Equal rights don’t come from Christian love

It’s pretty common to hear Christians – whether they’re angry Christians yelling on street corners, police Christians handing out pamphlets at bus stops or friendly Christians sitting at Campus Crusade tables on the PSU commons – explain how they feel nothing but love for homosexuals.

They’re not homophobic, they explain. They “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”All of which sounds fine, but those same Christians usually support anti-queer laws, such as the laws which allow heterosexuals but not queers to marry the person of their choice. And then they complain that gays don’t believe that Christians love them.

Actually, queers who are skeptical of Christian “love” are just following the common-sense advice of the Bible. In the book of Luke, the Bible tells us that we should judge a tree by its fruit. Is what the tree actually gives you good, or is what the tree gives you harmful? No matter how much the tree is dressed up in shiny, pretty words about love and respect, if the fruit it gives you is foul and impossible to swallow, then it’s a bad tree.

With this valuable biblical advice in hand, let’s examine Christian “love” for queers. Is it good fruit or bad fruit? Well, one thing we can feel pretty sure of is that bigotry qualifies as “bad fruit.” As the 21st century begins, virtually everyone – even George W. Bush – agrees that prejudice and bigotry are wrong and should be opposed.

So what is bigotry? Sometimes figuring out what is the bigoted position can be hard. But the issue here isn’t nearly so difficult.

Everyone agrees that having one rule for the majority, and a different rule for the minority, is bigoted. That’s why Jim Crow laws were bigoted; that’s why rules keeping Jews out of country clubs were bigoted.

The rule against gay marriage is no different. We have one law forheterosexuals (they can marry who they want), and a different anddiscriminatory rule for queers (they aren’t allowed to marry who they want).This is the most essential element of the anti-gay-marriage position: anyone who thinks queers shouldn’t be allowed to marry is advocating that queers have fewer legal rights than heterosexuals.

Remember as well, that the ability to get married isn’t just a symbolic issue. In 1996, Henry Hyde, a Republican senator who opposes gay rights, asked the government’s General Accounting Office to find out how many federal laws were contingent on marriage. The GAO came back over 1,000 laws that are affected by marriage, and in their cover letter to Hyde, they said that there were probably even more such laws that they hadn’t found.

There’s not nearly enough space in this column to list a thousand rights denied to queers because anti-gay bigots have blocked their right to marriage, but I’ll mention just a few.

Heterosexuals, but not queers, have the right not to be forced to testify against a spouse in court. Heterosexuals, but not queers, have the right to direct a comatose spouse’s medical care; the right to inherit property from a spouse who didn’t leave a will.

And of course some married heterosexuals get thousands of dollars in tax breaks – a financial advantage that will increase when congress eliminates the so-called “marriage penalty.”

Being able to get married is a practical issue: those who oppose gay marriage are against gays having equal legal rights on a huge variety of important issues. If that’s not bigotry, what is?

What can we now conclude about Christian love for queers? Well, in the book of Matthew, Jesus has more helpful advice on how to distinguish good from bad. According to him, it’s not possible for a good tree to give bad fruit; if a tree can support disgusting and foul fruit, it’s safe to conclude that the source is disgusting and foul as well.

If what the Christians call their “love” of queers is compatible with their support for bigoted laws against queers, then it’s not love at all. Assuming we take what the Bible says seriously, that is.

Forty years ago, some Christians opposed mixed-race marriages, while claiming to love all races the same, but that was nonsense as well. If those Christians had really loved minorities, they wouldn’t have supported bigoted, hateful laws that hurt minorities. It really is that simple.

The real Christians then were against bigoted laws; and the real Christians today are the minority of Christians who support marriage for gays.

The truth is, I don’t give a damn for Christian love. What counts for queers isn’t the love in their hearts, but the bigotry in the laws they support. I’ll believe that evangelical Christians love queers the day they put their social and political power into the fight for gay marriage. Until that day comes, Christian “love” ain’t nothing but bad fruit from bad trees.