A friend my husband attended law school with posted an article on Facebook this morning. He was lamenting the fact that people from the liberal side of the marriage equality debate did not treat people who disagree with them with respect. He was disappointed that civil discourse seemed impossible.
The article he posted appeared on The Daily Signal and was called, My Exchange with Two New York Times Writers on Marriage Equality and Civility by Ryan T. Anderson. In the article Mr. Anderson opens with this:
Can people respect each other and treat one another civilly even while disagreeing about marriage? No, according to New York Times domestic correspondent Josh Barro. As The Daily Signal reported, on viewpoints that Barro considers “anti-LGBT”, he thinks that “we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.”
The problem is that much of what Barro considers “anti-LGBT” is simply pro-marriage and pro-common-good.
This was my response.
I think what ires people so much on the pro marriage equality side is that no one is asking the people on the other side to give up what they already have but merely to extend to others the benefits and responsibilities that come with marriage. What I think people on the pro traditional marriage side fail to recognize is that in supporting that position they are effectively denying that LGBT persons are equal to them and that their love for and commitment to their spouse is just as valid. I humbly submit that if someone told me that my marriage was somehow less valid than someone else’s and decided to purposely fight against allowing me to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that go along with it that I would not exactly be in the mood to extend to them the respect they “deserve”.
I for one always try to treat those I am debating with dignity and respect and try to disagree agreeably. However, do we think the slaves owe respectful dialog to masters? Do we think interracial couples owe respect to KKK members? Do we think Jews owed respectful dialog to the Nazis? Do we think abused persons owe respectful dialog to their abusers? When an LGBT person is denied the right to be in the hospital with their spouse, when they cannot be buried next to one another at a national cemetery, when they can be fired in many states just for being gay. When they are constantly told by people who fight against their right to marry or to live their lives with the same freedoms, rights and responsibilities of heterosexual americans. I think after a while you get tired of having “respectful” dialog. According to the dictionary respect means:
“a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”
synonyms: esteem, regard, high opinion, admiration, reverence
Although I think treating someone with respect even when you disagree is honorable, asking someone to treat the person who sees them as less human and worthy of fewer rights with esteem is a tall order. What I find interesting is that the very people whose position is one of disrespect are the ones demanding that their position be respected.
It reminds me of this recent article on Formerly Fundie
The article on Formerly Fundie is called, So Listen– It’s Not Religious Discrimination Just Because You Can’t Discriminate. And in the article Benjamin L. Corey states,
“It’s not discrimination when we are prevented from doing the discriminating. It’s not persecution when we are prevented from doing the persecuting. It’s not bullying when we’re told that we can’t bully others.”
I would take that one step further and say in this case, it is ironic that people want LGBT persons and their allies to treat them with respect while debating an issue that on its face is disrespectful to LGBT people. No one on the pro marriage equality side is saying that anyone on the pro traditional marriage side has to change their position, merely that they must afford the same rights to every citizen of the United States. Time after time, courts are ruling in favor of marriage equality. They are doing it because that is what our Constitution demands.
How can you respect my opinion if you believe I am wrong? You can’t. How can I respect your opinion if I believe you are wrong? I can’t. What I can respect is your right to your thoughts and beliefs given to you by the Constitution. When people demand to be respected it is often because they are upset that the other person believes their position to not merit that respect. If you do not think my arguments or opinions have any merit I do not expect you to respect them. If you think I am wrong I expect you to try and convince me. I think what people actually mean when they demand respectful dialog is that they want you to agree that their position carries equal weight. I’ve got news for you. I do not believe all positions are equal. If you’re being honest, you don’t either. I think that is why debates on these topics get so heated. All positions are not equal. Some things are right and some things are wrong. We may disagree about what those are. But one thing is for sure, if we are being truthful, none of us truly respects an argument we believe is oppressive to ourselves or others. That is really what is at stake here. We have two sides who believe their rights are being infringed.
To quote rob bell from part 44 of his What is the Bible series on tumblr,
“…this freedom works both ways. We’re free to affirm truth wherever we find it, and we’re also free to deny that which needs to be denied. If it’s wrong or unjust or twisted, we call it whatever it is. This includes religious things, pastors, and of course things that go on in churches under the name of Jesus.
(Some people are crazy and they make no sense. They don’t help you grow and they spread all kinds of hate and they’re toxic. Don’t listen to them.)
Some things that are labeled Christian aren’t true, and some things that aren’t labeled Christian are true. Some atheists say lots of things that are true, and some Christians are full of shit.”
One last thought, demanding respect (a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements) from someone who adamantly believes you are trying to deny them human rights equal to your own seems a bit brazen.