Why You May Be a Bigot

By Michael Hawkins

In the time since Governor Baldacci signed the same-sex marriage bill there has been much made of the word “bigot”. Those in favor of securing civil rights have deemed their opponents to be worthy of such a term. Naturally, those opponents balk at such an insult. So let’s take a closer look at the term.

The dictionary definition leaves a bit to be desired: “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion”. If this is the only definition of “bigot”, then most people who offer any certainty in their beliefs could fall under its umbrella. But the word clearly must have a better distinction than that.

It is actions on which the term turns. Thomas Jefferson noted in his Letter to the Danbury Baptists that “government [can] reach actions only, and not opinions”. Even if one wishes to abuse the word to include beliefs of certainty, it is not important here. Action matters.

And so it is the action of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other religious groups (and a majority of conservatives) to deny civil rights to a group of people. This is bigotry by definition. There is no way to get around this, no matter how offended one might be by the label.

If you are against homosexuality, you may be a bigot. It isn’t important to settle that issue right now. But if you are against allowing homosexuals civil rights you would otherwise readily grant to another group? Well, sir, that makes you a bigot.

The very idea of rights is that they are to be granted to anyone and everyone so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. It must be shown that granting all of Maine’s citizens (it doesn’t just apply to homosexuals) the right to marry a person of the same gender will be somehow harmful if one wishes to outlaw it. No such case has been made. No such case could be made. Homosexuality offers no threat to any individual’s or group’s welfare, property, or rightful pursuit of happiness. But denying rights to an entire group for no good reason? That does violate the concept of rights espoused by so many philosophers, professors, rational thinkers, and the founding fathers. It runs counter to what it means to be a fair and good and moral human being.

Lead us not into bigotry but deliver us from evil.

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