Gay Rights & The Politics of Fear

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.- The Declaration of Independence

The current debate in America over same sex marriage has focused the spotlight on ‘Gay Rights’ and raised the question of what equality really is. By focusing on a marginalized minority’s fight for an equality of recognition that should never have been questioned the fundamentalist Christians that oppose gay marriage are trying to impose their specifically narrow view of life onto all Americans.

Standing against the cultural current, the Christian Right try and conjure a view of God fearing Americans adhering to the solid protestant values of Medieval Europeans that is nothing more than an illusion. Using fear as their lever they fight to retain control over a world in which they are becoming an endangered minority themselves. Those on the extreme of the Right Wing understand that their only hope to hold onto their power in a changing world is to deprive their fellow citizens of their rights and freedoms and have used every opportunity that they have been able to manufacture in recent years to do just that.

Instead of being focused on whether there should be equal rights for gays we should be asking how the government came to be able to withhold this and other rights from us in the first place. The state has no place interfering in the personal relationships of its citizens.

The United States has no state sanctioned religion that determines what is and is not a lawful union between two people and the Conservative Christian intrusion into the legislature in this manner is far beyond the powers of the administrative government that the Framers envisioned when they wrote the Constitution. No state should have a mandate for not accepting a marriage between any two people; in their role as the administrators of the Will of the People our governors should instead be adapting the way that they govern to be an expression of the way that contemporary Americans live.

Some Animals are More Equal than Others

The real issue at stake isn’t whether same sex couples should have the right to marry if they choose to, it is whether we should all have the liberty to decide for ourselves how we want to live our lives, how we choose to pursue our own happiness. The threat that the Christian Right perceive from alternatives to their brand of the ‘right way to live’ is not that allowing same sex marriages will somehow corrupt America, the threat is to their cultural predominance and their fear is palpable.

Recent US Census figures have shown that the majority of children being born now are from one of America’s many minorities and that the ageing white population, with its low birth rate is becoming just another segment of society. The radical Right’s reaction to the perceived threat from these minorities to their culturally dominant position is summed up in the almost incoherent tirade by staunch conservative Rush Limbaugh in which he said; “And the warning is: You are on the wrong side of history. And you are on the wrong side of demographics. You better do what the coming majority wants right now, or you’re gonna suffer the consequences. There is an implied threat in this story. You’re getting older. You’re white and you’re dying off. Pretty soon you’re gonna find out what it’s been like to not be you.”

This divisive attitude that is the zeitgeist of the Fundamental Right, that God is on their side that they are some sort of chosen elite who are fit to decide what is right for everyone else, has been the platform for their success. The result of their efforts is an Orwellian America where freedom is in retreat, sacrificed on the altar of fear to preserve a way of American life that never really existed.

If leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away- George Orwell 1984

Who really gains from denying people the right to have a relationship with whoever they choose to? Only those who would have us fear a world in which sexuality is not rigidly defined and life choices aren’t dictated from the pulpit of a Pentecostal Evangelist. Fundamental Christian beliefs have no real place in the legislative process and the state needs to maintain its separation from the church more now than ever before in history. In the end the religion card is just smoke and mirrors to distract people from the real intention of the Right which is to maintain the fear that they use to stay in power. By beating their drum about the degeneration of our society that would ensue if we let anyone who wants to live in the way that they choose to they spread fear that the America of the future will somehow not be a place for Americans any more.

The irony is that, as David Bositis, from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies said, “The Republicans’ problem is their voters are white, aging and dying off. There will come a time when they suffer catastrophic losses with the realization of the population changes.” The America of the future is not going to be populated by GOP voters but in their struggle to survive they are choosing minority targets to attack to make it seem like America can’t do without them. Unfortunately for them, as we have become a more educated and enlightened society we have come to see that this privileged minority serve no function and that the time has come to sweep them away.

Why the Christian Right Fears Gay Rights

The Christian Right is fighting for its life. All of its most basic tenets are being challenged and often dispensed with as the Fundamentalist Christian views have become increasingly marginalized by mainstream American culture. The mileage that they have gained by demonizing Islam has begun to run its course and the people whose freedoms have been curtailed on the pretext of national security begin to question the wisdom of trading their civil rights for an illusion of safety.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. -Benjamin Franklin

Gays make up only .6% of the households in the United States, a tiny demographic comprising less than 5% of the entire population. This makes the gay community an easy minority to attack. After all, if the WASPs are becoming a marginalized minority themselves there is little future in attacking the minorities that they will be competing with for power in the future. But the fear runs deeper than that because if gay marriage becomes accepted by the mainstream it threatens to dispel their illusion of America being corrupted from within.

