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Austin Cline

Gay Rights and Special Rights (Book Notes: Created Equal)

By June 19, 2006

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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: Created Equal: Why Gay Rights Matter to America

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.

 

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Comments
January 5, 2009 at 12:26 am
(1) Chris says:

I agree with your closing statement. I am sick and tired of people taking us for granted. However I am furious to know LGBT members that submit to these bigots. I know because when I call reason into our college LBGT group spectrum I am almost debunked, laughed at or ignored by everyone. They complain but do nothing. When I tell them to stand up and fight they make excuses. In my opinion LGBT members that don’t stand up against this bigotry don’t deserve to reap the benefits of others hard work and sometimes sacrifice.

March 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm
(2) Too bad says:

Waaaa Waaaa Waaa

October 24, 2010 at 9:55 pm
(3) DRT says:

why is it that gays seem to want the world to know who they like to have sex with? I don’t announce to the world what my personal preferences are. Gays bring drama upon themselves. But surely, just because you like to fk each other of the same sex doesn’t give you the “right” to run around and shout it from the rooftops, we really don’t want to know okkkkkkkkkkk ?

October 25, 2010 at 6:41 am
(4) Austin Cline says:

why is it that gays seem to want the world to know who they like to have sex with?

Do they?

I don’t announce to the world what my personal preferences are.

So you never do anything to signal heterosexuality — like holding hands or kissing a member of the opposite sex in public?

Gays bring drama upon themselves.

How, by behaving like human beings?

But surely, just because you like to fk each other of the same sex doesn’t give you the “right” to run around and shout it from the rooftops, we really don’t want to know okkkkkkkkkkk ?

So don’t listen. I don’t see you complaining about straight people who kiss or hold hands in public, so clearly the real problem isn’t the expression of sexual orientation. No, the real problem for you is existence of gays who don’t try to hide what they are. That’s bigotry.

October 30, 2010 at 8:56 pm
(5) Sally says:

“why is it that gays seem to want the world to know who they like to have sex with?

Do they?

I don’t announce to the world what my personal preferences are.

So you never do anything to signal heterosexuality — like holding hands or kissing a member of the opposite sex in public?

Gays bring drama upon themselves.

How, by behaving like human beings?

But surely, just because you like to fk each other of the same sex doesn’t give you the “right” to run around and shout it from the rooftops, we really don’t want to know okkkkkkkkkkk ?

So don’t listen. I don’t see you complaining about straight people who kiss or hold hands in public, so clearly the real problem isn’t the expression of sexual orientation. No, the real problem for you is existence of gays who don’t try to hide what they are. That’s bigotry.”

Exactly, Austin – I’m gay and proud of it. I’ll kiss my partner on the street whenever I like, and damned to those who don’t like it.

February 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm
(6) james says:

Your argument doesnt address the facts that it is abnormal in nature to marry another of the same sexual gender for procreation purposes. For example, the entire population of the gays and lesbians would eventually become extinct. What would be your plan before that happens? Who in your Society would be willing to procreate with another of the opposite sexual gender? Or would your Society resort to artificial insemination to continue your Society from becoming extinct? Heterosexuals need neither of those options for the most part, to fertilize and ovary/egg with a sperm cell. 99% of the population has been populated by heterosexuals. Your argument is void of those idealistic virtues. Furthermore, I agree with you on the fact that its ridiculous to legislate rights for homosexuals, gays/lesbians. Howvever, you label conservatives/republicans/christians/islamic regimes as your foes, but ignore the facts that there are millions of ordinary everyday people that are not in agreement on a homosexual/gay/lesbian lifestyle. so its not fair to group all of those oppose the lifestyle/behavior/choice to be gay into isolated groups. My take on this is theres more to the agenda to promote gay/lesbian rights. Your desire is to equate the lifestyle as it being morally right for anyone that desires to do so. Just because its legislated doesnt mean its morally right to do so.

February 8, 2013 at 7:23 pm
(7) Austin Cline says:

Your argument doesnt address the facts that it is abnormal in nature to marry another of the same sexual gender for procreation purposes.

Why do you assume that the marriage is fir procreation purposes?

Or would your Society resort to artificial insemination to continue your Society from becoming extinct?

FYI, heterosexuals do this, too.

Your argument is void of those idealistic virtues.

You haven’t listed any virtues, idealistic or otherwise.

You label conservatives/republicans/christians/islamic regimes as your foes, but ignore the facts that there are millions of ordinary everyday people that are not in agreement on a homosexual/gay/lesbian lifestyle.

Yes, people who support those evil regimes.

so its not fair to group all of those oppose the lifestyle/behavior/choice to be gay into isolated groups.

It’s a fair as isolating those who oppose equal rights for blacks or women.

My take on this is theres more to the agenda to promote gay/lesbian rights.

And your “take” is based on nothing more than ignorance and hatred.

Just because its legislated doesnt mean its morally right to do so.

Just because you’re bigotry is sincere doesn’t make it morally right.

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