The Conor Friedersdorf article that Henry Farrell links to is as odd as Henry makes it out to be. I guess the logic is that if you believe in some principle that leads you to reject photographing a gay couple’s wedding, but you have no personal animosity toward gay people as such (e.g., “some of my best friends are gay”), then you’re not homophobic?
I mean, I guess there’s some question of definition here. But “I support gay people, except for the bit wherein they have the same rights as the rest of us” is … at least the sort of thing that should give one pause.
I’m reminded of John Holbo’s very excellent Crooked Timber piece from nearly a year ago, pointing out that people have an odd soft spot for religiously based beliefs:
Suppose your neighbor leans over the fence and says, Dear neighbor, I notice you tend to sleep in until noon on Saturdays. I wish you would get up by 8 AM. I have a moral view according to which people should get up by 8 AM on Saturday morning. Your neighbor is free to say this. But he isnt entitled to you taking him seriously.
Religious beliefs are fine. But they don’t entitle your perspective to any more weight than beliefs which are, say, based on a devotion to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I wonder whether the religious basis of homophobia is what makes Friedersdorf leap to the defense of the photographers. Are their principles somehow more noble for being religious?
P.S.: Rereading the oh-so-excellent Holbo piece, I realize it’s actually even more relevant to this Farrell piece than I initially recalled. Holbo responds to a very confused premise, of the form “Genuine violations of people’s civil rights can’t be the sort of thing that we debate about; no one can reasonably stand to see anyone’s civil rights violated. Therefore, if we’re earnestly debating the rights of gay people — if there’s morally serious opposition to gay equality — then we must not be talking about a civil-rights issue. Therefore gay rights shouldn’t be framed in those terms.” Holbo replies:
The problem with this is that, if it were a good argument, it would prove that the civil rights struggle wasnt actually a civil rights struggle either. After all, not everyone who opposed civil rights for African-Americans did it with dogs and firehoses. Most whites certainly many whites who opposed civil rights did so in a more mild-mannered, lets-debate-it-in-an-op-ed kind of way.
Likewise with Farrell’s piece today: Friedersdorf seems to be making the same sort of “these people aren’t bigots; they just have a calm, centrist, reasoned opposition to equal rights for gay people.” Most whites in the 50s and 60s were probably not explicitly bigoted, just as most folks who oppose gay marriage today aren’t explicitly homophobic. But does it matter?