The misconceptions of what would result from recognizing same sex couples equality in the eyes of the law have been a Fundamental Christian mantra. As these fears remain unrealized and Gay couples live normal, productive lives and raise normal American children in average American households the illusion that the only American family is the traditional nuclear family will be shattered. As gay couples prosper and continue to contribute in a meaningful way to society, as acceptance grows, the Christian Right’s moral premise continues to diminish.

The Christian Right sees its base of power dwindling and the decline of the God Fearing America that was once so easy to control. As the power has slipped through their fingers they have gone to the one weapon that has never failed them- fear. At first it was fear of the terrorist threat to America but soon it had been morphed into selling fear of a threat from within, one that challenged the way of life that they defined as ‘American’. These threats are as amorphous as the definition of the American Way of Life and allow the aggressors to continually shift the target to continuously create a new enemy with which they can threaten the people.

The perceived terrorist threat to the Western world gave the Right the opportunity to begin cutting back on the freedoms of Americans in the name of National Security and the cropping of freedom has continued at a pace ever since. Government has become opaque and our Fourth Amendment rights have been waived away in the face of the ever present danger. All of our personal details, every e-mail that we send and even the phone calls that we make can now be monitored and on the pretense of the security of the homeland it isn’t necessary to even show probable cause before government agencies can intrude into the lives of any American. CISPA was passed by a Congress that has become so used to using fear as the basis of its policy that the corrosion of freedom that it perpetuates isn’t even the focus of the debate. The evolution of America into the police state that the Christian Right are clamoring for is making modern America into a nation run by fascist storm troopers with imperial ambitions that disguises itself under a façade of liberty and equality.

The Christian Right’s apple pie and bunting view of traditional America has as little to do with the real history of the United States as it has with contemporary American culture. Even the picture of the Golden Age of America when mom and dad brought their kids up to have strong Christian values and everything was hunky dory is really just looking at history through rose colored glasses. In reality the divorce rate was at 25% of the marriage rate, crime rates were heading north and America was far from being a nation of WASPs. Whites are rapidly becoming a minority in America’s increasingly culturally diverse society and the traditional American way of life is evolving into a society that is no longer bound together, however loosely, by a tacit acceptance of a particular religion as the foundation of their moral code.

There are No Gay Rights, There are Only Rights

The real issue isn’t about gay rights; there are no gay rights- there are only rights. To deny someone one of their inalienable rights is to tacitly condone giving up all of our rights. By focusing on gay rights the Right Wing make it about a small group- it becomes about them and not about us. By focusing on the rights of any minority it makes it seem like someone else’s rights that are being stolen from them, not our rights. The truth is that we have all lost a right even if we never choose to exercise it. The right that they wish to steal is the freedom to choose for ourselves how we will live and when freedoms are lost they are very hard to get back.

For all of the freedoms that Americans have relinquished to secure their safety in an ever more antagonistic world they are no safer now than they were ten years ago. All that has happened is that they have had to accept an ever increasing infringement of their civil rights. The only difference is that Americans are less free. Fortunately the Founders left us a clear guide to the course of action that all Americans can take to rebuild their freedom as a last line of defense:

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.- The Declaration of Independence
5. Gay and Lesbian Families in The United States: Same-Sex Unmarried Partner Households- David M. Smith, Gary J. Gates, Ph.D.
 Photo:  Melissa Strickland
Comments 2
  1. You are so right about fear being the culprit and drive behind the hatred aimed at the GBLT community. I mean, there’s a reason the word homophobia exists after all. The sad thing is that freedom is freedom – like you said there are just rights, not gay rights, and eventually we will win the fight because I believe justice will prevail.

  2. You are so right about fear being the culprit and drive behind the hatred aimed at the GBLT community. I mean, there’s a reason the word homophobia exists after all. The sad thing is that freedom is freedom – like you said there are just rights, not gay rights, and eventually we will win the fight because I believe justice will prevail.

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