Respect and Equality is a Two-Way Street

TONY ESPINAL | Asst. Opinion Editor

The fight for same-sex rights still rages on, even today. But in the midst of all the fighting, it is easy to lose track of why people fight.

In the fight for respect and equality, it appears that the same people who fight for their rights often resort to tactics that contradict their message of equality.

Every year, Boston holds its annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade. This year was one of contention, as members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community called for a boycott of the parade when they were barred from participating.

Sounds awful, right? Who would do such a thing in today’s society?

Here is the thing: The people who were banned from the parade were people, not necessarily homosexuals, who wanted to wear shirts and march with banners promoting same-sex rights. The Boston Globe shed some light on this issue when it spoke with lead parade organizer Philip Wuschke.

“Gay people march in this (parade) all the time. Every year. This isn’t the first time,” Wuschke said to the Boston Globe. “We don’t ban gay people. We ban groups that are trying to make a statement.”

Similar bans have included hate groups, anti-abortion groups, heterosexual pride groups, and even one group that wanted to march in the parade protesting court-mandated school busing, according to the Boston Globe.

Yet, none of this mattered. In fact, in response to the ban, LGBT activists called for a boycott of the parade, and local bars threatened to stop selling beers such as Guinness and Sam Adams unless they pulled their sponsorship of the parade.

This was far from the first instance of a forceful response.

In July 2012, a local CBS station in Denver reported on Jack Philips, a bakery owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because it violated his beliefs. In response, the couple filed a lawsuit against the baker and the court ruled in their favor. The court ordered the baker to provide the couple with a wedding cake and serve same-sex couples, despite his religious beliefs, or face fines.

This is where the problem lies. Rather than having an open debate and discussion as to why the parade would ban certain organizations or the same-sex couple taking their business elsewhere, each group resorted to methods to force acceptance of their beliefs.

I am a major proponent of equal rights. I have always believed that all Americans deserve the same rights as every other person.

But equality is a two-way street. We should understand and respect that not everyone will believe as we do. Rather than take actions that force our beliefs on others, let us remember that one of the reasons this fight started was to stop others from forcing their beliefs onto us.

Undoubtedly, some Butler students have or will face struggles for respect and equality in their lives. It is a struggle that I could not even begin to understand. Some of those people may go on to become advocates, and others, fighters, in this historical struggle. When that happens, I hope that victory comes by persuasion rather than by force.

Of course, as with anything, there needs to be a line when it comes to respecting each person’s beliefs.

Unfortunately, there are those who still believe in white supremacy, segregation and hate.

We can’t turn the clock back on how far we come with regards to equality. We should never endorse hate, segregation or discrimination.

But instead of trying to force our views on others, we should engage in open debate, try and learn why people who disagree with us feel the way they do.

We should be willing to fight to change the minds and hearts of those who may stand against us.