hateful speech

Why Are D.C.’s Gays Just Fine With The ‘Vote on Marriage’ Bus Ads?


Several high profile gays from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance have signed onto a letter urging the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority “to reject the misguided censorship advocated by Full Equality Now DC” to pull anti-gay advertising from their buses. The ads, purchased by the religiously motivated anti-gay group Stand For Marriage DC, reads “LET THE PEOPLE VOTE ON MARRIAGE.” And while we’re all for free speech, the opposing sides leave us wondering: Would any other group tolerate these advertisements under the guise of free speech?

The same-sex-marriage advocacy group, Full Equality Now D.C., posted an open letter to the WMATA over the weekend decrying the ads as intimidating for gay riders and asking WMATA to pull the ads, but Full Equality Now DC has since pulled the letter from their website saying that it was only a revised draft that they never actually sent.

But these types of situations always require the “Insert Line Here” theory. As in, if the bus ads read, “LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE ON INTERRACIAL MARRIAGE” or “LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE ON JEWISH RIGHTS,” would black and Jewish groups say, “Well, we don’t like it, but y’know … free speech.” And in the meanwhile, the only group that seems to get that is the Washington DC City Council:

[StandForMarriageDC], group’s leaders have been continually denied by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, the DC Attorney General, and the DC City Council on the grounds that such a referendum directly conflicts with the City’s human rights ordinances. Councilmembers have repeated questioned why the members of StandForMarriageDC are insisting on a voter referendum on this particular council action when no referendum has occurred on legislative matters in a very long time. Councilman David Catania noted during a November hearing that the last Advisory Referendum that sought to “diminish the rights of a minority” was in 1865 when a near-unanimous vote opted to block the emerging rights of freed African-American males to vote in the District.

No self-respecting black or Latino-American would tolerate advertisements suggesting their rights should be up for a vote. So why should gays?

The question raises the ugly Prop 8 meme of whether or not gay is really the new black. A lot of gays already see same-sex and interracial marriage as landmarks in the same march towards full civil equality, but the trick is whether we can get consortiums of non-gays — in the black and Latino communities, and religious groups — to accept the analogy, or at least respect its foundation.

And even then, the entire premise of the D.C. bus advertisements still present a contradictory message, effectively arguing, “D.C.’s politicians denied us our civil right to deny civil rights to others.” This is grade school banter.

In Austin Cline’s essay on entitled, “Gay Marriage & Freedom: Protecting Marriage is No Reason for Discrimination”, Cline says:

“Even if one concedes the truth [that gay marriage poses] at least some threat on the margins of marriage, that isn’t enough to justify opposing gay marriage because bans on gay marriage devalue same-sex couples and hold gay citizens in a second-class status. You can’t protect a social institution through bigotry, injustice, and discrimination.

The same is true when it comes to arguing that legalizing gay marriage might lead to legalizing polygamy or incestuous marriages. Discrimination against gays is no more a justified means for protecting marriage than discrimination against blacks, atheists, or women would be.”

Thus, it’s entirely possible to be against hate (or hateful) speech, like the ads on the D.C. buses, and for the First Amendment at the same time. Instead of Full Equality Now pulling their open letter from the web or asking the transit authority to pull Stand For Marriage D.C.’s ads, we’d like both the LGAA and Full Equality Now to join in the First Amendment fun by taking out their own ads — and tying Stand For Marriage D.C.’s position to the same arguments made against interracial marriage. Maybe it’ll stir up D.C.’s minority populations to join LGBTs on the same side of bigotry: against it.