Last Saturday, as my boyfriend and I held hands and walked back to campus from our date at Victoria’s, a grey Chevy Silverado pulled into a nearby parking space and rolled down its window in an attempt to have us approach. When we failed to do so, it pulled out of the parking space and began pursuing us down College Avenue before finally attempting to cut us off near Harmony Café.
That moment and those that immediately followed it were some of the most terrifying of my life. I’m not sure I have ever feared more for my own safety, not to mention the safety of someone I deeply cared about. There are few words that could properly describe it. We are unlikely to be holding hands on College Avenue again.
I’ve been lucky enough to live a fairly sheltered existence. As a white, middle class, cis-male, I haven’t experienced the same kind of hardships and discrimination that many other people have their entire lives.
These realizations came on the heel of a very complicated time for gay rights. On Feb. 21, the Arizona State Senate passed SB 1062, a bill designed to revise state statutes relating to the “Free Exercise of Religion” in order to directly address recent conflicts involving businesses wishing to deny services to gay individuals or couples.
Luckily, at press time, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer seems to have vetoed the bill, but the core problem here still stands: People are defending acts of discrimination and hate by claiming they are expressions of their civil rights.
One of the key organizations pushing this interpretation of the bill has been the Alliance Defending Freedom, which — despite its innocuous name — harbors a hidden purpose focused entirely on the opposition of gay rights in the United States and abroad. Not only have they actively campaigned for the eradication of same-sex marriage in this country on the grounds of religious freedom, but they appear to have done so in Guatemala and Brazil, as well. This stretches the idea of religious expression a little too far.
I’m done with pretending that all opinions are entitled to equal consideration, that failing to treat someone like a human being because of their sexual orientation can be written off as free speech or religious expression, and that subtle microagressions don’t contribute to a climate of fear and intimidation for all minority groups. These are not the kinds of acts that are supposed to be protected by the Bill of Rights: They are the kind of acts that are supposed to be prevented by it.
My safety and safety of those I care about is not a political question, it’s a basic human right. Other people deserve to practice theirs as well, but we must be careful about how far we let things go. Abridging others’ rights is never a valid form of expression. One group’s freedom should never interfere with another’s ability to live in safety.