Printer friendly version

March 31, 2004

Hey, Man, You're Just a Bigot; Ain't No Thang.

It's increasingly clear that those who argue for and against same-sex marriage really do agree about what its proponents are trying to do. They just say it as if it ought to lead to different conclusions.

This applies to various rhetorical offshoots of the debate, too. So, when opponents of SSM complain that proponents fling about loaded words like "bigot" to make themselves seem correct by definition, those who do so, such as Barry Deutsch, just agree and declare that they really don't mean anything hostile or unfair by it:

One area of miscommunication in the marriage equality debate is about words like "bigot" and "homophobe." Marriage equality opponents, quite understandably, don't like being called bigots and homophobes. They might genuinely have nothing against lesbians and gays; some of them have good friends who are lesbian or gay, and some of them are lesbian or gay themselves.

The problem here, I think, stems from two different definitions of "bigotry." Marriage equality opponents think "bigot," in this context, means "someone who hates lesbians and gays."

Speaking for myself, that's only one possible meaning of "bigot" or "homophobe." Another meaning, which is how I tend to use those words in the context of the marriage equality debate, is "someone who favors an unequal legal status for lesbians and gays." And by that latter definition, it makes perfect sense to describe those who oppose marriage equality as homophobes and bigots. ...

If the stigma bothers them that much, they can avoid it by changing their minds and favoring equality between gays and straights.

Well, that's prima facie moronic bullshit. By "moronic," I mean "not adequately reasoned," and by "bullshit," I mean "something that is incorrect." If Deutsch wishes to cease being a bullshitting moron, he just has to admit that words have meanings and connotations that expand beyond his own personal usage. And if he sincerely wishes to debate public policy, rather than ram his preferred solution through by means of name calling, he need only acknowledge that "bigot" requires unreasoning obstinacy and "prejudice," in this context, requires blanket hostility.

Such people are free to argue according to whatever presumptional and definitional universes they wish to inhabit, but it's simple semantic truth that, by describing all people who come to a given conclusion using words that suggest motivation, they are proving themselves to be the bigots.

(via Marriage Debate Blog)

Posted by Justin Katz at March 31, 2004 5:07 PM
Marriage & Family
Comments

Anybody who could actually type those words, without realizing that his entire argument is just a tautologically circular bit of nonsense, really is a moron.

Posted by: Sage at March 31, 2004 7:04 PM

Thank you for your contribution. I'll need some explanation, though.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 31, 2004 7:15 PM

I can generally identify with this post because of the numerous times I have been called a heretic or a non-believer by certain fundamentalist Christians. Instead of arguing an issue on the merits, they just claim that because I believe that the theory of evolution might be true, that I am a non-Christian.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at April 1, 2004 12:15 AM

You favor a different status for gays and lesbians that positively harms their abilities to live together and care for one another. You push for society to continue to disadvantage gay and lesbian relationships, while, I assume, asserting that this disadvantaging will somehow help straight marriage. Whatever happens, de facto gay marriages will still exist and you wish to see them have trouble. Why do you want to take away stability from people who have done you no harm? You are bigot. You just don't like them; why else cause harm to someone who has done you no wrong? And since, as I imagine, you think and most likely say that keeping gays out of marriage will somehow save straight marriage, you are a deluded and devious bigot. Animus plain and simple. Don't like it? Tough. Look inside your heart and see the cruelty there.

Posted by: Mark at April 1, 2004 8:09 AM

Mark,

I can see that your comment is carefully constructed (yours being a .edu email and all) to inspire me to search my soul. A few comments:

You favor a different status for gays and lesbians that positively harms their abilities to live together and care for one another.
— How is a lack of additional government assistance a "positive harm"? What barriers exist to their mutual care that don't exist for, say, two close friends or a brother and sister? (As it happens, I'm open to discussion of specific policies that do hinder all mutual caregivers, such as issues with hospital visitation.)

