Our Cruel, Divisive Intolerance of Bigotry

This is hardly the first time we’ve witnessed scenes like this one in the Minnesota House of Representatives, but it’s still amazing: opponents of marriage equality in tears at their defeat and playing victim and martyr:

Opponents failed in their last-minute push to persuade a crucial few legislators that the DFL-controlled Legislature is going against the wishes of a majority of Minnesotans. They are now regrouping to convince Senators that marriage is a union between one man and one woman ordained by God, not any state or federal law. A final Senate vote comes Monday.

“My heart breaks for Minnesota,” said a Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover.

“It’s a divisive issue that divides our state,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes as she stood on the House floor after the vote. “It’s not what we needed to be doing at this time. We want to come together for the state of Minnesota, we don’t want to divide it….”

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said he fears that schools will eventually be forced to teach students about homosexuality in sex education classes, normalizing what he considers deviant behavior.

“Thinks about what’s best for the children,” Gruenhagen said. “Please vote for the children.”

Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, said the measure sends a terrible message to Minnesotans who oppose same-sex marriage.

“We are classifying half of Minnesotans as bigots in this bill — and they are not,” Woodard said.

So if your negative views about homosexuality (no longer supported by science, public opinion or even recent tradition) are not enshrined in state law, you are being smeared as “bigots,” and it’s those who just want to be treated equally under the law who are “dividing” the people.

I understand an alarming number of Republican politicians are currently depending for their political support on encouraging older white traditionalist Catholics and conservative evangelicals–people who consider an older culture to be eternally normative, just like culturally threatened people in all times and in all places always have–to feel aggrieved and persecuted. But still, you have to wonder if they are really listening to themselves. The exact same arguments have been used in opposition to every significant move towards equality in American history. They make no more sense now than they did when advanced by those who were certain their country would be “lost” and God Almighty righteously offended when the slaves were freed, women obtained the vote, Jim Crow was torn down, and the oppressive forces of “political correctness” took all the fun out of casual bigotry. They’ll get over it, but tolerating their immense self-pity is quite a cross to bear.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.