Articulate Responses to Lies & Rhetoric
By Robin Kane
Right-wing opponents to civil rights for gay, lesbian, and bisexual
people use similar arguments and rhetoric around the country, whether
they're in Prineville, Oregon; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Knoxville,
Tennessee; or Anchorage, Alaska. These pages are tools for action. They
include responses, ideas, and themes you can use to counter the right's
erroneous allegations. Each topic begins with the rhetoric used by the
conservative right, followed by some ideas on how to respond.
Homosexuals are already covered under the Constitution just like the rest of
us. What they want are "special rights." We oppose "special
rights" for homosexuals.
The right wing rhetoric of "special rights" skews the issue.
The right to get and keep a job based on merit is not a special right.
Equal access to housing is not a special right. Renting a hotel room
and being served food in a restaurant are not special rights. The right
to have and raise children without the state seizing them is not a special
right. The right to walk down a street and not get attacked because of
who you are and whom you love is not a special right. Gay and lesbian
people want the same rights guaranteed to all American citizens. However,
without civil rights laws which specifically ban discrimination based
on sexual orientation, gay people can lose their jobs, their homes, and
their families, and be refused service at public accommodations simply
because they are gay--with no legal recourse. Right-wing zealots who
speak of special rights want the very special right to discriminate against
those they hate. They want "special righteousness."
Local ordinances for gay men and lesbians force the rest of us to live against
our religious beliefs. We're entitled to our rights, too.
Extending civil rights to one sector of society does not withdraw
rights from another. Most civil rights ordinances provide exemptions
for religious institutions. In addition, many gay and lesbian members
of various religious denominations are organizing within their faith
so that religious institutions may become more accepting of the diversity
of their following.
They want to be treated like a minority, like an ethnic minority. The Supreme
Court says they're not. And we know they're not because they never rode
in the back of the bus and they are not economically deprived. Studies
show that gay men have more disposable income than the rest of Americans.
Gay men and lesbians are a numerical minority in American society.
Like ethnic minorities, we do face job loss, eviction, non-service at
public accommodations, and the loss of our children simply because of
who we are. And like other minorities, gay people face harassment, physical
assault, and murder based on an assailant's hatred against us as a group.
A Department of Justice study reported that "homosexuals are the
most frequent victims" of hate crime. "Minority status" affords
no benefits to anyone; rather, it provides guidelines to attempt to redress
the inequalities that impair the exercise of constitutionally-guaranteed
freedoms, including equal protection under the law. Our Constitution
says that all people are created equal--that must include gay and lesbian
people as well.
Homosexuals lead an abominable lifestyle. People who care about traditional
family values must not encourage the open expression of this sexual depravity.
Response: Discrimination is the abomination, not gay and lesbian
people. The family values we uphold are support, love, understanding,
and respect between family members. Discrimination and bigotry are not
traditional family values.
You can't let gays be near children; since they can't reproduce, they recruit.
And they are all pedophiles.
Statistics show that the vast majority of sexual abuse is committed
by men against women, usually within the heterosexual family structure.
Pedophiles are criminals who derive illicit pleasure from sexual abuse
of children, and whose adult sexual attractions are almost always to
members of the opposite sex. One 1992 study from Denver showed that children
are 100 times more likely to be molested by a family member than by a
gay person. Lies perpetuate stereotypes that are then used to deny gay
people our rights. It is wrong to deny us our rights based on these myths.
Gay people want to force their lifestyle on us and take away our rights.
Civil rights laws that include lesbian and gay people do not limit
the rights of others. Instead, they extend to gays and lesbians the same
rights already enjoyed by most Americans--the right to obtain and keep
employment based on ability to do the job; the right to equal access
to housing; the right to raise their children; and the right to live
free of violence. There is no so-called "gay lifestyle." Gay
men and lesbians are members of every social class, religious faith,
ethnic group, occupation, and political affiliation. Gay people are not
interested in forcing anything on anyone--just the opposite. We demand
the freedom to live our lives with the same freedoms and rights that
are accorded to all citizens, without fear that our liberty will be usurped
by far right bigots and religious intolerance.
What this is really leading to are marriage licenses for gay men and lesbians,
joint benefits, child adoptions, formalized domestic relationships, and
the destruction of the American family. This is wrong.
Civil rights laws including gays and lesbians do not automatically
grant us the right to marry. While the Christian Right perpetuates the
stereotype of all gay people as sexually promiscuous individuals, society
denies us recognition of our committed unions. Gay people are struggling
to gain basic employment benefits for spouses equivalent to our heterosexual
co-workers in their committed relationships.
What about bisexuals? They sometimes pretend to be normal heterosexual people,
but they engage in the same abnormal, unhealthy sexual practices as homosexuals.
Bisexuals are getting AIDS from homosexual sex and then spreading it throughout
the heterosexual community.
Bisexual men and women live, work, and organize within the gay and
lesbian community and in the larger human rights community. Lesbians,
gay men, and bi people are all targets of the same oppression, excused
on the basis that we value sexual and affectional relationships with
members of the same gender. The US Department of Defense "ban against
gays in the military" also includes those acting or identifying
as bisexual. Many right-wing initiatives, including Colorado's Amendment
2, target bisexuals along with gay men and lesbians in their petition
language and in the effects of their discriminatory legislation. Lesbians,
gay men, and bi people work together to oppose these attempts to legislate
against our civil rights. AIDS is the cumulative effect of immuno-suppression
exacerbated by the presence of a virus (HIV) that critically impairs
the ability of the body to keep itself well. Viruses do not target specific
people or discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or identity.
The prevention of HIV/AIDS ultimately rests with each individual person's
responsibility for her or his own actions, regardless of sexual orientation,
class, race, gender, or sexual identity.
It's within our First Amendment rights to say what we think of homosexuals.
Right-wing organizations hide their homophobia behind the First Amendment.
While the right wing demands the right to speak out against homosexuality,
they are running well-financed campaigns to censor and squelch positive
images of gay and lesbian people on television, in schools, and in the
arts. The hatred and lies that right-wing organizations spew create a
hostile environment for gay and lesbian people. Their rhetoric bolsters
the hatred expressed by the bigots who physically attack gay men and
lesbians. A national study conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force (NGLTF) Policy Institute documented 1,898 anti-gay incidents
in just five US cities in 1992, a 172 percent increase over the number
of incidents in 1990.
Robin Kane is an experienced media specialist who has worked for the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other human rights groups. This
article previously appeared in the NGLTF publication, Fight the Right
Action Kit. © 1995, Robin Kane.