You push for society to continue to disadvantage gay and lesbian relationships, while, I assume, asserting that this disadvantaging will somehow help straight marriage.
— This raises an interesting point. If, as you seem to suggest and as I would agree, a particular same-sex relationship would not inherently harm any particular opposite-sex relationship, then the opposite would have to be true. Against whom, then, are gay couples disadvantaged? Workplace discrimination, for example, gives the beneficiary an advantage over the victim. How does offering additional benefits for what is a manifestly different relationship type hinder any other relationship type?

Whatever happens, de facto gay marriages will still exist and you wish to see them have trouble.
— I wish no such thing. In fact, I've considered it among the more peculiar aspects of this debate that proponents of SSM sometimes seem to believe that "de facto gay marriages" cannot exist without government approval.

Why do you want to take away stability from people who have done you no harm?
— How would I be doing that? First of all, how does a lack of additional perks remove "stability"? Second of all, how can society "take away" what has never been possessed?

You are bigot.
— No, I'm not.

You just don't like them
— How do you know?

why else cause harm to someone who has done you no wrong?
— You might want to ponder the "why else." You'll have to acknowledge, someday, that this world is not capable of becoming a utopia; sometimes circumstances harm people, and very often public and personal decisions are by necessity between lesser harms. The sooner you admit that, the happier you'll be.

as I imagine, you think and most likely say that keeping gays out of marriage will somehow save straight marriage
— Well, I think the innovation of SSM would ultimately harm the institution, but that doesn't mean that the converse is true. Saving "straight marriage" is up to straights, wouldn't you say?

Animus plain and simple. Don't like it? Tough.
— Actually, Mark, you've given me no reason to care one way or the other what your opinion of me might be. In fact, you've made it quite easy for me to dismiss your charges as inapplicable. Among the side effects of the petulant rhetoric of many supporters of SSM is what can be seen as the final draining of any umph from the word "bigot." As a conservative, I consider that a helpful thing for the future of public debate; as a language guy, I consider it an unfortunate loss of what was once a useful word.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 1, 2004 11:41 AM

Thanks Justin, for responding to that moronic pile of bullshit. I don't appreciate being called a Bigot anymore that he likes being called a Faggot.

Can we ressurect that word now?

Posted by: Vigilance Matters at April 1, 2004 2:04 PM

Ok, this is interesting. Mark makes accusations against Justin that (as far as I can tell) he doesn’t deserve. “Vigilance” makes a comment that, without a doubt, is bigoted, plain and simple. If Mark had made those same accusations against Vigilance instead, he would have been correct. Now, I said that Justin doesn’t deserve those accusations. Yet, he doesn’t seem bothered by what Vigilance said. What does that mean?

Arturo

Posted by: arturo fernandez at April 4, 2004 4:41 AM

Arturo,

Above all else, it means that I only respond to comments as readers respond to comments: when something useful or important occurs to me to say. If I'm ambivalent or uninterested, think something obvious, or just can't think of anything to add, I'll let things go without response.

In this case, I'm mostly ambivalent. In the context of a discussion about the usage of words to create stigma that opponents must switch to one's side to escape, I don't think Vigilance Matters' comment is necessarily indicative of bigotry.

I went to college recently enough to have heard the argument that slurs against the "Other" are a means of invalidating their "dialogue." Until it begins to get ridiculous, I think the point is well taken, from minorities, that effort ought to be made to use words that don't trample substantive discussion under hard rhetoric.

In the case of homosexuals, "faggot" is just such a word; in the case of conservatives, "bigot" is one. Given reflection, it's accurate to say that Barry, and those who share his strategy, are using "bigot" in much the same way people once used "faggot." Vigilance, therefore, is correct to put them in parallel through his rhetorical question.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 4, 2004 8:03 AM

The words "bigot" and "faggot" do not parallel. The word "faggot" is only an insult, nothing more nothing less. One can be wrong about the parallel, and that's ok. What is objectionable is that Vigilance wants the word to be acceptable again.

