One late night in the press room at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, my Breitbart colleagues and I were chit-chatting with a member of the White House Press Corps, a charming woman who happened to be a lesbian. The discussion turned, somehow, to sexual politics, and I was surprised to encounter from this otherwise agreeable lady a pejorative epithet I had never heard before: “breeders,” i.e. straight people.
According to one line of thinking in the LGBT community, apparently, heterosexual sex is somehow inferior because of its lingering association with reproduction, and–shiver!–children. Gay and lesbian couples may adopt kids, but their sex will remain in the realm of pure emotion and desire, while we “breeders” must inevitably sully sexual passion with biological purpose–that is, if we are “lucky” enough to be fertile.
Perhaps I should not have been surprised. Every persecuted minority group develops its own terms to turn the tables. We Jews, for example, have the term “goy,” which is mildly offensive but not as nasty as “shiksa” (female) or “shaygetz” (male). What makes “breeder” odd is that “breeding” is a socially useful thing to do–and something that, like marriage, many gays and lesbians have fought in recent years to be able to do, as well.
In Arizona this week, the governor vetoed a bill that would have given legal protection to religious people who declined to participate, through their business dealings, in gay weddings. Actually, the bill was broader than that, so opponents seized the chance to cast it as “anti-gay,” or “Jim Queer.” Once the media agreed, the bill’s fate was sealed, ensuring that abusive lawsuits against religious people and institutions will continue to be filed.
Though Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision was probably justified, what the entire episode demonstrated is that gay intolerance enjoys a certain degree of legal and political protection. Again, this is not unusual: it is the kind of deference our society often shows towards minority groups. Filmmaker Spike Lee’s rant this week against the white people gentrifying Harlem (hello, Bill Clinton) would have been unthinkable had the races been reversed.
In my own community, there is widespread, if muted, anti-Christian intolerance that is considered not just acceptable but fashionable. It forms the basis of much of Sarah Silverman’s comedy schtick, for example. It is also a major reason why so many American Jews vote Democrat: they are afraid of evangelicals. One result: There is no one more philo-Semitic in U.S. politics than Sarah Palin, and yet liberal Jews still recoil in horror.
Democrats have a vested interest in whipping up such fears. Former Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida knew what he was doing when he greeted Palin’s nomination by mentioning Pat Buchanan and Nazis in the same breath. Likewise, Vice President Joe Biden told black voters in Virginia in 2012 that Mitt Romney was “gonna put y’all back in chains.” And gays and lesbians were told this week that Arizona’s law was a segue to segregation.
American politics as a whole suffers from this “plantation” politics, not only because it fosters intolerance but also because it means we can never have real debates about the issues that are most important to us. It is far easier to sue a bakery out of existence than to talk to its Christian owners about why gay marriages should be embraced. We abdicate our moral duties as citizens and neighbors in favor of the coercive power of the state.
And worst of all, we enshrine intolerance as a civic virtue. In my new hometown of Santa Monica, California, for example, there was recently a controversy over the fact that the city council would not permit an AIDS charity to advertise on buses. How could a “progressive” council refuse to support such a good cause? The city attorney patiently explained that if they let one non-profit group advertise, they would have to let all such groups do so.
As a hypothetical, she said, imagine that a Christian group opposed to gay marriage wanted to advertise on the city’s buses. Many people would be offended. Therefore, it was better simply to ban any such messages. This is a milder version of the “heckler’s veto,” which we saw in a Ninth Circuit ruling this week that upheld a California school’s decision to prohibit students from wearing the American flag on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.
Because we permit minorities to be intolerant, we weaken freedom for everyone. The irony is that the more that minority groups assimilate, the more intolerance by minorities grows, acting out our insecurities about who we really are. So gay intolerance of Christians only spikes once gays want to be married, too. Fear of evangelicals is more common among Reform than Orthodox Jews. And Spike Lee explodes as Harlem becomes less isolated.
Those who are more comfortable with who they are seem to feel less of a need to negate others. I suspect that underneath the outrage against Arizona’s law there is some degree of ambivalence in the gay community about marriage itself, and whether it is worth sacrificing a vibrant LGBT counter-culture to be just like the “breeders.” But gay pride should not depend on Christian shame. We’d all be much better off if tolerance went both ways.