What I found most disturbing about both Courtney Dunbar and Larry VanDyke’s ant-gay editorials was the authors’ shared view of the pursuit of civil rights and liberties as some sort of brutal, zero-sum game.
Mr. VanDyke, for example, seems to be asserting that any time “tolerance” for homosexuals becomes state policy, religious freedom will automatically be impinged. Why, I would ask, can’t we have both religious freedom and gay rights? Why can’t I have the freedom to live my life and structure my family as I see fit, while also standing by the right of a christian fundamentalist to teach his children that homosexualtiy is wrong? THat is the logic of both Lawrence and, arguably, Goodridge- that the state may not favor one group’s pursuit of “the good” over another’s without concrete reasons that amount to more than a set of abstract moral and philosophical opinions. This is what real pluralism is all about- and it is a founding and core value of American democracy (as evidenced by none other than the Constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom).
This kind of democratic pluralism was also a primary value of the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Dunbar’s narrow-minded desire to shut certain people out of the legacy of that movement, to act as if it were the sole property of herself and her group (and whomever else they choose to recognize as having suffered “like them”), is evidence of a particularly infuriating kind of narrow-minded arrogance. Fortunately, her sentiments are not shared by the likes of Nelson Mandella and Coretta Scott King, both of whom have recognized that the struggles for gay rights and racial equality, while by no means equivalent, are rooted together in many common principles and values.
Many GLBT people will spend their lives living in fear of very real harassment and persecution from the homophobic majority. Whatever one thinks about same sex marriage (I am on the fence for a variety of reasons), to suggest that their efforts to be free of this sort of injustice constitute nothing more than an attempt to oppress others and mock the struggle for equality is profoundly offensive. The promises of freedom and equality before the law belong to all of us, as does this country. Mr VanDyke and Ms. Dunbar would do well to remember that fact.