Matthew Rozsa deconstructs the dangerous logic being used by the anti-gay rights movement in America today.
Over the last week or so, there has been a growing problem with the logic of the anti-gay rights movement. Let’s see if this article from the right-wing blog InfoWars about Vester Lee Flanagan, the African-American gay man who shot two reporters in Virginia, gives you a clue:
“Police reportedly confiscated a gay pride flag from Flanagan’s apartment on Wednesday, but in an example of hypocrisy, this hasn’t sparked outrage from liberals who wanted to ban the Confederate flag due to its association with Charleston, S.C. church shooter Dylann Roof.”
Haven’t figured it out yet? Maybe it will become clear when you look at the argument presented by Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who has made headlines by refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses:
“To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. It is a matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment, the Kentucky Constitution, and in the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Our history is filled with accommodations for people’s religious freedom and conscience. I want to continue to perform my duties, but I also am requesting what our Founders envisioned – that conscience and religious freedom would be protected.”
In case you haven’t deduced it yet, the common theme is simply this: Opponents of gay rights wish to confuse the public about the difference between being oppressed and being an oppressor. This is a predictable response in a nation that just legalized gay marriage – and its underlying reasoning needs to be nipped in the bud.
We can start with InfoWar’s juxtaposition of the Confederate and Gay Rights flags. Although Flanagan owned a rainbow flag and cited perceived homophobia as a motive for his killings, the rainbow flag cannot be logically conflated with the stars-and-bars because it represents a movement that fights for human rights, not against them. This doesn’t mean that gay rights activists have never engaged in hateful or violent activities (see: Vester Lee Flanagan), but when they have done so it was because they betrayed the underlying ideals behind their movement. The Confederate flag, as I’ve explained before, was popularized specifically to promote white supremacy in the South – an ideal that inherently involves subordinating one group of human beings to another. By contrast, the Gay Rights flag represents an oppressed group’s wish to be treated as equals with the rest of society. This is a crucial distinction.
A similar point undermines Davis’ position. While she has every right to live in accordance with her own religious principles, the separation of church-and-state forbids her from using government power to impose those personal convictions on others. Arguing that she is somehow the victim ignores the fundamental power dynamic at play here: Davis isn’t being forced to change her religious convictions, but is instead using her office to deny other people their Constitutional rights. No matter how much she tries to spin it otherwise, she is the one with power in this situation, and the men and women who are unable to get married in her county are the ones without it. Likewise, she is the one who is identifying with an oppressive cause – namely, that of opposing full social equality for the gay community – and her opponents are the ones identifying with the rights of the underdog.
These observations should be obvious, but it’s problematic that social conservatives are able to characterize the anti-gay rights movement as victims and the LGBT community as oppressors without being universally ridiculed as a result. Because we live at a time in which justice rather than brute strength is held in highest regard, the groups that have dominated society in the past by using said strength (usually in the form of political and economic institutions) are now trying to rewrite both history and the present so that they can appear to hold the moral high ground. In the case of the gay rights movement, this means that the same religious groups who managed to persecute homosexuals for most of our history now need to pretend as if all of those past events didn’t matter at all. They need to ignore that the rainbow flag was created to empower the disempowered, and that until recently the anti-gay opinions of religious Americans determined marital policy and not the other way around. Only then can they have any chance of reclaiming the power that was once theirs but is being gradually lost.
We cannot let them do this.