(c) by Mary Griggs
Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is getting quite a reputation for his racially charged statements. Not to be satisfied with offending only one group, he went on the radio the other day and said:
They (LGBT activists) do not believe in a live and let live philosophy. Let’s be very clear about what their agenda is, their agenda is to have the homosexual lifestyle affirmed by society as healthy and normal and as a perfectly acceptable to young people and to have those who disagree with that ostracized the level of being Ku Klux Klansmen.
It is really hard to respectfully engage with people I disagree with, especially when the disagreements are based on the other sides fundamental disrespect for me as a person. His use of the word lifestyle, when it is clearly my life he is talking about, is a perfect example of that.
Frankly, there can be no ‘live and let live’ when one side has the power to fire (it is legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation in 29 states), kill (there are 70 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal and 7 where it is punishable by death), or define the other side’s relationships as less worthy of protection (30 states ban all forms of marriage except one-man-one-woman couples) and the other does not. It is difficult to coexist peacefully with someone who wants to put your rights up to a vote, outlaw any mention of your existence in schools, and fight to deny you custody of your children. Here in Louisiana, morality clauses in rental agreements are legally used to evict LGBT tenants and most public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, bars) are legally able to refuse service based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
But the real issue I have with his statement is about healthy and normal and what is perfectly acceptable.
In 1974 the full membership of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) followed the 1973 recommendation of its board by voting to remove homosexuality as a pathological psychiatric condition from the DSM, which is the official reference book for diagnosing mental disorders. Since that time, sexual orientation has not been seen as the disease but homophobia and social prejudice are.
A 1999 review by researcher Bruce Bagemihl showed that homosexual and bisexual behavior has been observed in close to 1,500 species, ranging from primates to gut worms, and is well documented for 500 of them. How is that for defining what is natural and normal?
Just because a person believes that homosexuality is wrong, doesn’t make that belief right nor is it grounds to make that belief the law of the land. Preventing other human beings from having the same rights that you yourself enjoy – all based on personal prejudice – is not right either.
People like Richard Land simply have to deal with the uncomfortable knowledge that people they disagree with have equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, too many people have a deep down, inescapable vindictiveness against folks they don’t like. In their minds, other people simply cannot be allowed have their way, even if doing so makes no difference in their own lives.
They scream: “Marriage is between a man and a woman! Only straight boys can be Scouts! Non-procreative sex is a sin! The world is ours and you can’t have it!”
They don’t even realize they are sounding like spoiled brats. What is most infuriating, though, is they aren’t even being denied something that costs them anything. It is like the air we breath. They are looking at people and saying, “No! Queers can’t share our air! Air is only for straights! Go breathe something else but not as good as air!”
We went through this already in the Civil Rights movement and Brown vs. Board of Education. “Separate but equal” is not equal. Every citizen of this country should have the same legal rights, not some second-class variation thereof. What churches want to do in their own private religious ceremonies is their business but, before the law, we are all equal.
One thing Richard Land said does resonate with me. I am a liberal lesbian activist and I believe there could be social utility in ostracizing those whose behavior is unacceptable. In the same manner that most citizens shun the Klan’s spectacles of racism, I think those who who celebrate their homophobia and transphobia by trying to enshrine discrimination into law should be excluded from the public square.
Unfortunately, the pain of exclusion is more likely to breed alienation than acceptance and intolerance very rarely leads to more tolerance.
I guess I should be satisfied with changing the laws that discriminate and leave the changing of hearts to others. As the very wise Dr Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”