Letter to the Editor – Demanding Respect

Christopher Nulty

When I came to Colgate I had already reconciled my identity as a gay man. I understood that there might be times when I would have to stand in the face of ignorance and hate. On this campus alone my safety has been threatened on multiple occasions solely on the basis of my identity, from being called “faggot” on the quad to students threatening me at cruisers stops and being told I was not welcome in certain campus groups. Every time such an incident has occurred, I remind myself that I am better than those who are so ignorant, so hateful to treat me as a second-class citizen.

Last week’s “Being Right” column, “Love is Not Enough,” by Olivia Offner, reminded me that the old adage about “sticks and stones” is not true. The hate and ignorance that Offner claimed simply to be a columnist’s rhetoric threatened the safety and dignity of all LGBT people at Colgate in the very same way that someone calling me “faggot” on the quad does. Offner’s attempt to humiliate an entire community, not just an individual, is far worse. The Maroon-News is supposed to be a place for rational discourse, both liberal and conservative; however, degrading the love of gay and lesbian couples by comparing it to bestiality, incest and polygamy is nothing more than bigotry and ignorance.

It was misleading that Offner insisted “to be opposed to homosexual marriage is not to be opposed to homosexuality,” and then failed to prove such a point. Instead she attempted to undermine the legitimacy of homosexuality, suggesting that a gay man’s ability to marry a woman is an exercise of his equal rights fails to recognize the necessity of love, honesty and intimacy in a relationship, let alone a marriage. When Offner suggested “marriage was founded to guard against sin, control human nature and perpetuate the human race,” I am challenged to believe that she is not then suggesting that homosexuality is sinful — if she is not, the quote had no place in her article.

When Offner argued that same-sex couples are looking for preferential protection under the law, she failed to enumerate these alleged special demands. Same-sex couples are demanding the exact same rights as straight couples — equal protection with regards to adoption, taxes, healthcare, hospital visits and other rights intrinsic to marriage. To suggest that the demand for identical rights is preferential protection is blatantly homophobic as it suggests that LGBT people do not deserve the same rights as their straight counterparts.

A great debate has emerged on The Maroon-News website over this column. Intermingled in the responses supporting same-sex marriage were conservative respondents offering two grievances: first, opposing same-sex marriage and expressing that viewpoint is your First Amendment right, and second, same-sex marriage proponents have begun to speak out against those who supported “Yes on Prop 8” financially.

I find these arguments irrelevant. I will always feel compelled to recognize and defend every American’s right to free speech; however when that “free speech” becomes hateful, dehumanizing and homophobic — and thus denies people equality — then it contradicts the American ideal that all people are equal under the law. The nature of protest politics is that boycotts are used to financially and socially counteract the reckless and irresponsible decisions of institutions and people. I have found it near impossible to feel sympathy for those facing boycott and criticism due to their financial support of the “Yes on Prop 8” campaign when it is still legal to fire someone from their job in 31 states because they are gay, lesbian or bisexual and in 38 states because they are transgender.

In the final paragraph of this column, Offner stated, “All Americans are equal, and have equal rights under the law.” How could she be so delusional to believe such an egregious statement? At face value, our constitution seems to suggest that all people are entitled to equal rights; nonetheless if you consider the discrimination that LGBT people face in regards to healthcare, marriage, adoption and employment then you would realize what a misnomer this idea of equality is.

Lastly, I would remind everyone of one important fact: Just because the people of California voted to ban same-sex marriage does not mean that their decision was constitutional. And thus, undoubtedly, the California Supreme Court will once again be given the last word. I take solace in knowing that the court’s comprehension of the Constitution and the ideal of equality will trump the prejudice of voters. I did not vote on your marriage — so please, do not assume it is your right to vote on mine.