The Michael Sam kiss “outrage” and how homophobia in the media shows no signs of dying.

After being drafted as the first openly gay NFL player, Michael Sam celebrated his win by kissing his boyfriend. ESPN later included footage of the kiss in their reporting of his draft.

Notwithstanding the usual outpouring of Twitter bigotry and outrage, some folks in the media took a solid “Christian” stand against the footage. The one that made the biggest online splash was an episode of The Broadcast, a Dallas-based morning panel talk show (UK fans of Loose Women will be familiar with this format) where Michael Sam’s kiss became a point of discussion.

(You can watch the video here)

Discussion of the horrifically outrageous expression of love between two men soon turned sour after two of the four hosts, Amy Kushnir and a red-haired individual Humphreys (whose first name doesn’t even crop up when you do a Google search) began the whole “it’s being shoved down my throat” argument and objected to EPSN airing the kiss. Word to the wise ladies: Gay men have no intention of shoving anything down YOUR throats.

Things soon got ugly between the sane hosts and the insane Christian homophobes, with Amy Kushnir walking off set, because as we’ve seen time and time again, when backed into a corner, bigots eject themselves from rational debate instead of staying to defend their ridiculous position.

Humphreys stuck around, only after stating “I live in America. I still feel like I have the right of freedom of speech, and I don’t have to be penalized for my own opinions” Wrong. Your right to freedom of speech, as defined in the Constitution, protects you from being persecuted for your views by the government. It means the government can’t throw you in jail for being a racist, a homophobe, an Islamophobe, or for criticizing the government. But free speech does not protect you in the private sector. Private companies can reprimand, punish and fire people who express views that the company finds objectionable. That’s one of the few functions of the free market that actually works properly; when you are under contract or otherwise employed by a company, your views automatically represent the views of the company unless you make it explicit that you’re only expressing your own opinion. That’s true whether you like it or not.

Furthermore, free speech is not a one-way street. You cannot put unsavoury opinions out there and then use “free speech” as a defense against criticism. Just as you are allowed to state your opinion in public, others are allowed to criticize that opinion. To co-host a TV show and then claim free speech protects you from criticism is to fundamentally misunderstand what TV is and what free speech is.

Kushnir actually had the nerve to say that she doesn’t object to the Michael Sam kiss because it involves two men, but because it involves public displays of affection, and she’s not a fan of that (Kushnir was later photographed on the air posing with two male strippers, but oh well). That is a blatantly dishonest excuse for bigotry, and anybody with cognitive faculties knows she’s trying to cover herself after getting unexpectedly caught out.

Here’s the thing: America, like most of the Western world, is a highly sexualized culture, a culture which predominantly only shows heterosexual people in the media. Nobody flinches when a male and a female rub against each other, soak each other with water, and do other uninventive and uncreative things in adverts, on TV, in films. Sure, the most conservative among us probably do have a problem with that, but there’s a simple way to tell when someone’s a homophobe, and it is this: When heterosexuality is “flaunted” (conservatives just LOVE that demeaning word when talking about gay people, don’t they?) on TV and in the media, there are polite objections. That’s fine, there doesn’t seem to be any love between the highly sexualized figures in media, especially in the modelling and fashion world. But the case we have before us is this: A man, celebrating a professional victory, turns to his partner and kisses him passionately. A display of love between two innocent individuals. What is to be objected to here? A loveless display of sexual activity? Well, no, they’re in a relationship. A public display of affection? Well, they were in the privacy of their own home. The fact that “parents don’t have a choice about whether or not they want their children to see this”? Well, they do, it’s called an OFF button (In my experience, objection to homosexuality is taught, children are naturally unaffected by gay people).

What exactly is it about this expression of love that’s got people like Amy Kushnir and Whatshername Humphreys so upset? The answer is simple: They don’t like homosexuality.

Here’s the thing: Straight Christian women are not the victims in situations like this. Being straight and being Christian affords you massive privileges in American society – you’re in the majority in two out of three accounts! If you find love so objectionable that you criticize ESPN for including a same-sex kiss in its Michael Sam footage, that’s fine. But don’t expect that you can put that opinion out there free of charge, and don’t expect your employer to wish to keep you around when you’re putting views out there like that.

It takes a certain kind of person to protest love. Ask yourself if you really want to be that person.

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