Disagreement Is Not Bigotry

Some years ago, a woman asked me whether I was in favor of gay marriage. I said that I was not. This led to her becoming angry with me over my obvious homophobia and bigotry. Clearly I gave the wrong answer.

Evidently, in the eyes of this woman, anyone who is not in favor of gay marriage is a bad person. It seems to me, though, that it is entirely possible to disagree with someone without being evil, ignorant, bigoted, or otherwise deficient.

For example, it could well have been that I simply didn’t understand the issues involved, what homosexuality is. Possibly no one ever explained to me that gay people should be treated with as much respect and dignity as anyone else.

It might be that my religion does not allow for gay marriage, and I believe in that religion. There need not be any homophobia involved. It might simply be that I feel compelled to adhere to my religion’s rules, even though I could be sympathetic to how this impacts gay people.

In my case, there is a simple explanation. At the time, I did not believe in marriage for anyone. This woman’s rage was based on an unfounded assumption: that the important point was whether a person was gay, rather than whether I considered marriage to be a good thing.

Unfortunately, we have become so polarized in our beliefs that we fight holy wars over trivial issues. Whether I believe in gay marriage or not is unimportant. What matters is how I treat people, gay people included. Even if I disapproved of their marriages, I can still remain respectful and friendly. And in the end, that is what matters most.

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