Opposition to Gay Rights Is Not Evidence of Bigotry

By Maggie Gallagher Copyright Maggie Gallagher | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

Opposition to Gay Rights Is Not Evidence of Bigotry


Maggie Gallagher Copyright Maggie Gallagher, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


It was virtually the last question of the debate: "Why do people keep referring to equal rights for gay and lesbians as special rights?"

Bob Dole punted, mumbling something benign about being against "discrimination," and refusing to enter the rhetorical battle currently raging over the place of sexual orientation in civil rights theory and practice.

Words have power. He who gets to frame the question usually wins the debate in the end. Reporters, editors, academics, novelists, talk-show hosts, filmmakers, headline writers and other "symbolic analysts" exercise disproportionate influence over the democratic process each time they decide (as they must) whether to accept the language of one part or another, or to craft a third, more neutral alternative. For example, if you favor legal abortion, are you pro-choice or pro-abortion? Is physician-assisted suicide the right to die or the right to kill? So if the question is, "Do you believe in equal rights for gays?" the answer is, as Thomas Jefferson put it, self-evident. I myself don't believe in unequal rights for anybody. Which is why recently I found myself somewhat uncharacteristically tongue-tied on "The Charles Grodin Show," when Grodin asked me "Do you think employers should discriminate against gays?" Well, no, not really. The marketplace is not a very effective venue for upholding sexual morals, which are largely intended to sustain family relationships. If you are a hard-working, productive employee, the marketplace frankly doesn't much care if you cheat on your wife, abandon your kids or father children you never even see. Far from encouraging nasty feelings about gays, big business has tended to run roughshod over local community mores, telling small towns that if they want the jobs companies provide, they have to accept the domestic partnership benefits the companies promote. …

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