Thursday, April 2, 2015

Since when did we decide that American discrimination doesn't matter as long as someone else is worse?

I must have missed the memo, but since when did we decide that our discrimination doesn't matter as long as someone else, somewhere else, is worse?

It seems like the right has adopted this as a go-to defense of their bigotry: stop whining about American Christians who want to be able to oppress gay people -- at least we're not asking to kill them, like they do in some countries!

It's a takeaway from Senator Tom Cotton's suggestion on CNN the other day that Americans upset by the potential for legalized discrimination really needed to "have a sense of perspective. In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay."

And it's certainly the implication to posts like the following, from former Congressman Allen West.
I find it ironic that we are so tolerant of a religion that kills Christians, gays and lesbians, yet we are punishing businesses in America for their Christian religious beliefs. It seems this Easter weekend we are reminded that Christian persecution has risen to a disturbing level.
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Not only, you see, are Christians being "persecuted" by not being allowed to discriminate against LGBT people, West is complaining that we're tolerant of a religion that kills gay people. Presumably, the religion in question is Islam -- not only because it's a safe bet that, at any given time, Allen West is no more than half a sentence away from an Islam-slam, but because it would be far too much to expect the sort of honesty that would acknowledge the existence of murderous, homophobic strains of the Christian faith.

The message, then, is that you've no business criticizing Christian bigots, because at least they're not trying to murder gay people like some Muslim bigots do. (Except, of course, when they are; but once you're down the conservative rabbit hole, you realize that while "bad Muslims" define the faith, "bad Christians" just don't count.) In short, be grateful, gay people: American Christian conservatives are contenting themselves to isolate and discriminate against you, when they could be trying to kill you!

Of course, not all versions have to do with Muslims.

If Islam is Allen West's kryptonite, abortion is right-wing writer Matt Walsh's. So, obviously, he tells us in an over-the-top rage-fest on The Blaze, anti-discrimination efforts are, like, totally pointless -- because abortion!
Don’t be silly, the national outrage has nothing to do with dead babies, instead it’s all targeted at Indiana. No, not because anyone’s life is in jeopardy, but because a few homosexuals might be inconvenienced when attempting to purchase consumer goods.
In Walsh's mind, it's crazy that people could simultaneously think women should have reproductive rights and LGBT people shouldn't face discrimination.

Now, are there worse things that anti-gay discrimination? Of course (although a woman's right to choose is certainly not one of them...). Back in the day, there were worse things that segregated drinking fountains, or racial miscegenation laws. But we recognize that "something worse exists" isn't a valid reason to legalize the somewhat-less-bad action. It doesn't absolve a thief of his crime because he didn't also commit murder like someone else might have: he's still guilty of theft. It doesn't absolve a bigot of bigotry just because his particular brand of bigotry doesn't lean toward murder.

Yes, there are worse things than treating gay people like second class human beings, and there are more violently-inclined bigots than your average right-wing Christian bigot. But so what? There are worse things than having your wallet stolen -- both legal and illegal. But just because some financial schemes are essentially legalized theft, and some criminals resort to worse crimes than theft, I'd still be pretty upset if someone stole my wallet. And, if it was legal to steal wallets, I'd work to make it illegal.

So, no, conservatives, you don't get a free pass to discriminate just because there are worse bigots than you. No, it's not okay that you want to deprive people of anti-discrimination protections because you also want to target other people and their rights. You're not moral just because someone else somewhere else is even more immoral than you.

And, frankly, you do yourself no favors by lying on top of aggressively pursuing special protections for your bigotry. I don't think anyone outside conservative circles thinks it reflects well on you that your stance on LGBT rights isn't as bad as that of ISIS' or the Ayatollahs'. And I doubt the comparison sits that well with a lot of your base, either.

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