We’ve all seen the media promote false equivalence in matters of science (evolution, climate change) and history (David Barton; need I say more?). Roy Speckhardt has a recent article up in The Huffington Post pointing out that they do the same thing when it comes to human rights.
Take for example the debates over LGBT rights. On one side are people who understand the constitutional guarantee of equal protection for all and advocate for marriage equality, employment non-discrimination, and equal benefits on that basis. Leading the opposition are religious fundamentalists, who interpret their holy scriptures as condemning homosexuality. While there are certainly two different opinions, only one is a valid expression of political thought, while the other is merely a vocalization of deeply held bias.
Arguments for LGBT discrimination are based not upon considerations for public health or legal precedent but upon religiously enshrined prejudice. It’s embarrassing and unjust that practices like employment or housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity persist in many states. And one of the ways this discrimination continues is through fabricated debate on topics not worthy of deliberation.
Speckhardt also mentions men’s rights activists in his post, which makes the comments what you might expect.
The important thing about these “debates”, aside from acknowledging that they are used to hurt and control people, is to recognize their shape. On one side, you have absolutists. You have people who get their information from wherever it takes to prop up their side. You have people who tell you that any deviation from their position is unnatural, immoral, punishable by god.
On the other side, painted as extremists by comparison with the first group, you have people who are already dealing with the complexities of the real world. You have people calling, not to overturn the current order as depicted, but calling for relatively small changes to make things work better. You have scientists adapting their knowledge of the world as new data comes in. You have LGBT people saying, “Include us in what you already have.” You have women saying, “Treat us as well as you treat each other.” No one on this side is calling for the power or the capitulation demanded by the other side.
Another example that I was talking about the other night: the abortion debate. A friend was suggesting both sides were extreme while talking about what the middle ground would look like. They noted that this middle ground would consist of people looking to prevent as many abortions as possible while still leaving the option open. I pointed out that one side that this person had just painted as extreme supports birth control on demand and good sex education. They already are the middle ground.
So it is with any of these “debates” over rights. Those people working for their rights are not looking to have their rights granted at the expense of anyone else’s. They are simply fighting for equal space and equal consideration in a field where everyone else’s rights are already recognized. We have to stop pretending–or letting the extremists pretend–anything else.