The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

History-in-the-making

 History-in-the-making
History-in-the-making

History-in-the-making

Two significant events happened last week – each one newsworthy in its own way, but each one treated very differently by the press.

One event, which could reshape the social and political landscape of our country, led every newscast and grabbed the above-the-fold headline in every major daily newspaper across the country.

The other was relegated to near obscurity in the hinterpages of a handful of newspapers, among them the Los Angeles Times.

The newsmaker was the more than two million Hispanics who filled city streets across the country protesting the House of Representative’s anti-immigration bill. Many people have likened these protests to the civil rights marches of the 1960s. I’m proud to say I was front-and-center in last Sunday’s march in downtown Dallas, which attracted an estimated 500,000 protesters.

Next time you’ve got a few hours to kill, consider being part of history-in-the-making.

The seemingly un-newsworthy event was a lawsuit filed by a 22-year-old Georgia Tech student, Ruth Malhotra. Ms. Malhotra is seeking to force the university to remove sexual orientation from its non-discrimination policy. In short, Ruth Malhotra wants to be able to discriminate against gays, and she thinks her religious beliefs give her the right to do so.

In effect, Malhotra is suing for the right to be a bigot. Yes, yes, I know, you’re not a bigot if your religion says it’s okay to be one – right? A rose by any other name…

So much for the Gospel of Jesus Christ being about good news. Unfortunately, Christians like Ms. Malhotra confuse the Good News with everything bad about human nature and nothing good about the teachings of Christ.

Jon Davidson, director of Lambda Legal, a national gay rights lobby, offered the following analogy regarding Ms. Malhotra’s case to the Los Angeles Times: “What if a person felt their religious view was that African Americans shouldn’t mingle with Caucasians or that women shouldn’t work?”

According to the same article, evangelical attorney Gregory S. Baylor “respond[ed] to such criticism angrily,” drawing “a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different – a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.”

It’s interesting that a straight white man, who very likely has never been the object of discrimination, thinks he’s qualified to draw a distinction – angrily or otherwise – between racism and homophobia. Coretta Scott King, wife of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, believed that civil rights and gay rights were inextricably linked.

What neither Ms. Malhotra nor Mr. Baylor realizes – because irony is often lost on those who most benefit from it – is that equally unenlightened men and women used the same specious arguments to deprive blacks and women the right to attend universities like Georgia Tech, which didn’t begin to admit women until 1951 and blacks 10 years later.

No doubt those who denied admission to women and blacks also denied that they were bigots. As we’ve seen, those who attempt to defend their bigotry – be it racism or sexism – by hiding behind the self-exculpating veil of religion, argue that homophobia isn’t bigotry. Fortunately, Georgia Tech doesn’t buy into that argument. Neither does SMU.

Ms. Malhotra, wonder of wonders, also happens to be the president of her school’s College Republicans chapter, on whose behalf she sent a letter to a gay student activist criticizing the university’s decision to fund the Pride Alliance, referring to the organization as a “sex club – that can’t even manage to be tasteful.”

The letter also criticized students who come out publicly as gay, saying they subject others on campus to “a constant barrage of homosexuality,” adding, “If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda.”

Sound familiar? Those same intolerant sentiments were expressed on this very page two weeks ago – and rebuffed by more tolerant students soon thereafter.

Ms. Malhotra, it turns out, was reprimanded by the university for promoting what administrators considered intolerance toward gays and lesbians. Her lawsuit is a reaction to that reprimand.

Apparently, it’s not enough that Ms. Malhotra has the right to believe however she wants. Nor is it enough that she has the right to misread the Bible however she wants. Nor is it enough that she has the right to practice whatever distorted, self-serving sect of Christianity she wants.

It’s not even enough that she has the right to hate anyone she wants. No, she wants the right to be able to disguise her hate as religion, package it as the teachings of Jesus and deliver it with the same pathological contempt for humanity as Fred Phelps.

Last Thursday, a group numbering approximately 60 – gays, lesbians and their allies – organized one of the most thought-provoking protests I have ever witnessed. While the number was small, the significance was immense. The group put a human face on what, for many people, is an abstraction: the insideous effects of intolerance and hate speech.

Dressed in white, their mouths gagged, wearing labels that people – on this very campus – toss around with the same casualness they toss around a football, the protesters formed a human mosaic on the Quad, two here, three there, four here, forcing everyone – at least for a moment – to step outside of their bubble and confront the reality of homophobia.

Who knows how many minds it changed. Who knows how many people it challenged to reconsider their own prejudices. Who knows what the effect will be. Perhaps it was only a ripple. But sometimes even a ripple can disturb the mightiest of oceans.

George Henson is a Spanish lecturer. He can be reached at [email protected].

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