How some activists fail to understand equality

Supporting equality means supporting someone’s right to say no, even if you’re offended.

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. © Dave DuBay

LGBTQ activists booed athlete Jaelene Hinkle during a May 30 soccer game in Portland, Oregon. A member of North Carolina Courage, she passed up a chance last year to play in a national women’s soccer game because she didn’t want to wear a LGBTQ pride jersey.

The Oregonian reports that

The U.S. Women’s National Team has multiple high-profile players that are openly gay and the team has a significant number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans. U.S. Soccer has made a concerted effort to reach out to those fans, in part by wearing the LGBTQ Pride Month jerseys last year.

The U.S. Women’s National Team has the right to ask that every player wear a LGBTQ jersey. But the option of regular or LGBTQ jerseys would have respected every individual’s right to make their own choice.

Equality is about living your life as you choose—whether you are LGBTQ, Christian, both, or neither. Equality is also about the equal responsibility to respect other people’s rights—even if you don’t agree with their opinions or lifestyle.

Hinkle, however, didn’t try to stop anyone from wearing a LGBTQ jersey. She only said she wouldn’t wear the jersey, even if that meant not playing for the team.

She demonstrated healthy boundaries. But LGBTQ activists saying Hinkle was wrong to exercise her equal right to not participate in something she doesn’t agree with fails to recognize that her choices belong to no one except her. No LGBTQ person’s rights were violated by Hinkle’s refusal just as no Christian’s rights are violated when a non-Christian refuses to participate in Christian prayer.

Nor were Hinkle’s rights violated when activists booed her. Their freedom of speech is their right. Equality guarantees we will all be offended at some point.

But neo-McCarthyism is a problem on both the left and the right—even to the point of demanding someone be fired just because they disagree on certain political issues.

Writing for the Washington Post, David French opines that we are struggling to define the boundaries of acceptable political speech. And he offers a common sense solution.

The first amendment limits government but allows people, organizations, and corporations to speak—and censor—as they choose. Organizations can and do endorse political viewpoints, and while they are not obligated to tolerate dissenting opinions from their members and employees, tolerance is consistent with American liberty. Further, consumers can walk away from companies that don’t tolerate dissent.

This applies to opinions about issues, however. Personal attacks are categorically different. Publicly insulting someone because they are gay, or Christian, or African-American, or anything else crosses the line. So ABC was right to fire Roseanne Barr, but firing NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem would be wrong.

The U.S. Women’s National Team had the right to insist on LGBTQ jerseys. Hinkle had the right to decline. Activists had the right to boo her. But the activists failed to acknowledge Hinke’s equal rights.