Op-Ed: The Word 'Hate' Ends Debate On Gay Marriage

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hide captionWith the debate over "don't ask, don't tell" now over, many gay rights advocates are now focusing their attention on same-sex marriage.

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Rings

With the debate over "don't ask, don't tell" now over, many gay rights advocates are now focusing their attention on same-sex marriage.

iStockphoto.com

In the passionate debate over gay marriage, supporters sometimes accuse those who disagree with them of spreading hate.

It raises a difficult question: Where do you draw the line between what constitutes fair debate, however spirited, and what can be appropriately deemed as hate speech?

In a piece for The Washington Post, Matthew Franck, director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, argues that "the charge of 'hate' is not a contribution to argument; it's the recourse of people who would rather not have an argument at all."

"I've been seeing over the course of the last year a number of episodes," Franck tells NPR's Neal Conan, "in which one sees people holding the traditional view of sexual morality, or simply opposing same sex marriage ... being tarred with the 'hate' label."

He cites the Christian Legal Society's exclusion from campus recognition at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law, and the Manhattan Declaration app, which was "chased out of the iTunes store" because of a number of complaints "that it was a 'hate-fest.'"

Franck acknowledges that "there are people saying hateful things, and perhaps the label 'hate group' might be accurately applied to some of them."

But he thinks "playing the hate card" prematurely ends the debate over gay marriage, when he believes there are legitimate legal arguments against it.

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