Editor’s Note: Published in April 2003, this article was my first after having been taken on as a regular contributor to the op-ed page of The Stamford Advocate. I’m always fascinated by the hypocrisy of people who claim to love those they disagree with, while delighting in their eternal damnation at the hands of a loving God. (For a particularly revolting example of Christian America, try the Web site of the Westboro Baptist Church, in Topeka, Kansas.) Eventually, Connecticut’s legislators reversed themselves (see 2005 article) and enacted the nation’s first civil union bill passed by a state legislature. Connecticut's citizens should be proud to live in such a pragmatically minded Blue State.
Some statements carry within them an almost-intrinsic self-negation. When religious bigots speak of “loving the sinner, but hating the sin,” they’re usually talking about someone whose life they’re planning to make a little more unhappy than it already is.
What officious hatred makes so many people see gay rights as anathema? In Connecticut — hardly the buckle on the Bible Belt — the State Judiciary Committee recently rejected civil union legislation that would have granted homosexual couples some of the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual spouses. Celebrating its defeat, the director of the right-wing Family Institute of Connecticut crowed that he was “ecstatic” about the result.
Similarly, after abandoning their decades-long crusade to deny civil rights to blacks, the Southern Baptists have found a new sin to hate and new sinners to love. Outraged at the Disney Co.’s decision to provide healthcare benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners, the South’s most-powerful church organized a boycott of the Magic Kingdom. The aim of this action seemed to be making the lives of people already being discriminated against just a bit more unpleasant.
The very existence of homosexuality is an obsession for Christian conservatives. Oddly, Jesus took so little interest in the subject that he never mentioned it even once in any of the Gospels. Fundamentalists counter that Jesus stood by the Old Testament, which is foursquare against sodomites; however, the Pentateuch expends less parchment discussing gay sex than it does on the minutiae of which combinations of foods and fabrics are acceptable to God. Nevertheless, the Religious Right can’t seem to work up the same passion for banning the wearing of wool and linen together or the eating of meat and cheese in the same sandwich as they do for bashing homosexuals.
I have no idea what deranged passions caused ultraconservative presidential candidate Gary Bauer to call Vermont’s civil union law “worse than terrorism.” And I don’t want to know what fanaticism compels followers of Baptist pastor Fred Phelps to bring picket signs that read, “God Hates Fags” to the funerals of AIDS victims or drove them to harass mourners at the burial of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student murdered by bigots. If these are examples of loving the sinner, the families of the deceased could probably do with a little less Christian compassion.
Nor do I understand why one Stamford Advocate reader would become so outraged at the presence of a gay elder in a local Presbyterian church (where she wasn’t even a member) that she’d write, “God loves homosexuals. He also loves people who slander and murder.” I’m sure Harvey Fierstein must feel deeply loved to be grouped with the Boston Strangler.
The prospect of domestic partners gaining some of the same privileges as those enjoyed by heterosexual spouses so alarmed some Connecticut lawmakers that they tried to replace the legislation with an anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And this brings us to the strangest aspect of the homophobic’s dogma — the notion that heterosexual marriage is so fragile that it needs to be defended against the peril of the gay agenda.
Our legislators seem to fear that the mere presence of people living in legalized gay sin is a threat to previously happy couples throughout the state. Perhaps, after years of matrimony, I’m naive about the dangers my marriage faces from statutes giving gay couples rights to inherit each other’s property. Maybe I’m not smart enough to realize the wife and I risk divorce merely by spending a weekend in Vermont, which has no DOMA, but does have a civil union law. I’m touched that these social conservatives are so concerned about my marriage, but I’m still unclear why it needs to be defended against Rosie O’Donnell.
Perhaps State Rep. Lawrence Cafero (R-Norwalk) can explain it to me. Discussing his opposition to the Connecticut proposal, he stated that the civil union debate is really about gay marriage: “Marriage means procreation, and gay and lesbian couples can’t procreate.” Well, maybe he should tell that to the millions of childless straight couples — like my wife and me, happily married for more than 25 years — who foolishly consider ourselves just as married as couples with children.
In fact, I feel a good deal more married than some of the gay bashers on the Right, like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, both of whom are currently on their third wives. And I also feel more married than ex-President Clinton, who pandered to the Joe Lieberman wing of the Democratic party by signing a Federal DOMA into law.
Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, believes Connecticut’s domestic partner bill was defeated because, “We’re dealing with fear of change.” Well, less fear and more honesty might do us all some good. Let those who hate the sinners, as well as the sin, lay their cards on the table and admit that what they really want is to punish both. The sinners could do with a little less love from those who fear them.
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