Our federal government is in a bind as it's supposed to be providing solutions to some of the biggest national challenges, but is currently stuck in legislative gridlock due to intense partisanship. Some of the hot button issues on the table like gun violence and illegal immigration are characterized by their complexity, as advocates on different sides readily admit. But a number of the matters up for consideration aren't really that complex, and are contentious issues only because some refuse to practice tolerance and respect for those different from themselves.
Take for example the debates over LGBT rights. On one side are people who understand the constitutional guarantee of equal protection for all and advocate for marriage equality, employment non-discrimination, and equal benefits on that basis. Leading the opposition are religious fundamentalists, who interpret their holy scriptures as condemning homosexuality. While there are certainly two different opinions, only one is a valid expression of political thought, while the other is merely a vocalization of deeply held bias.
Arguments for LGBT discrimination are based not upon considerations for public health or legal precedent but upon religiously enshrined prejudice. It's embarrassing and unjust that practices like employment or housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity persist in many states. And one of the ways this discrimination continues is through fabricated debate on topics not worthy of deliberation.
Unlike the conversation about the national debt, where advocates argue in favor of or in opposition to austerity measures based upon economic models and rational considerations, the fight for LGBT rights is instead a battle between those with considered viewpoints on one side and those who express their personal and group intolerance on the other. While the media continues to give a platform to these backward ideas, and occasionally opens the door for white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups , they rarely do so for other explicitly known hate groups such as self-described neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan. This is because they realize that neo-Nazis have nothing relevant or productive to say about anti-Semitism, and that the Klan doesn't have any role to play in the conversation about race relations.
This dynamic is also seen when "men's rights advocates" push back strongly against equality for women over perceived threats to their own rights. These MRAs are the intellectual descendants of those who justified their arguments for male superiority with Bible quotes like Timothy 2:11-12: "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet." Their complaints of misandry and "reverse sexism" mimic the cries of "reverse racism" following the days of racial emancipation. Just as those who want creationism taught in public schools have resorted to unscientific intelligent design arguments, the MRAs are trying to back-up their prejudicial claims with unscientific conclusion-first thinking.
Even though women's rights issues like equal pay and protection from domestic violence should not be topics up for debate, MRAs insist upon voicing their opinions on the issue--and too often the media and others listen. Since the foundation of their opinions is that of religiously sanctioned discrimination and blatant sexism, MRAs and their allies should be ignored like other fringe groups.
Unfortunately, instead of ignoring hateful fundamentalist rants, the media reports on such issues as if both sides make an equally reasonable and compelling argument. The media often amplifies the stereotypes and other debasements in an effort to provide false balance to rights activists. Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks and recipient of the 2012 Humanist Media Award, said at the American Humanist Association's annual conference that this problem is the result of a media that cares more about being perceived as "fair" by viewers than actually finding out the truth about an issue.
Bigoted people of all stripes and sizes will continue to cling to their prejudices and sadly, they will even demand that their intolerant and inaccurate beliefs be the standard by which all of society lives. It's time to call them on their hate and stop equating them with valid and informed stances. Everyone has a right to say what they believe, but people shouldn't expect to be taken seriously if what they say is so obviously based upon prejudice and superstition.
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