‘Religious rights’ are one thing, pushing those beliefs on others is another

I remember listening to my classmates in the locker bay years ago in high school. I went to East Dubuque (IL) High School, a small, tight-knit collection of around 150 students. I remember those years with a great deal of emotional pain. I was a closeted gay teenager living in a horrifying atmosphere of perpetual homophobia.

It was nothing less than miraculous when I managed my way through a day without hearing someone talking about homos, dykes, fa**ots, queers, fairies and endless other homophobic slurs. I was trapped in solitude, denied the comfort of coming out to my friends. Instead, I entrapped myself in secrecy and horrible loneliness. I hated myself for being different, endured suicidal thoughts and tried to cope with the debilitating pain of clinical depression, something I still battle to this day.

The point of me telling this story of my past is to illustrate the destructive consequences unleashed when people decide it’s permissible to isolate and persecute innocent people. This same blind, hideous homophobia is present in the arguments for the denying of marriage rights to gay people.

The respondent who criticized Bobby Bauch’s marriage equality article declares the giving of equality to gay people as an infringement on the rights of Christians. He claims it is the right of religious people to deny marriage and commercial services, such as flower sales, to gay people. He therefore is demonstrating the core argument in my previous article: the idea amongst bigoted Christians that their religion is not only a belief, but an institutional law that must be enforced on everyone, regardless of whether they believe in it or not. I don’t know if the respondent himself is a homophobe, but he is certainly raising the dogma of those who are.

I am not advocating for churches to be required to host weddings for gay people, nor am I demanding Christian organizations be required to participate in marriage ceremonies for gay people. Christian churches and organizations are private, usually non-commercial, institutions, therefore giving them the right to deny association with whomever they want. If they want to live their lives locked away in the blind hate cults that are their religious institutions, they may do so. However, they have no right to turn their cult ideals into government policy or the laws of this country. They have no right to openly persecute gay people in commercial settings. Just as a business cannot legally deny service based on race, they should not be permitted to do so based on sexual orientation. We claim the U.S. is meant to be a land of freedom and justice for all. If that mantra is true, then the views of the Christian Right are not compatible with it.

What people need to understand is that denying a person the right to be treated equally like everyone else does more than deny them the right to marriage or the ability to “purchase flowers.” Being told you are inferior to another group of people is one of the most psychologically damaging actions that can be taken against a person. Just as living in a high school environment dominated by those who dehumanized and persecuted gay people was psychologically destructive for me, living in a nation where Christians are allowed to perpetrate this same cruelty is emotionally and psychologically destructive for the entire LGBT community. There is a reason gay people have higher suicide rates and more instances of depression and isolation than straight people. Bigotry kills, whether it’s taking a life or destroying a person’s humanity.

I cannot reform the Christian churches. I cannot change the views of anti-gay religious people. If you wish to believe that gay people like me are your social inferiors, scum of the Earth usurping the “purity” of your warped definition of marriage, so be it. This article is not meant for you. This article is a plea, a sobbing cry for help to all of you Christians who aren’t homophobic bigots. Gay people cannot defend themselves alone. Just as blacks needed whites to gain civil rights, and women needed men to get theirs, gay people need straight people, including religious straight people, to win this war against discrimination.

Christianity is a religion capable of amazing beauty and loving acceptance, but instead, “the right” has poisoned so much of it into a cult of hate. If you are a true Christian who believes in equality and love for everyone, as I imagine Jesus would have wanted, then liberate your faith from those who wish to use it as a vehicle to promote their bigoted views. It is the responsibility of Christians to reform their own community. We cannot do it for you.

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