In several postings in the past several days, I've zeroed in on the, well, odd tendency of many centrist religious commentators about religious freedom and gay rights to draw a sharp dividing line around the issue of gay rights, and treat it as entirely separate from other struggles of marginalized minority groups for rights. As I stated last week, for instance, though you can find many centrist Catholic commentators arguing that denying goods and services to LGBT folks under the rubric of religion is thinkable and should remain discussable, you don't find these same people defending the practice of denying goods and services to people on racial grounds, while claiming religious warrant for the discrimination.
And so I can only conclude that 1) either these commentators think American society made a dreadful wrong turn when it outlawed racial discrimination, including discrimination claiming religion as its warrant (and, regardless of what these commentators want to think, religious warrants did loom large in white Southerners' defense of segregation in the 20th century), 2) or they imagine that the case of gay rights is somehow separate from all other cases. In the case of gay rights, religion comes into play in some unique way as a thinkable, defensible basis for discriminatory behavior.
And as I noted yesterday, while it seems beyond the realm of possibility that any responsible Catholic journal maintaining a blog site would allow those participating in discussions at that site to throw the n——r word around, some Catholic journals maintaining blog sites continue to allow people to use slur terms for gay folks (e.g. the term "pansy"), and appear willing to accept disingenuous disclaimers on the part of those using such terms that they are using them in a way no one else in the universe uses them, in a non-homophobic way.
In light of these preceding discussions, I want to highlight an excellent posting by Dan Savage at his SLOG site today. He's talking about Mario Rubio's claim that the question of permitting same-sex marriage should be left to states, and how few folks in the mainstream media are pushing back against that claim by pointing out that the refusal to permit interracial marriage employed the same states'-rights argument, buttressed by religious warrants. Dan Savage writes:
Odd that no one ever asks Rubio or anyone else who makes this argument the obvious follow-up question: Was Loving v. Virginia wrongly decided? State legislatures in a certain part of the country (won't name the part but it rhymes with "the mouth") were making decisions about interracial marriage—they had decided to ban it and to charge anyone who entered into one with a felony—until the Supreme Court declared those laws unconstitutional and overturned them in 16 states.
The usual response when someone asks the obvious-if-seldom-asked "What about Loving" follow-up question goes something like this: "But... but... (sputter, sputter) Loving was about a man/woman marriage!"
Yes, it was. Mildred Loving was a woman and Richard Loving was a man. And the State of Virginia sentenced both Mildred and Richard to a year in prison for the crime of falling in love and getting married. (The judge at their trial, after citing the Bible to support his decision, suspended the sentence on the condition that the Lovings leave the state of Virginia for 25 years.) In overturning the conviction of the Lovings, a unanimous Supreme Court did not rule that Virginia couldn't ban marriages between certain types of men and certain types of women because "man + woman = marriage 4 ever." . . .
The Supreme Court found that the state of Virginia lacked a "rational basis" for depriving the Lovings of their basic civil right to marry and that depriving of the Lovings of their right to marry did not serve a nondiscriminatory purpose. Once again: The court's decision in Loving wasn't "man + woman = marriage 4 ever." The court found that marriage is a basic civil right and the state can't prevent two people from exercising their basic right to marry—or throw two people in jail for marrying—unless the state had a damn good reason. All Virginia had was animus, and animus wasn't good enough. Depriving people of their rights under the 14th Amendment (due process, equality under the law) because some people—even a majority of people—disapprove or hate their guts or think their marriage is sick or sinful doesn't justify marriage bans. "Irrational bias" ≠ "rational basis."
As I say, isn't it odd that the mainstream media and many centrist types commenting on issues of religious freedom and gay rights in the Catholic media seem to take for granted that the case of gay rights is somehow set apart, walled about by religious considerations, in a way that differs radically from all other similar cases of the past — despite the fact that "religious freedom" was previously cited just as strongly as a basis for denying interracial couples the right to marry and for denying goods and services to African Americans, as it's now being cited as a reason for discriminating against gay folks?
And isn't it odd that centrist Catholic blog sites that would not dream of permitting people in the disucssion threads of those sites to bandy about racially charged slur terms still find it possible to justify the bandying about of anti-gay slur terms?
What's going on here, do you think? (It's almost as if the biggest obstacle to honest, open discussion of the full inclusion of LGBT people in church and society is not the outright bigots, but is those who claim to occupy a mythic, "objective" center where discrimination must still, endlessly, be on the table for discussion, as these centrists pat themselves on the back at having everyone at the table. While the lions they permit to remain at their centrist table devour the lambs sitting around the table, and the centrist hosts do nothing at all to stop the slaughter — since they're "objective" and want "both sides" represented . . . .)