of an entire group of Americans doesn’t. In fact, there’s plenty of incentive for attacking gay rights: an enormous voter base ripe for the picking. And the nominees are poised and eager to let those LGBT heretics know America’s not giving up its traditional family values so that gays can… well, whatever it is you gays want! (Um, be to be treated like regular human beings would be nice.)
Unfortunately, many conservatives still believe acceptance somehow signals the tearing away of America’s illusive moral fiber, as if corporate greed, back-door political deals, and the long-standing tradition of ignoring poverty and racism hadn’t already torn it away long ago.
At the core of their hysteria is bigotry and fear. If gays and lesbians are granted equal citizen status by the federal government and Supreme Court, then state and municipal governments “run by the bigots for the bigots” will no longer have leverage. And when the next batch of gays and lesbians with the misfortune of living in one of those communities goes to court to fight for their SCOTUS-given rights, no religious ideology can stand in their way.