Honest question here: What is a bigot? I'd really like people to leave thoughts and comments.
Some further framing of the question: dictionary.com defines 'bigot' as "a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion." (One of their example sentences is "To be a bigot means that you hold negative views of a group despite evidence.") Google's define function refers me to 'bigoted,' which is then defined as either "Obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one's own opinions and prejudiced against those who hold different opinions" or "Expressing or characterized by prejudice and intolerance." Merriam-Webster defines a bigot as "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance."
Of course, I'm really asking this in the context of the Supreme Court's recent hearing of arguments in two high-profile gay marriage cases. A lot of claims of bigotry have been thrown around, mainly by supporters of marriage equality about their ideological opponents, but sometimes vice versa as well. I don't think many people would disagree that there do exist bigots who oppose marriage equality (exhibit one: the Westboro Baptist Church), but does that label apply to most of the people who are against gay marriage? Surely a simple disagreement on policy doesn't equate with bigotry--otherwise every opponent on any issue would deserve the label. There seems to need to be some kind of animus against a group, utter intolerance of opponents, and a head-in-the-sand disregard of evidence that could disprove one's own views.
Depriving LGBT people the right to marry (and the concomitant benefits afforded by state and federal laws, not to mention society) could be a sign of animus towards that class, it's true. And I am very unconvinced by conservative claims about gay marriage harming children--the evidence seems to me to point quite strongly in the other direction. But I'm not sure there's utter intolerance or real hatred motivating the people I know who oppose marriage equality. It's largely a conservative, in the Burkean sense, hesitance to allow a significant change to a revered institution. While I agree that that ends up perpetuating harm against the people who are less privileged under the status quo, it does so indirectly, not as its primary purpose. (Maybe that shouldn't matter, though?)
I think I want to reserve the term bigot for the people who sic dogs on protesters (or otherwise condone violence against their political opponents), or who disown their children if they belong to or associate with those "others," or who use slurs towards a group, etc. I don't deny that there are people who oppose marriage equality who do some of those things and thus deserve the label of bigot, but I don't think that voting in favor of Prop 8 automatically qualifies one as a bigot. But then, maybe I'm hedging because I count many, many people as friends and loved ones who oppose marriage equality--and naturally I don't want to label them as anything so ugly as 'bigots' unless I have to.
For those reading this who support marriage equality, do you agree with that take? Or are all the people who disagree necessarily bigots? If not, what does it take to qualify as a bigot in regards to this issue? Do you ever worry that the term 'bigot' is being thrown around so much it's losing meaning?
For those reading this who oppose marriage equality, what do you think a bigot is? Do you see people on your side who qualify? Have you seen people on the other side who qualify? (Do all marriage equality proponents qualify?) And finally, do you think it was possible for people who opposed interracial marriage in 1965 to not be bigots, or is that an issue where opposition equaled bigotry? What about someone who is against it today?
I'm really curious. Please leave thoughts and further questions in the comments.