Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gay Marriage and Bigotry

I think there are distinctions to be made in understanding the question of whether "contra gay marriage" is a form of bigotry.  

Bigotry, I'm surprised better to understand, is "the stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed or beliefs that differ from one's own." Synonyms for bigotry include "narrow-mindedness, bias, discrimination. So perhaps the first distinction is between the detonative and connotative meanings of the word, the latter more sensationally fraught than the former. 

That distinction, it seems to me, goes to the difference between taking a strong position on, I'd argue, the baselessness of opposition to gay marriage and slashing and burning the opponents. A subsidiary distinction is between outright homophobia, which in my view deserves the fraught freight of bigotry's connotative meaning, and a more refined, however baseless, rejection of gay marriage grounded, say, in centuries of tradition or one's religious teaching. An example of that more refined view of gay marriage opposition might lie in favoring civil unions. 

Here we may come to a crux. 

Is that form of unmeritorious of gay marriage opposition an instance of bigotry? If it is, then why isn't any particular position on controversial social issues, say abortion, without getting into that issue?  I'm inclined to distinguish between the two controversies. In the case of abortion, it seems to me, broadly speaking we have to balance two competing "interests": bodily autonomy as against the unborn child or, if one prefers, the developing fetus. I see in the case of gay marriage, because I think there is no good argument against it, no competing interests worthy either of vindication or balancing. 

So in the case of thoughtful however unwarranted opposition to gay marriage, this absence of reasons qualifies, ultimately, for the detonative definition of bigotry. But unless that opposition is deeply rooted in out and out homophobia, it does not derserve the connotative disparagement evident in that meaning of bigotry.  This all leads me to the counterintuitive conclusion that in the sense of the distinctions I'm arguing for a bigot can be respected and should be reasoned with.

Hell, there's no need to even call such a bigot a bigot

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