Recently, Jay Michaelson wrote a piece for The Daily Beast titled “The ‘Religious Liberty’ Bullies and Their Fight Against LGBT Equality.” In it, he suggests that those who oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons are the same as the racists who opposed desegregation laws. He calls those who protect religious liberty, and who therefore are willing to stick up for the rights of religious people who oppose same-sex marriage, insincere and “racist,” as well. “Today is a different age—but the players, and the rhetoric, are the same,” he states. Later on, he says that defenders of religious liberty are “simply repurposing an old, racist rhetoric to fight the same social battles as always.”
There are three points to be made here. One, there can be no comparison between the fight for racial equality and the movement for same-sex marriage. Two, supporting the traditional definition of marriage is not the same (or even akin) to supporting institutionalized racism. Three, concerns about religious liberty are both sincere and valid, especially regarding the social trends Michaelson discusses in both his article and a related report he recently released.
My first point is that there can be no comparison between the fight for racial equality and the movement supporting same-sex marriage. To begin with, race occupies a singular place in our country’s history and laws. Our country fought a bloody Civil War and passed three separate Constitutional Amendments to rid our society of the injustice that was slavery. The segregation laws that followed were ugly remnants of a culture of racial slavery, and they were immoral and unjust. They defied the American promise “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.” Black Americans were enslaved, literally deprived of their liberty, often robbed of life, and denied the opportunity to pursue happiness. Segregation laws were a legal statement of inequality. No other law in American history spells indignity and injustice like they did, and no other law so explicitly rings false to our country’s founding principles.