Both Iowa and Vermont finally ended their discrimination against the gay community and legally recognized same-sex marriages this past week. As a gay person, I celebrated this fact along with the rest of my community throughout the United States. I was excited to hear such positive news just as it was looking like progress toward the legal recognition of same-sex relationships was being reversed — the most notable example being California’s approval of a gay marriage ban this past fall. But a recent Washington Post article has made me less hopeful (Faith Groups Increasingly Lose Gay Rights Fights, 04/10/2009). It describes situations in which groups or individuals lost lawsuits or were discriminated against explicitly because of their anti-gay views. And though I am gay myself, I’m very worried about how the nation is treating those who don’t agree with gay rights.

The Washington Post article referenced several situations in which people were forced by to act against their beliefs by authorities who disagree with their anti-gay views. One such case was a lawsuit in which the California Supreme Court ruled that a group of doctors at a private medical clinic must artificially inseminate a lesbian who had requested they do so, even though it’s against the doctors’ religious beliefs. In a more famous case, a lawsuit attempted to force the online dating site eHarmony, founded by evangelical psychologist Neil Clark Warren, to offer online dating services to gay couples. Warren agreed to create a separate online dating site for same-sex relationships as part of an out-of-court settlement.

The gay movement has been escalating such lawsuits in order to prevent discrimination against them. But this makes the gay community just as intolerant as the anti-gay bigots who discriminate against them. Those who attempt to deny gays state-recognized marriage and its benefits because they have personal convictions against gay relationships are certainly being oppressive in trying to force their opinion on others. They are so strongly opinionated that they not only believe that gay relationships are wrong for themselves but that others should be forcefully prevented from having a recognized gay relationship. Imposing their views on the gay community through the force of law is wrong in itself.

But, at the same time, gays hold the opinion that their relationships are perfectly moral, and — just like the opinion that gay relationships are wrong — not everyone shares their opinion. By using the courts to make doctors inseminate a lesbian against their beliefs or a dating service to serve homosexuals against its will, the gay community is being intolerant of those who are intolerant of them. The community is sending the message that while it doesn’t like the law being used against them, they will use the law to force their opponents to accept them. That’s hypocrisy.

But gay rights groups don’t seem to understand this message. The Human Rights Campaign, an organization working for LGBT equal rights, recently published its annual “The State of the Workplace” report, noting that 85 percent of Fortune 500 businesses now have discrimination protections based on sexual orientation up from 51 percent in 2000. This statistic shows the positive effect the gay rights movement has had — these companies all changed their policies voluntarily. But to my shock and disappointment, the same webpage that contains this report also has a statistic that “more than 50 major businesses support legislation to protect both gender identity and sexual orientation under federal law.” The gay rights movement is making so much progress toward being accepted in business, and the next step it wants to take is to force businesses to accept them rather than convince them to? This is no better than using the law to ban gay marriage.

As states throughout the nation continue to debate gay marriage proposals, gay rights groups should be trying to win hearts and minds, not court rulings. We should continue to engage people about our views on homosexuality, not force them by law to accept us.

Patrick Zabawa can be reached at pzabawa@umich.edu.

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