2013 is over, and in many ways it was a great year for LGBTQ rights. Gay rights support is at an all-time high, and the massive surge of states approving marriage equality continues to rush through the nation. Fully half of the 18 states (plus DC) that have legalized gay marriage did so in 2013. The Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 unconstitutional, as well as refusing to rule on the appeal of California’s Proposition 8 (effectively declaring it, too, unconstitutional).
I guess you could even call it a banner year. Zing!
However, it seems there have been as many setbacks as victories for the movement. As many court cases, legislative bills, and public votes approving gay marriage as there were, there are even more states which staunchly hold to their belief that gay couples don’t deserve the same rights as straight couples. Conservative pundits and activists continue to scream and yell about how the gays are the cause of everything from hurricanes and earthquakes to the complete collapse of western society.
Thankfully on the legislative side, they’re mostly reduced to drafting impotent bills that address imaginary problems.
“Next we’re gonna pass a law banning sasquatch from public parks.”
However, that doesn’t change the fact that there continues to be a serious opposition to gay rights in this country, and that opposition is almost entirely based on religious values.
It seems to me that the sports world is a microcosm of the greater gay rights debate. 2013 was a landmark year for gay equality in sports. Most prominently, there was the story of NBA player Jason Collins who came out as gay in Sports Illustrated. Collins marked the first time an active player in one of the 4 major sports in America (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey) was openly gay.
Sadly, Collins made his pronouncement as his contract with the Washington Wizards was coming at an end, and he has yet to find a new team. While his age (35) certainly is partially responsible for his difficulty finding a place to play, it strains credulity to suggest that his coming out has nothing to do with it.
This is the face of an NBA pensioner.
Collins did face some level of push back both within and outside the sports world, though. ESPN analyst, Chris Broussard said that Collins couldn’t be gay and Christian at the same time. Also, spokesman for the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, worried about Collins looking at other players in the shower. Collins responded to Fischer’s absurd complaints with more calm and rationality than I probably would be able to manage, saying, “Believe me, I’ve taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons. My behavior wasn’t an issue before, and it won’t be one now. My conduct won’t change.”
Before that, in February, US soccer player Robbie Rogers came out on his website, saying he had to leave the game to, “discover myself away from football.” However, his retirement didn’t last long, and he returned to MLS in the summer, becoming the first openly gay men’s athlete to play in a major league in America. It was an incredible story, and one that the league website considered one of the biggest of the year.
And let’s face it, now that Beckham’s gone, he’s the Galaxy’s dreamiest player too.
One of the most heartening aspects of the Rogers story is that while he’s struggled both with injuries and with consistency on the field since joining the LA Galaxy, all criticisms of the team’s trade is focused on his play, without bringing up his sexual orientation.
Yet as the LGBTQ community makes impressive strides forward in the sports community, there is the inevitable steps back.
In September of 2012, Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote a letter to the Baltimore Ravens’ head office to demand they silence one of the players who was speaking out in favor of marriage equality. Vikings (now former) punter, Chris Kluwe, wrote a brilliantly biting and profanity ridden response to Burns which was published on the website Deadspin (if you’ve never read it, I urge you to click that link. It’s amazing).
If for no other reason, to find out the context for the term “lustful cockmonster”.
This little experience put Kluwe in the spotlight in ways NFL punters rarely experience. He responded with great aplomb by spending much of the year pointing out hate, bigotry, and corruption wherever he saw it, and publishing a book about his opinions of society.
After last season, Kluwe was released by the Vikings. While at the time this seemed like an innocuous roster move by the team, Kluwe has recently alleged that it was a mix of his activism and a homophobic coach which led to his firing. The former punter can’t prove that is the case, but he lays out some compelling arguments for it.
Of course, proving discrimination when terminated from a job is not easy. I had a situation myself once where I was – and still am – convinced that I was fired because I’m atheist. I worked for awhile under a boss who was deeply religious and evangelical. When he found out I was atheist, he constantly harassed me about it. He would call me immoral, and constantly bring to me various “proofs” of god’s existence. When the company was having financial troubles and had to lay off an employee, I was the one who was laid off. I can’t prove that it was because of my atheism, but I do know that there were 5 possible employees that were producing at the same level I was, and any of them could’ve been laid off in my place. From what I know of my boss, I’m sure that he picked me because of my beliefs. Again, though, I can’t prove it.
“I assure you, this is for purely economic reasons.”
Sports is rife with homophobia. Whether it’s former baseball players using the same tired arguments that were debunked when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, or the general machismo-filled culture of an entire league, you can’t get away from it. And as Kluwe pointed out in his recent article, there’s a price people pay when they try to change a culture for the better.
This is a man who doesn’t understand the idea of a hostile work environment.
The part I can’t figure out is this, though. Outside of religious texts, why is there any objection to LGBTQ rights? The conservative evangelist crowd has made it clear where they stand. They flock to restaurants in solidarity when the CEO makes bigoted comments. They scream and yell about freedom of speech and buy books by the masses when their favorite reality stars get suspended for hateful remarks.
Every major organization that’s opposed to marriage equality in this country, be it the American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage, or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, all of them are religious based. According to Wikipedia’s list of opponents to same-sex marriage, of the around 70 organizations listed, virtually every one of them was religiously based. And I don’t meant to suggest that it’s only extreme right-wing Christianity that’s fight against marriage equality. Wikipedia’s list includes mainline Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and even Rastafarians.
But if you take away the religious objection, what’s left? That some people think gays are icky? I can’t imagine anyone would think that’s a reasonable reason to write laws based upon. Is there anything else?
“They’re too well dressed, maybe? I’m sorry, I only speak in stereotypes.”
I’ve posed this question before. If it weren’t for the biblical prohibition on homosexuality, is there a single good reason to oppose gays? I have yet to hear a single answer to that, compelling or not.
That’s what’s gets me so angry about religion. There is nothing wrong with gays. They are wonderful and productive members of society who want nothing more than the same public acknowledgement of their relationship that the rest of us get. Only to the religious could that be seen as something terrible. Only to the religious could two consenting adults loving each other how they want be seen as a threat to society. They may say empty platitudes like “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but those sayings are pure BS. You can’t claim to love a person while at the same time act to restrict their rights.
But what about that biblical prohibition? For a moment, let’s stipulate that the Bible is absolutely correct when it comes to gays. It’s sin, and it’s immoral, and there’s no arguing about that. We’ll ignore the numerous objections, debunkings, and debates about any of those points.
Guess what, given all of that, it still doesn’t matter. The bible – contrary to what idiots like David Barton say – is not the foundation of all American law. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Ten Commandments that conservatives want to plaster in every courthouse and capitol building in the country. In case you couldn’t remember what they were, here’s a refresher. How many of those laws have similar incarnations in US law? As I count it, two and a half. Number 6 – thou shalt not kill – which in our law comes with numerous caveats and exemptions; number 8 – thou shall not steal – which is pretty universally accepted regardless of a culture’s religious affiliation; and finally number 9 – thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. I give number 9 half credit because there are certain instances in which bearing false witness (perjury) is explicitly forbidden, but in general it’s actually protected under freedom of speech.
So that’s it. Two and a half out of ten. Not exactly a rousing endorsement for biblical law. Gay rights should be exactly the same. You have the right to be opposed to them if you want, but the law should be equal.