Paladino’s words were not hate speech

John Mercer

Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor of New York, has been all over the news recently for an Oct. 10 speech that included references to gay marriage and gay pride parades. Paladino stated that he doesn’t believe “homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option” to heterosexuality. He also stated that the activities at gay pride parades were “no place for children.” Several news outlets and gay rights groups have lambasted Paladino for his remarks, calling him homophobic, a gay basher, and insisting that he is fostering hatred of gay people. His political opponent, Andrew Cuomo, has called Paladino “homophobic” and “out of touch.” The New York Times called Paladino “anti-gay.”

Now, I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with Mr. Paladino’s remarks, but one thing was very evident to me when watching his speech and the ensuing interviews where he defended his comments: he doesn’t hate gay people. He’s not “homophobic.” In fact, according to various news sources, Paladino is the landlord to various New York gay clubs, one of which his son oversees. This fact seems to fall in line with his repeated assurance that he does not discriminate against or hate homosexual people. Yet we have a plethora of news outlets and gay rights groups crucifying him like he is leading a gay hate movement. Their comments regarding Paladino are more hateful than anything he said during his speech.

What is important to me is not necessarily Carl Paladino and his comments by themselves. The point here is that he stated his opinion in public. Is he right? Is he wrong? Who are we to judge? Gay advocacy groups will tell you all day about how you shouldn’t judge or stereotype gay people, stressing tolerance of their ideals and open lifestyle. Yet here we have a man who speaks candidly about his beliefs, and these so-called tolerance groups chastise him endlessly for it. I find this ironic.

It’s funny to me that these so called “equality groups,” that preach tolerance, are so intolerant of any opinion that doesn’t support their cause. Rebecca Voelkel of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told USA Today that Paladino was “preaching hate from the pulpits.” She obviously didn’t hear the same speech I did. I thought Paladino simply stated his closely held religious beliefs to a group of people that shared his values. Not quite hate speech if you ask me. The sharing of a difference of opinion does not constitute hate speech.

Too often today, a high-profile person will say something controversial, and a dozen different tolerance or activist groups condemn their comments as if this person is hate speech incarnate. Perhaps these tolerance groups should learn to tolerate the fact that some people disagree with their lifestyle, and furthermore, that disagreeing with a lifestyle does not equate to hatred of the people who choose that lifestyle. Instead though, the subject of the controversy will be endlessly berated until he finally gives up and apologizes publicly so that he can have the possibility of returning to his normal life.

It’s OK to think that being gay is wrong. It’s OK to think that being gay is a choice. It’s OK to think being gay is a good thing. It is an opinion, which everyone is entitled to. Most importantly, it’s possible to think that being gay is wrong, and still love and accept gay people on a personal level. Disagreement with a person’s sexuality does not constitute hatred. Speaking your mind in a public forum is not hate speech. However, berating a persons religious beliefs, and telling them their beliefs are wrong, I do find hateful. Perhaps the plethora of tolerance groups out there should practice what they preach.