Frequently... when gays talk about gay rights, heterosexuals hear talk about sex, not personal freedom. The claim that gays want "special rights" reflects the degree to which lesbians and gay men are seen as so out of the ordinary that their claims to ordinary rights seem special.
In Created Equal: Why Gay Rights Matter to America, Michael Nava & Robert Dawidoff continue:
But in fact, gays want an end to their special status, their status as pariahs under the Constitution. ... The Constitutional status of homosexuals is inextricably bound up with the intense prejudice against them. The straight majority acquiesces in the constitutional disenfranchisement of the gay minority because lesbians and gays have sex with partners of the same sex and because that goes against the majority’s grain. That, rather than any truth about homosexuals, has resulted in the common belief that gay rights are about sex.
It is such a profound insult to tell a group of people that their desire to enjoy the same basic rights as other Americans — rights which everyone is told constitute the foundation of American law, history, and identity — is actually a desire to have “special” rights unavailable to anyone else. Christians certainly wouldn’t tolerate being told that their desire to practice their religion freely is a “special” right when adherents of other religions are allowed to practice their own.
Surely an argument could be there made that parallels the arguments used by Christians against gays. Jews aren’t allowed to practice Christianity, so the same imposition is placed on everyone. Christians are free to practice Buddhism, so it’s not like they are prevented from practicing any religion at all. This is rather similar to telling gays that everyone is barred from marrying the same sex, not just gays, and that gays are free to marry members of the opposite sex; therefore, gays aren’t being imposed upon any more than anyone else and there is no “real” discrimination.
So why do Christians seek to impose restrictions on gays which they would never in a million years accept for themselves? It’s not that they think the discrimination to be constitutionally or ethically valid as a general principle; instead, they consider gays so abhorrent that they should remain outside the normal parameters of law and morality. Gays are effectively inferior beings who are so perverse that they shouldn’t be treated like equal citizens.
The “special rights” rhetoric of the antigay right is really an attempt to draw a line — a lavender line — between “us” and “them.” Typically, anti-discrimination laws do no more than prevent gays and lesbians from being fired from their jobs and denied housing or medical care because they are gay. These can be deemed “special rights” only if a job, food to eat, a place to live, and medical attention are unusual demands. Behind the cry of “No special rights” is an effort to protect heterosexual privilege in the culture by denying such privilege to homosexuals.
In a sense, it’s possible that some Christians do consider housing, jobs, and medical care to be “unusual demands” — at least, when it comes to gays. Homosexuality is condemned by God and homosexuals are engaging in behavior which God has declared to be abhorrent — they even do so willfully, after being told that God wants them to stop. If someone is going to do that, then perhaps they don’t deserve the ability to hold a job, to buy food, or to find shelter that is permitted to every other citizen.
It’s unlikely that most anti-gay Christians will go quite that far, but it’s clear that their ideology leads to just those consequences. If you act in a way to promote something, how easily can you argue that you don’t “really” believe it?
It’s likely that what these anti-gay Christians really have in mind is, as the passage describes above, the preservation of heterosexual privilege. It is, after all, one of the few traditional privileges remaining in society. Male privilege, Christian privilege, religious privilege... all of this has been under assault throughout the 20th century and, to varying degrees, it has all been undermined. Their future is doubtful at best; heterosexual privilege, however, continues to seem relatively secure — not absolutely secure, just apparently secure relative to the other privileges that have been lost.
What is it about some people that they have such a pressing psychological need to feel superior to someone — anyone — in society? There are men who need women to be inferior, Christians who need non-Christians to be inferior, religious believers who need nonbelievers and atheists to be inferior, citizens who need foreigners to be inferior... and heterosexuals who need gays to be inferior. Why can’t those who are different be equal in their differences?
People who go to such lengths defending gender privilege, religious privilege, or heterosexual privilege are pathetic — exceptionally pathetic, I would say, and deserve to be pitied for all the suffering they cause in the interest of preserving their own self-image.