Andrew Belonsky

Can There Be Gay Dignity Without Equality?

Filed By Andrew Belonsky | July 14, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: gay politics, homophobic behavior, Immanuel Kant, Melinda Fredricks Republicans, News, Texas Republican Platform

Social conservatives and their ilk come up with the most clever ways of justifying their anti-gay politics. humandignity.gif.jpegThe most common defense, of course, comes as "hate the sin, love the sinner." It's a quaint sentiment, although one that's almost entirely empty. Melinda Fredricks, new vice chair of the Texas GOP, offers us something with a little more meat, although just as impotent.

The Lone Star State's Republican party received much-deserved criticism after adopting a platform that, in all seriousness, criminalizes -- and demonizes -- homosexuality. In addition to declaring "we oppose the legalization of sodomy," Texas' Republicans want to the world to know that, "homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases." It's as if we homos are alien parasites hell-bent on eating earth. The platform continues, "Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable 'alternative' lifestyle in our public education and policy...."

Fredricks tried to explain that platform this week. She didn't do a great job. "People feel threatened," she claimed, "that their children have to be taught that it's an equal lifestyle to heterosexuality." Because teaching equality, again, would tear through time and space. "At the same time, you can't say people are subhuman. (Homosexuals) still deserve the dignity entitled to them."

Wait a second here! A gay "lifestyle" doesn't even deserve respectful conversation, yet gay people deserve dignity? Is such a thing even possible? No. Doesn't the use of the d-word totally neuter Fredricks' message? Yes.

"Dignity," like "gay," comes complete with multiple nebulous meanings, and there's no universal agreement on the word's definite definition. At its linguistic heart, however, dignity means worthiness, or at deserving of respect. It came into popular usage during the Enlightenment, that wonderful period in which man's inherent, natural rights were celebrated. Dignity was not about value, as Immanuel Kant said. It was about innate worthiness.

"In the kingdom of ends everything has either a price or a dignity. What has a price can be replaced by something else as its equivalent; what on the other hand is above all price and therefore admits of no equivalent has a dignity," he wrote in his groundbreaking Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. "Morality is the condition under which a rational being can be an end in itself, since only through this is it possible to be a lawgiving member in the kingdom of ends. Hence morality, and humanity insofar as it is capable of morality, is that which alone has dignity."

Dignity means that anyone who acts in a moral manner, i.e., not raping and murdering, possesses dignity. Their lives are their to lead, and must be respected. In that light, Fredricks' assertion that gays deserve dignity translates to a tacit, and no doubt unintentional, approval of gay people's free agency, including their "lifestyle." Her argument thus falls on its face.

Those who claim we gays deserve dignity, but not equal rights, are offering a deeply flawed argument. The entire concept of dignity rests on innate, God-given equality. Therefore, without equality, there can be no dignity for us gays. And that dignity becomes even more endangered when people claim we "tear at the fabric of society," an entirely undignified position that, despite Fredrick's assertion, turns gay people into monsters not deserving of dignity, or even life.

Image via Humiliation Studies.

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Does this surprise you? Conservatism is all about doublethink. This is why conservatives have such a hard time constructing a paragraph without contradicting themselves.

Ah, conservatives have been using this for decades. Remember the "dignity of the black man" back in the 1960s? It doesnt surprise me to see them trotting this back out again. And almost any minute now, I expect to hear about the "dignity of the illegal immigrant", the "dignity of that guy wearing a towel on his head", and the "dignity of people from Switzerland".

Joseph Kowalski | July 14, 2010 8:37 PM

Using the term dignity to describe a group of people denied equality by conservatives is their way of making themselves appear reasonable to the rest of society.

In reality, conservatives care nothing about the people they use as their "demon group" in order to raise funds and rally their voters.

Trying to figure out right wing fundie logic will make you go mad. There's no rhyme or reason to it.

Andrew Belonsky Andrew Belonsky | July 16, 2010 10:56 AM

Yes, yes, I know there's no rhyme or reason, but it's so much fun to play with: like a sphinx, only less cuddly.

Ted Hayes | July 16, 2010 9:18 PM

"I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that 'we love the sinner but hate the sin.' That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement." ~ John Shelby Spong (retired Episcopal Bishop of the diocese of Newark)