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New Group of Marriage Equality Supporters Calls for 'Tolerance' of Homophobia

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A coalition of 58 LGBT people and allies -- most of them conservatives or libertarians -- came out with a statement yesterday on the resignation of former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. Mr. Eich, you'll recall, voluntarily stepped down earlier this month amidst public outcry over donations he made to the viciously homophobic Proposition 8 campaign and various anti-gay politicians.

The statement, titled "Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent," desperately tries to revive the lie that Eich was targeted and toppled by LGBT activists -- a victim of "left-liberal" "intolerance," as Andrew Sullivan so ridiculously claimed.

The truth, of course, is much different: not a single LGBT organization commented publicly on the controversy at all, much less called for Eich's ouster. The campaign against Eich was concentrated almost exclusively within the tech community and was driven largely by Mozilla staffers and developers. But, to quote Dahlia Lithwick, truthiness knows no debunking.

The signatories profess concern that the Eich kerfuffle "signal[s] an eagerness by some supporters of same-sex marriage to punish rather than to criticize or to persuade those who disagree... We strongly believe that opposition to same-sex marriage is wrong," they write, "but the consequence of holding a wrong opinion should not be the loss of a job."

Claiming that those same nameless LGBT rights supporters are taking "a worrisome turn toward intolerance and puritanism," the statement then implies that those who think the Eich controversy resolved itself appropriately are nothing less than enemies of speech and freedom:

The freedom -- not just legal but social -- to express even very unpopular views is the engine that propelled the gay-rights movement from its birth against almost hopeless odds two generations ago. A culture of free speech created the social space for us to criticize and demolish the arguments against gay marriage and LGBT equality. For us and our advocates to turn against that culture now would be a betrayal of the movement's deepest and most humane values.

How utterly absurd. This alleged attack on the "culture of free speech" is a straw man, pure and simple; nobody disputes the right of Brendan Eich -- or anyone else, for that matter -- to hold any prejudicial views they wish or to express those views in public. But Eich's right to his anti-gay beliefs does not protect him from the free-market consequences of those beliefs, including the loss of his community's confidence.

What makes this new "Freedom to Dissent" pledge so repugnant is that it essentially justifies homophobia by implicitly conceding that it deserves, as conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat puts it, "some modest purchase in civil society." Mindful of their impending defeat on marriage, opponents of equality are now trying to redefine "tolerance" to mean "affirming homophobic bigotry as a legitimate worldview deserving of deference and respect" -- and these 58 signatories have bought it hook, line and sinker.

But our culture doesn't treat other forms of bigotry with "respect" and "tolerance." To the contrary, prejudices like sexism, racism and anti-Semitism are overwhelmingly regarded with revulsion and scorn -- because society has rightfully decided that these toxic social evils deserve to be shamed and stigmatized, and that sexists, racists and anti-Semites no longer deserve a seat at the table of civil discourse. The lesson of the Brendan Eich controversy is that the public is increasingly ready to add homophobes to that list.

So I'd like to ask every single signer of this "Freedom to Dissent" pledge: if Brendan Eich had donated to a white supremacist or neo-Nazi group, would you make similar pleas for "serious consideration" of and "vigorous public debate" about the merits of those "dissenting" views? Would you work so hard to uphold the fiction that two morally equivalent sides exist on issues like racism and sexism and anti-Semitism?

Or is it just homophobic bigotry that deserves this special form of "tolerance?"

This post originally appeared at The Bilerico Project.