MN Gay Marriage Raises Issue: When Is It OK to Call Someone a Bigot?

The new law's supporters and opponents traded claims and denials of bigotry.

When—if ever—is it fair to call another person a bigot? Leave your comment below.

A flashpoint in the debate over Minnesota's new marriage-equality law was the use of the words "bigot," "bigoted," or "bigotry" in reference to opponents of making same-sex marriages legal.

After the state Legislature approved the bill, the group Minnesota for Marriage said in a statement:

Over one million Minnesotans will be forced to either affirm what they believe to be false or subject themselves to prosecution and insult as “bigots” ... under our law with the passage of this bill.

'You're a Bigot'
On Monday at the state Senate, Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) took exception to accusations that opponents of the same-sex marriage bill are bigots. Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville) has also voiced objections to the term (click on YouTube thumbnails at our desktop site, or see clips at YouTube.com).

  • "I can't tell you how many letters I've gotten that said, 'You're a bigot.' Or tweets: 'You're a bigot because you disagree.' Really? Really? I'm trying to be a nice guy, but I have a different opinion. And so now you're labeling, name-calling me."
  • "They’ll call me a bigot, they’ll call me a hater, they’ll spit in my face, like they did a friend of mine last Thursday. There are things in life, members, that are worth standing up for, even to be persecuted for."

Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, asked before the historic legislative votes:

"Are we really going to punish and treat people as bigots who simply believe what societies all across the world have believed about marriage throughout human history?

Nothing New
Use of the term "bigot" predates this year's marriage-law debate. In 2011, as the Minnesota Legislature was about to approve a ballot referendum to ban same-sex marriage in the state Constitution, a Star Tribune editorial carried the headline "Don't put bigotry up for a vote." That inspired a counterpoint column: "Traditional marriage is not bigotry."

Is it OK to call someone a bigot? Leave your comment below.

Nor is use of "bigot" limited to the same-sex marriage issue. In 2012, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said the Republican Party's platform plank on Islamic Shariah law “is an expression of bigotry.”

Two Points of Reference
Merriam-Webster.com defines "bigot" as

a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

Patch.com's Terms of Use explicitly forbid content that "promotes ... bigotry":

Without limitation, you agree that you will not post or transmit to other users anything that contains Content that:

  • is defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive; ...
  • is threatening, harassing or that promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual; ...
  • promotes or encourages violence

When is it acceptable to call another person a bigot? Leave your comment below.

Dan Johnson June 04, 2013 at 07:12 PM
"Despite the general consensus of major medical, health, and mental health professions that both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality, efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy have been adopted by some political and religious organizations and aggressively promoted to the public. However, such efforts have serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure. Because of the aggressive promotion of efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy, a number of medical, health, and mental health professional organizations have issued public statements about the dangers of this approach. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured.” The American Academy of Pediatrics advises youth that counseling may be helpful for you if you feel confused about your sexual identity. Avoid any treatments that claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation, or treatment ideas that see homosexuality as a sickness." AAP
Dan Johnson June 04, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Ironically, much of the research showing orientation is not a choice, comes from failed efforts to change it. Not only have such efforts shown efforts to change orientation are not successful, but that they are often harmful to the point of self destructive behavior including suicide. "Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation," said Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD, chair of the task force. "Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions." Glassgold added: "At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex." APA Based on this review, the task force recommended that mental health professionals avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts when providing assistance to people distressed about their own or others' sexual orientation."
Dan Johnson June 24, 2013 at 03:55 PM
And now, Exodus International, the organization that promoted and practiced "reparative therapy" or "sexual orientation change therapy" has finally admitted change does not work. They acknowledge not only doe it not change orientation, but it can be harmful, resulting in suicide and other self destructive behavior as a result of the shame and condemnation on which it relies. They apologize for the needless suffering and death their anti-gay prejudice has caused. Yet others continue to promote it, despite the fact every mainstream scientific organization in the US has stated it does not work and can be severely harmful.
Mike B. June 24, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Thousands of mental health professionals, as noted by the "Restore" group, have been trained, and are successful, with reparative therapy.
Mike B. June 24, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Remember, therapy to cure homosexuality is only successful if a person is open to cure. Same thing if an overweight person continues to eat junk food all day... even the best doctors will be unable to help him.


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