I know I will probably lose a lot of friends over this, and that's ok. I have never been afraid of offending others by speaking my mind.
In the 1860's, only 155 years ago, we fought to end slavery in the United States. People were outraged, and states seceded, leading into the Civil War. As foreign an idea that slavery is to today's culture, many people back then firmly believed in the "right" to keep slaves. Their culture, their history, and their religion told them it was ok. It was even taught that the Bible considered the black man to be "marked by Cain", and not equal to others. They fought for their beliefs, and held on to those old ways of thinking for many years after. They were bigots. Not because they "held a different opinion" than the changing, progressive society, but because they felt that their beliefs, their religion, their history, should be upheld over the rights of others.
In 1920, the US Senate went against many states by granting women the right to vote. Many people were outraged. They held on to old beliefs that women were less intelligent, that women didn't understand the issues. They argued that the states should be allowed to decide individually. They argued their religion, the Bible states women should not speak or have a voice on these issues. They held onto the idea that their "different opinion" should somehow take rights away from another group. They were bigots.
In 1967 the Supreme Court decided that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional, making interracial marriage legal. Many states had championed the way, but interracial couples saw difficulties crossing state lines, moving, or enjoying rights where they were located. People argued that interracial couples were going against the "Natural Law" and "going against God". The Bible defined it as wrong! They argued again that individual states should make this decision, not "big government". No one "had the right" to "force" acceptance of interracial coupling on them. Interracial couples really had no effect on these people's lives, but they still felt their "different opinion" should weigh heavily and deny others equality. They were bigots.
In 1968, segregation based on race was made illegal by the Supreme Court, an issue that had divided the country. People still believed that we had to be separated by race and cultural background, and argued that "blacks only" facilities were "separate but equal" when in reality they were not. These people, who didn't want to be dirtied by contact with "other races" thought the government should "protect" their right to "racially clean" public environments and facilities. They were bigots.
Today, in light of the recent marriage equality law passed by the Supreme Court, we hear all the same arguments voiced in every landmark civil rights decision of the past 155 years. It is against the Bible, it is against my religion, the states should choose, we are changing tradition, and all the other excuses used throughout history to keep one set of people unequal. Those making these arguments, as their forefathers before them that fought against human equality, are bigots. Not because they have a "different opinion", but because they feel that opinion should somehow be used as a reason to oppress one group of people.
Are we done with our fight for civil rights? Not by a long shot. Racial tensions are still high in this country. The fight for women's rights still have battles for equality ahead. It is still legal to fire or evict someone for being homosexual in over 30 states. Transgendered people face oppression daily. We have a long way to go, but we have come a long way in less than two centuries. We have faced opposition the entire way, bigoted people, using history and religion as a shield. Even with the opposition, human equality has always, and will continue to win. Why? Because I believe the bigots have always been a minority, that the basic part of the human condition is to be good, and denying any group rights, oppressing anyone, goes against basic, fundamental truths that our spirit holds. Tradition may tolerate bigotry for a while, may see it as socially acceptable, but over time, the human heart wins out, and decency and equality for everyone shows a new face.
Originally posted as a "Note" on the author's personal Facebook page.