Human Rights Are Not Special Rights

June is Pride Month, where the LGBTQ community celebrates each other and the diversity of their community. It is “Pride Month” because it is a time where people should celebrate their uniqueness rather than feel shame for what some elements of society believe is immoral. It is a time to stand together. It is a time for understanding and support. It is a time for acceptance.

I read an article about a particular church leader raging about Pride Month. I am not going to name him or give him any more attention. What really struck me was not the prejudice, as I, unfortunately, expect that from certain groups, but that he characterized LGBTQ people as asking for special rights. What enraged me was the premise of his entire sermon being that providing the LGBTQ community equal rights, enjoyed by everyone else, is somehow special rights when applied to the LGBTQ community. It is not a special right to not be bullied. It is not a special right to feel secure in your employment despite who you love. It is not a special right to be able to use a public bathroom that conforms with your gender identity. It is not a special right to be able to publicly hold the hand of the person you love. It is not a special right to be able to shop in any store open to the public. It is not a special right for a loving couple to adopt a child who needs parents. It is not a special right to want to be treated with dignity and kindness for being who you are. Asking for the same rights enjoyed by all other members of society are not special rights- these are human rights and should apply to everybody.

Everyone should be entitled to be who they are and to love who they love. You cannot preach the word of love and condemn others for who they love. You cannot preach acts of kindness and discriminate against others who are different. You cannot preach God’s mercy while sitting in judgment of people who don’t fit your rules of how things should be. I know the meme is all over the internet, but it does not make it less true: If your religion requires you to hate someone, you need a new religion.

I know not all intolerance of the LGBTQ community comes from those who are religious. Even in countries that have very little religion, there can be significant prejudice and persecution of LGBTQ people. What is the same is that such prejudice comes from the same place- fear. Fear of someone being different. Fear of what you don’t understand. Fear of non-conformance. Fear of loss of power. The legalization of gay marriage did not undermine traditional heterosexual marriage, despite all the fear-mongering that has surrounded the legalization legislation. The world was going to fall apart when two men could marry, yet all that happened was more people could get married. The only earth-shattering thing that happened was that people of the same sex could get married. That’s it. It was simply allowing the LGBTQ community to share in an institution that everybody else could be a part of. It was not a special right, it was recognition of a human right to be in a partnership, recognized by law, with the person you love.

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered, queer, straight, conservative, liberal, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, rich, poor, educated, illiterate, old, young- we are all human. Everyone should enjoy the same basic human rights, with the only qualifying condition to be satisfied is being human. Equal rights are not special rights. Love is love, and I think we can all agree that the world can use more love, no matter what shape it comes in.

Photo Credit: Yoav Hornung

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