Joanna Schroeder gives a standing ovation to Vikings punter Chris Kluwe for his impassioned open letter about marriage equality, and insists that if we aren’t all doing the same, we’re participating in oppression.
You’re at a party, maybe it’s a barbecue. Maybe people from your church or your place of employment are in attendance. Maybe it’s your high school reunion, or your yearly fraternity reunion. Whatever it is, you’re there and someone says something along the lines of, “I don’t hate gays, I just think homosexuality is a sin.”
Or maybe they say, “I think gay people should have every right to be gay, but I don’t think they should be able to marry. Marriage is for one man and one woman. We can’t go changing that now.” And you pause. You look at your buddy and you think to yourself You’re totally wrong, dude, and I had no idea you were a closed-minded bigot!
Then you go through the internal debate that we’ve all experienced dozens of times when we feel our basic moral beliefs are being challenged. Should I, or should I not say something to this person? I don’t want to upset them or cause a problem … .
Our hesitance to challenge another often comes from a good place—a place of consideration for those around us who probably don’t want to hear a big political debate. We all probably notice a few beads of sweat on our upper lip when someone in a casual setting challenges another’s political or ethical stance. And we don’t want to do that to the people around us … We don’t want people to feel uncomfortable, right?
On Friday, Minnesota Vikings’ punter Chris Kluwe wrote an open letter to Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. about same-sex marriage. And the letter was not nice. Burns recently urged Steve Bisciotti (majority owner of the NFL) to silence his players about the issue of gay marriage after NFL player Brendon Ayenbadejo spoke out in favor of gay marriage—something state delegate Burns believes NFL players shouldn’t have the right to do.
Kluwe’s letter was published on Deadspin and has already gone massively viral, acquiring over 600,000 views in less than 12 hours. That’s INSANE, almost unheard of! Kluwe says, among about a billion other awesome things (laced with some of the most eloquent profanity we’ve ever read), the following:
As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you’re going to say that political views have “no place in a sport”?
How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you’ll start thinking about penis? “Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!” Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)
I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.
and this (emphasis mine):
I’ve also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing” and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.
It’s that last one that’s the clincher for me.
Here’s the thing: When you say nothing, you’re telling the person who is spouting hate that you agree. When you simply nod and change the subject, you’re saying, “You’re right, I think being gay is abhorrent, and I think LGBT people should be denied their civil rights.” And the more people who say that to your pal, even if they say it with their silence, the more he believes he is right, and that he is in the majority.
That’s why it’s your job as a good person (you do think you’re a good person, don’t you?) to stand up for your LGBT brethren. It’s your job to be the person who says, “Actually, I think you’re wrong” to that lady who insists the family needs to be protected from gay marriage. Why is it your job? Because it’s all of our jobs to defend those we care about against someone who wants to harm them. And people who are against same-sex marriage actually want to harm your LGBT friends, at the very least in the form of discrimination, and at the worst with violence. Remember Matthew Shepard? We need to never forget Matthew Shepard (and the many others like him).
You may think your friend, the one who is against same-sex marriage, is a good person. And maybe she is. Maybe she volunteers at the soup kitchen and brings meals to her friends who have just had babies. That’s so good of her; I admire that. But, as my friends Hugo Schwyzer and Michael Rowe explained to me not too long ago, the time is rapidly approaching where those who are bigoted against LGBT people can no longer be considered “good”, just as it’s very hard to imagine that the racist guy who thinks Black people shouldn’t legally be able to marry White people is actually a really good person deep inside his rancid, bigoted heart.
Beyond that, I believe there is a way to talk about our support of gay marriage that isn’t mean or highly confrontational. You don’t have to say, “You bigoted piece of crap!” to your neighbor at the block party (though I wouldn’t blame you). You can make your stance clear by saying, “I believe all Americans should have equal access to legal and civil rights, regardless of race, sexual orientation or anything else.”
You don’t have to insult your friend. You can keep your statements to yourself, what you believe, and the legality of the situation. You’re probably not going to convince an evangelical Christian that homosexuality is not a sin, or that they’re hypocrites for not following all of the other rules and regulations set forth in Leviticus.
But you can explain that we don’t legislate the other things the Bible says are sins, simply because the Bible says they’re bad. It’s not against the law to lie, or to cheat on your spouse, or to lust after your neighbor’s brand new Husqvarna chainsaw. It’s not illegal to acquire a massive fortune while children starve four miles away from your home. And yet the Bible makes clear that these things are sins. Even evangelical pastor Perry Noble asserts that the Bible takes a much stronger stance against gluttony than it does against homosexuality. And yet there are no laws against Supersizing that Big Mac Combo meal and tacking a hot fudge sundae onto the order.
Explain it calmly. Tell them they have every right to believe it’s a sin, but that they don’t have the right to prevent any law-abiding citizen’s equal access to civil rights. And yes, marriage is a civil right! It is a legal process—it happens in the courts—and it affords people civil benefits in taxation, social security, property ownership, inheritance, and in many other ways.
You never know, your friend may be like Emmett C. Burns Jr. and truly believe that no other NFL player is speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage equality. Yeah, I know you don’t play for the NFL, but maybe you’ll be one of the first elementary school teachers, or construction site overseers, or Catholics, or members of a bowling league, or computer programmers, or youth leader, or fathers of four daughters, or accounts managers, or whatever else it is about you that makes you who you are, who speaks out about same-sex marriage equality to this particular friend of yours.
Because until you say it, even if you say it gently and with love, you’re a part of the problem. Until you say it out loud, even when it’s a bit uncomfortable, you’re telling the oppressors that what they believe is a-okay by you.
You cool with that?
Oh, and Chris Kluwe? You’re a great writer and seem like a very good man. Thank you.
Also read: The Battle for Gay Rights is a Wrestling Match Over Masculine Identity by Liam Day
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings