Religious conservatives fear Congress will advance gay rights legislation
By CHRIS JOHNSON, Washington Blade | Feb 19, 2:41 PM Anti-gay conservatives are increasing their rhetoric and activities because they fear public officials are more likely than ever to act on pro-gay initiatives.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said opponents of gay rights are “lying and spreading misinformation in greater ways than they ever have before.”
“The more gains you make and the closer your opponents are to losing, the more ferocious they are in the way in which they lash out,” he said. “That is just the nature of social change.”
But Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said even as anti-gay forces use homophobic rhetoric, Americans are becoming more able to see through it.
“Anti-gay activists have continued to recycle the same divisive rhetoric and inflammatory misconceptions in their attack on LGBT people and our families,” he said, “and I think more and more people are seeing a contrast between the inclusive, affirming rhetoric of our current administration and the divisive, politics of the past that these groups represent.”
One ill-fated attempt at demonizing gays emerged last week, as a one-hour television special targeting gay rights was slated to air on WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Mich. The show, titled “Speechless: Silencing Christians,” was promoted as a program that would “reveal the truth about the radical homosexual agenda.”
The opening of the special, which is still available to view online, shows women who suggest they were arrested for “trying to share the gospel.”
Another male speaker decries how “we have compartmentalized where the gospel is allowed to go.” A female speaker says gays “can’t tolerate a story like mine that says … I used to be gay, but with the help of Jesus, I’ve been able to overcome that.”
Grassroots activists in Michigan worked for days to convince WOOD-TV to remove the show from its schedule. Colette Beighley, assistant director of the gay resource center at Grand Valley State University, led the grassroots efforts by spearheading online networking on Facebook and speaking against the special to local news outlets.
On Feb. 11, shortly after HRC issued an “action alert” urging supporters to call the station and oppose the special, WOOD-TV rescinded its offer to air it.
The American Family Association, the organization that produced the show, didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment.
Anti-gay forces on the defense in GOP
On Feb. 12, Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, issued a statement urging Michael Steele, the newly elected chair of the Republican National Committee, to resist giving the Log Cabin Republicans a greater voice within the GOP.
In an appearance on Fox News earlier this month, Steele, who has a history of opposing gay rights initiatives as a former one-term Maryland lieutenant governor, said reaching out to people who support gay rights is “an important opportunity” for the GOP.
LaBarbera’s statement warns Steele that reaching out to Log Cabin may cost the Republican Party supporters in its base.
“Michael Steele and the GOP need to do the math,” LaBarbera said. “It is foolish and impractical to risk alienating millions of pro-family, pro-life, conservative grassroots Republicans to appease a tiny homosexual special interest group with fewer members than the population of Liberal, Kansas.”
LaBarbera told the Blade he issued the statement to Steele because he thinks Log Cabin “is angling to say that it has got the upper hand” with the election of Steele as RNC chair.
“Log Cabin is out of step with the grassroots base of the Republican Party,” LaBarbera said. “When you’re joining the other gay groups in trying to reverse Proposition 8, very few Republicans are going to say that’s a winning strategy for the Republican Party to be behind.”
LaBarbera said he has heard that “hundreds, if not thousands” of calls were made to Steele’s office in support of Americans for Truth’s statement. The RNC didn’t respond to a request to comment.
LaBarbera acknowledged that there was fear among social conservatives because “at least politically, on the Hill, the gay side is stronger than ever.”
Regarding lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, Solmonese said HRC has noticed “increased activity” in opposition to the movement of pro-gay initiatives.
“I think the fact of the matter is, as we become more successful and we’re able to move legislation in a more successful way, either at the state or the [federal] level, we see increased opposition to that movement and we always will,” he said.
A number of organizations traditionally opposed to pro-gay initiatives wouldn’t comment on whether they shared a perception that anti-gay rhetoric and activity has increased since the election. Focus on the Family declined to comment for this article and the Family Research Council didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A resident of North Carolina, Spaulding said there are efforts underway there to encourage the state’s General Assembly to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. North Carolina is the only state in the South that doesn’t have a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on Monday urging the General Assembly to bring the marriage amendment to the floor for debate, Spaulding said. And supporters of the ban are planning to stage a march near the state capitol and bus people in to Raleigh on Tuesday, she said.
“I think they are desperate to have some more wins because, quite frankly, they spent a ton of money getting Prop 8 to pass, so they need to fill their coffers,” she said. “And the fact that they don’t have a hotline to the White House any longer means that they have to increasingly participate in activities that make them highly visible in order to keep the money coming in.”
Spaulding said she didn’t know whether anti-gay forces would succeed in passing a marriage amendment in North Carolina, but she predicted that if the groups are unable to pass any more anti-gay initiatives this year or in 2010, they will fall back on the line that “they are oppressed Christians and that any pro-LGBT efforts are squashing religious freedom.”
“I think that this continued theme of being victimized by the homosexual agenda is their backup plan if the public decides that [it] isn’t important enough to pass any anti-gay legislation,” she said.
Online media used to further anti-gay causes
Anti-gay groups are also making use of online media to advance their positions.
The National Organization for Marriage launched a web site and a group called the DOMA Defense Fund last month to raise money to preserve the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allows states to ignore same-sex marriages enacted in other states.
“In the wake of repeated setbacks at the ballot box, and with an increasingly receptive audience in Washington, gay marriage advocates are now seeking to impose same-sex marriage on the entire nation with a single stroke of the pen,” the web site says.
The web site urges opponents of same-sex marriage to tell their legislators to uphold DOMA and donate money to the DOMA Defense Fund to “take this effort from coast to coast with radio and TV ads if needed.”
Solmonese said it’s interesting that anti-gay activists are focused on DOMA because “it’s in a basket of a greater set of things we’re working on.”
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is gay, previously told the Blade that “we’re not even close to being able to” repeal DOMA.
Web sites have also been launched to advocate against the approval of relationship recognition bills in various states, where passage in state legislatures seems imminent.
In Maine, where lawmakers are poised to debate same-sex marriage, the Maine Marriage Initiative has launched a web site arguing that, “changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples has very real, and very negative, consequences.” And in Hawaii, where the legalization of civil unions is about to be debated in the Senate, a group has created a web site to protect Hawaii’s “keiki,” or children, against “homosexual marriage in the state.”
Spauding said anti-gay forces are “not afraid to use the Internet to spread their message,” but added, “whether or not they have a receptive audience — that is questionable.”
“This is about energizing the base activists on their side,” she said. “I think they’re just throwing everything against the wall at this point.”
Solmonese agreed that “social conservatives have been behind the ball” in exploiting online media.
“I think that most people agree that that’s a generational issue,” he said.
“New forms of communication — whether it’s social networking or cell phone technology — those are things that tend to be used more by younger people who tend to be more supportive of LGBT issues.”
And how should gays respond when opponents speak out against them — be it through television specials, activism or online media?
Bonnie says "we must continue to stand together as one and fight!" Fight these hate spewing bigots at every opportunity and Remember, if we don't, what rights we have and those that we seek can be lost by a "stroke of the bigoted pen!" I promise to fight on as long as I have the breath to do so...
Keep a smile on your face and love in your heart!