As the chicken fueled battle over marriage equality continues to fill my Facebook news feed, I am seeing more and more complaints from gay marriage opponents regarding the charge of bigotry against them. They don't understand why they can't have an opinion without being called a bigot. Mel Gibson once wondered the same thing.
Thankfully, I am here to clear up the difference between a difference of opinion over a political matter, and bigotry.
If you oppose a new school being built in the poor part of town because you are concerned that the children would be at risk in that location, that is a difference of opinion over a political matter. If you oppose a new school being built in the poor part of town because you think it is a waste of resources to educate the poor kids who will likely just end up in prison, that is bigotry.
Both positions shared an opposition, but only one of them was based on a discriminatory stance against a particular group of people.
If you oppose gay marriage because you don't believe the government should recognize any marriages whatsoever, that is a difference of opinion over a political matter. If you oppose gay marriage because you think gay people are sinners or not deserving of the same rights as other people, that is bigotry.
Religious beliefs do not excuse you from the label of bigotry. Religious beliefs are generally the inciting factor in bigotry.
If we take a stroll down memory lane, to look at the protests against interracial marriage in the US, we find example after example of religious beliefs at the core of the debate:
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races show that he did not intend for the races to mix." The Honorable Leon M Bazile, Virginia
"...moral or social equality between the different races...does not in fact exist, and never can. The God of nature made it otherwise, and no human law can produce it, and no human tribunal can enforce it. There are gradations and classes throughout the universe. From the tallest archangel in Heaven, down to the meanest reptile on earth, moral and social inequalities exist, and must continue to exist throughout all eternity." The State of Georgia, Supreme Court
As someone who has been made to feel marginalized, shunned, and a societal outcast, I am not sorry that your feelings are hurt when you are labeled as a bigot. You make a conscious choice to discriminate against a group of people who never had a choice when they were born different from you. Even your own ex-gay organizations now admit that homosexuals were born gay. And no, it's not the same thing as being born a pedophile.
Perhaps we could all benefit from some Mother's wisdom -- if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.