I got sucked into a Facebook debate about Chik Fil A president Dan Cathy the other day. I probably should have just stayed out of it, but it’s been on my mind since then. Dan Cathy was called a bigot, a hate-monger, and intolerant. It also was suggested that the “one issue that separates the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys’ is their opinion on marriage equality.”
I’m not thrilled about being called a “bad guy” and I don’t really agree that I am an intolerant, bigoted, hate-monger. I was even told that I was “hurting people I care about” because of my beliefs and opinions. So I had to think about why this issue has become so huge in recent years and what we can do about it. I think it is necessary to divide the issues and discuss them individually.
First (because it’s easiest) – Dan Cathy, Chicken and The First Amendment…
Reasonable people agree that Dan Cathy has the right to say what he wants and to support causes he chooses with his money. People may choose to not patron his restaurants because they disagree with him. Fine. No one has said that any of this violates his rights or their rights in any way. The First Amendment comes into play only when government officials threaten to limit his ability to do business in their districts because they disagree with his moral views. This is a clearly bigoted and intolerant position on their part… not on Dan Cathy’s part.
This leads to a second issue – terms and definitions…
Bigotry is behavior. Intolerance is behavior. Hate is an attitude. Some have claimed that Dan Cathy (and others) are all three of these because of their beliefs and that the only reason he treats customers and employees the way he does is because it is required by law. This is a ridiculous argument. It is possible to make a conclusion based on someone’s behavior, but it is unreasonable to make a conclusion about their thoughts that is contrary to their behavior. Tolerance is, in fact, the very acceptance of those with whom we disagree. I would concede that Cathy may have been insensitive in the way he answered the question, but it is, at least unfair, to label him in the way that he has been.
Enough about Dan Cathy… he really is not that important to this debate and does nothing to further the discussion, other than perhaps shedding national spotlight on it.
The problem is that some have redefined bigotry and intolerance as anyone who disagrees with their opinion and if one should voice that opposing opinion that is labeled “hate.”
One more clarifying definition… Marriage is NOT a civil right. Marriage is a ceremony, originating with religion, in which a man and woman are joined according to their religious beliefs. This is the definition of the term. Marriage has been recognized by most governments as giving these couples certain rights and responsibilities, but it is not, in and of itself, a right.
This leads us to the question of civil rights. What rights should all people have? What rights are afforded to married couples that others should have and do not?
Finally, then, how can those who are currently arguing for “marriage equality” secure the actual rights they seek for those who are currently denied them. The question to ask is, “Why are these rights given only to married people?” Shouldn’t non-married people, regardless of sexual preference, be allowed to choose their beneficiary? Shouldn’t everyone be allowed to determine who can visit them in the hospital? Shouldn’t any person be able to assign any other person of their choosing to have power of attorney or any other rights of survivorship they choose?
Truth be told, I would never deny any rights to any one and I will fight for and support those who are denied rights for any reason. However, comparing gay marriage to slavery and women’s right to vote is an insult to those who fought so hard for so long for those rights. I don’t believe that opinion makes me bigoted or intolerant. It’s OK with me if you disagree and I don’t hate you if you do so. According to the definition, marriage is not a right. Let’s fight for the actual rights and stop all the name calling and the intolerance on both sides.