J. Bryan Lowder continues his very strong defense of the attacks on Mozilla’s Brendan Eich, and anyone else who publicly supports laws that exclude same-sex couples from marriage. Lowder seems to accept that he will now be known as the person who wishes equality opponents would “simply shut up.”
He embarrassingly overargues his case, complaining that the trauma of having grown up homosexual in an anti-gay world justifies a little gloating about our still-emerging victory in the culture. Even equality supporters like Conor Friedersdorf whose treachery is a willingness to tolerate anti-equality advocates misunderstand the agony we endure, since we have been “…sexually and emotionally traumatized since childhood.”
But there is much more at stake here than the melodramatic ravings same-sex marriage seems to inspire on both sides.
I think Lowder would agree that it is bad when government uses its power to take sides in a public debate. It is abhorrent that Russia and Uganda have declared speech in favor of homosexual liberty off-limits. There is no proud history of government efforts to police the speech of citizens. That is true whether you think the government is enforcing the right side of the debate or not.
Religions, too, have sinned savagely throughout history in prosecuting heresy.
The question today is whether majorities can fare any better in crusading against propaganda we do not like, or civil heresy. I think not.
The First Amendment’s protection of speech applies to the government, but its wisdom goes deeper. In any culture where individual liberty is central, opinion cannot be chaperoned. People will believe what they believe.
Should we and our allies try to do to our opponents what they so successfully did to us for centuries: silence them? Punish them? I think the logic of the First Amendment counsels against that.
An opinion suppressed is an opinion inflamed. As a matter of politics, it is best to allow the expression of opinions, disagreeable and even terrible ones. As long as people do not act on their worst opinions (something government can appropriately respond to), the airing of grievances is healthy.
Which is not to say it is comfortable. Lowder is offended that, despite majority support for our equality, the lives of lesbians and gay men are still subject to extraordinary, invasive scrutiny; and that is offensive. But more offensive is the self-righteousness that would not just argue against offensiveness, but punish its expression. It is unfortunate that we have to live in the same country and community with discourteous and boorish people, but the alternative of banishment or enforced correction of their error is worse.