Posted by: arturo fernandez at April 4, 2004 1:13 PM

Actually, I don't get that impression at all. His is a rhetorical question. The inference is that, since Vigilance does not wish to be called a bigot, he would not favor renewed usage of the word that he places in parallel. And his purpose is clearly to provoke the corresponding conclusion among homosexuals.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 4, 2004 1:19 PM

So if you go up to a man who is holding another man's hand and you say, "HEY FAGGOT!!!" that is the equivalent to calling a man a bigot if he holds up a poster which says "HOMO GET AIDS AND BURN IN HELL!!!"? Presumably this isn't what you're saying.

Bigots, in the definition of the word actually harm people. Faggots, in the definition of the word, do not (I'm not saying that all gays do not harm people, because gays are not the Borg and do not all think and act alike, contrary to conservative lies). A bigot works tirelessly to indoctinrate descrimination and spread lies, whether that be about blacks, Jews, Christians, athiests, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, gays, or whites. A "faggot" is simply gay and loves a member of the same sex. How are these comparable?

There are many people in the marriage "debate" who get offended by being called a bigot. Not everyone who opposes same-sex marriage is a bigot. But if someone goes around calling people Sodomites and saying they deserve to die of AIDS and burn in hell, then yes, I think they are a bigot, and they should be called that. This is the behavior of many, if not all anti-gay activists. For an example, read some of the accounts of the anti-gay protestors in Massachusetts the past few months, or in Georgia, or Minnesota recently. One protestor in Minnesota held up a sign that said, "SODOMITES NEED THE DEATH PENALTY". Is that not bigoted?

I'm not sure if you know any gay couples or not, but aside from a huge difference in things like taxes, social security, pension compared to what married couples get, a homosexual has to draw up thousands of dollars worth of legal documents in order to share any kind of legal rights with his partner. That isn't even counting issues like raising children. Blood relatives can and frequently do go to court and if their relative has died or is in the hospital seriously ill, get the court to turn medical decisions over to them, to let them take whatever possessions or property they want, to let them raise the children of the deceased, regardless of whether or not they are qualified to do this. http://www.hrc.org had an ad with a man whose partner died in 9/11. He couldn't even get a death certificate. He couldn't do anything as his partner's relatives came in and cleaned house. And then there are states like Nebraska where gay couples are forbidden by law to even buy a funeral plot together, where the laws are so strict that even two relatives of the same sex cannot make legal contracts together because of some paranoid fear that gay couples would use legal documents to get some kind of small legal rights.

Justin, even if you oppose same-sex marriage --how do civil unions or domestic partnerships ruin straight marriage? Why does everything need to be banned? Why is it that people who claim to be tolerant sit idly by while states push amendments which, as is the case in Georgia, Wisconsin, etc. are written to possibly even ban domestic partner benefits from private companies?

That's what I don't get. When people talk about the what if what if what if of straight marriages suddenly keeling over, they don't seem to have one tiny shred of sympathy for the many gay couples who will not even be able to see each other in the hospital or share legal benefits. THAT is why words like 'bigot' go around. And if people like Vandal think the only response to that is to scream 'FAGGOT!!!' then they must not have ever seen an old woman wondering why she cannot even sit at the hospital bedside of a woman she lived with for 40 years.

Posted by: Bill at April 4, 2004 4:16 PM

Sticks and Stones...

Posted by: Vigilance Matters at April 4, 2004 4:39 PM

Bill,

I'm speaking to a specific rhetorical usage of the two words, as I explained above. By writing that not "everyone who opposes same-sex marriage is a bigot," you're already disagreeing with the person to whom I was reacting with this post.

As I responded to you in another thread, I don't oppose states' creating some sort of institutional benefits package to assist gay couples in cutting through red tape and securing their individual rights. However, I also think states ought to have the right not to create such institutions.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 4, 2004 7:45 PM

Justin:

I am not conviced that that's what motivated Vigilance to add that last sentence. But if that's how you interpreted, than the fact that you didn't comment on it (to answer my own question) means nothing.

Posted by: arturo fernandez at April 6, 2004 4:53 PM