Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, has turned her family's media magnetism into a lucrative career as a reality show star, giving her a platform to comment often about her political and religious beliefs. Recently she combined the two, penning a blog post about her opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples, but also touting her ability to interact effortlessly with gay people, despite any political differences.
Palin was responding to a media question about whether she would feel comfortable being paired with a gay dance partner on Dancing with the Stars. To hear her tell it, any tension between her and LGBT people created by her brand of politics is a media fabrication. She wants everyone to understand her political goals are separate from her treatment of gay people.
I'm hearing a lot of that these days. Palin's explanation is the new talking point of the anti-gay movement, and even the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. Disagreement over issues such as civil marriage or employment nondiscrimination laws isn't personal, they insist. Rather, those political positions simply reflect a set of values LGBT Americans should learn to tolerate. No harm, no foul. Let's dance!
It's time to unpack this argument.
What people like Palin are saying is that I should be tolerant of their intolerance. I'm the one who should show tolerance and respect for their dogged pursuit of laws and policies that would prevent gay and lesbian Americans from enjoying the basic protections afforded to heterosexual families. In Palin's eyes, "God's plan for marriage" (her words) not only excludes me, it is also a universal truth that should be imposed upon all of us through federal law, whether we share her religious beliefs or not. Why, indeed, should I not "tolerate" Bristol Palin's religious plan for my life?
Romney has repeatedly said he opposes discrimination against anyone, including gays and lesbians. But his pledge to support a federal marriage amendment that would force states like Massachusetts and Iowa to stop marrying same-sex couples is among the more discriminatory proposals ever advanced by a U.S. presidential candidate. Romney may not want employers to discriminate against LGBT Americans, but he also believes it should remain legal to do just that. No offense!
This weird brand of politics sees my equality as somehow limiting religious freedom. But opposing Palin's political agenda is not the same as preventing her from exercising her faith. Palin may worship as she chooses and proselytize all she likes. Indeed, she is even free to try to change laws to reflect her own religious beliefs. But it's laughable to suggest that opposition to those efforts is the same as the intolerance practiced by the anti-gay movement. We're not the ones attempting to force anyone to change anything at all about their own lives or personal beliefs, whereas people like Palin and Romney are actively engaged in trying to block access to the rights and responsibilities that come from legal marriage.
I'm used to people like Bristol Palin telling me that I should believe and behave as they do. But now they also want me to stand aside, stay silent and tolerate them as they try to force me to live under their religious laws. Thanks, Bristol, but my dance card is full.