LGBT equality

American Family Association: Gay-Accepting Straights Inviting 'Devastation Wrought by God's Wrath'

In last month’s American Family Association magazine, Ed Vitagliano lamented that gay people might not want to be friends with Christians who are opposed to marriage equality. Vitagliano is probably not boosting his chances of making gay friends with his article in June’s AFA Journal, a two-page spread with “Sodom” plastered across the top.

The thrust of the article is that “embracing homosexuality is a sign of deep spiritual sickness” in a culture.  America, he writes, is on the verge of suppressing the truth about God’s plan and the duality of gender. “A downward death spiral results from such suppression,” he warns.

The homosexual movement has had such great success because Americans have become arrogantly self-indulgent and idolatrous. Straight America has embraced homosexuality because straight Americans first embraced the sexual revolution for the satisfaction of their own perverse sexual appetites.

Judgment came to Sodom because violent homosexuality was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. As a prevalent sin, however, it was the manifestation of an underlying wickedness that permeated the entire culture – a wickedness that was not limited to the homosexual.

Thus homosexuality often becomes the barometer of a culture rotting out from the inside. If the problem were only homosexuality, then the simple act of pushing it back into the closet  (if that were possible) would be enough to forestall judgment.

But what Ezekiel 16 teaches us is this: By the time a culture accepts idolatry, abortion and homosexuality, it is already ripe for the devastation wrought by God’s wrath.

Whether they live in a decidedly pagan culture or one, like America, that is an admixture, Christians are called to be salt and light.

Standing against the unrighteousness permeating our society might not be the easy thing to do, but it’s a whole lot easier than running from the fire and brimstone that inevitably follow.

Tony Perkins Knows What's Best for Gays – and the GOP

The latest fundraising pitch from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins blasts “the national Republicans” whom he says are “running away from the natural and biblical definition of marriage, flocking to the radical side in support of same-sex ‘marriage.’”

Perkins’ letter insists that allowing same-sex couples to get married is dangerous to religious liberties, to the next generation, and “dangerous to civilization itself.” Perhaps worst of all is that Obama’s “machine” would benefit from the GOP alienating its conservative base:

Sacrificing our values, and their distinctives as a Party, will send millions of voters packing. One terrible side effect: President Obama’s machine will be stronger than ever. Their radicalization of American public policy will intensify.

But be assured that Perkins “cares deeply” about gay people:

Please understand: this is no vendetta. We care deeply about those who engage in either heterosexual sex outside of marriage or homosexual behavior in any context. Both are immoral and unhealthy. We want what is truly best for them and for our nation.

What is truly best for them is a lifestyle of biblical morality. (emphasis in original)

Perkins calls for a “massive outpouring of outrage from principled conservatives” and urges supporters to sign a petition to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. And, of course, to send a check.

The Myth of American Christians as Persecuted Minority, part 256

The claim that American Christians are facing horrible persecution for their religious beliefs – and are on the verge of being rounded up and thrown into jail by tyrannical secularists – has been a staple of Religious Right groups’ rhetoric for decades. And as conservative evangelicals’ anti-gay views have lost popular support, they’ve doubled down on their claims that gay rights are incompatible with religious liberty. In recent years, conservative Catholics have joined in crying “religious persecution” in response to the advance of marriage equality for same-sex couples and the Obama administration’s requirement for insurance coverage of contraception.

On CNN’s Belief Blog, correspondent John Blake has given voice to these claims in a post titled “When Christians become a ‘hated minority.’” That headline hinted that this piece would be problematic. And that was confirmed with the opening sentence, which cites the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg, who goes on to say that anti-gay Christians are victims who are being forced into the “closet.”

Where to begin?

We could start with the problem of Peter Sprigg being a spokesperson for tolerance. In Blake’s story, Sprigg is quoted saying “Maybe we need to do a better job of showing that we are motivated by Christian love” and “Love is wanting the best for someone, and acting to bring that about.” It’s hard to square Sprigg’s assertion that he is motivated by the best interests of gay people, given that he:

  • has called for the criminalization of homosexual conduct both in the U.S. and abroad;
  • said he would like to “export” gays from the U.S. rather than support legislation to give same-sex couples equal treatment under immigration law;
  • dislikes the idea of a gay judge, because he says gays don’t make good role models;
  • opposes making children raised by a same-sex couple eligible for social security benefits if a parent’s spouse dies;
  • dismisses anti-bullying and safe-school programs as attempts to indoctrinate impressionable children
  • has suggested that schools should be allowed to fire openly gay teachers and coaches;
  • has cheered the kidnapping of a child by a mother who refused to abide by a court’s order to share custody with her former partner.

Sprigg says the “real goal of homosexual activists” is not protection from discrimination or marriage equality, but is “to create a society in which it is unacceptable for anyone, ever, anywhere to say that homosexual conduct is wrong, or that homosexual relationships are anything other than fully equal to heterosexual ones.” The CNN piece also cites Bryan Liften, a professor at Moody Bible Institute, saying Christians should be able to publicly say that God designed sex to take place within a marriage between a man and a woman.

Should be? If you haven’t noticed, plenty of Christians have been saying that loudly and proudly and with millions of dollars they have used to enshrine that belief into a majority of state constitutions. People like Sprigg and his boss Tony Perkins, Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage, and any number of conservative evangelicals and Roman Catholic bishops have pretty much an open invitation to say so on national television and before state legislative and congressional committees. Not to mention through their own radio and television networks and vast church networks. Or from the platform of the Republican convention.  Freedom of expression, including anti-equality expression, is alive and well.

The CNN post does include Christians with differing views on gay rights, and who acknowledge that simply claiming religious backing for one’s beliefs does not insulate those views from criticism in the public arena. Neither does disagreement equate to discrimination or persecution. Conservative Christians did not see it as a form of religious discrimination to enshrine their view of marriage into laws and state constitutions; but as public opinion shifts and more states make equality the law, they warn of dire threats to their freedom.

Among the Religious Right horror stories linked to in the CNN piece are complaints about pastor Louie Giglio’s withdrawal from President Obama’s second inaugural ceremony in the face of criticism about anti-gay remarks that surfaced online. Criticism of those remarks – even anger and disappointment among pro-equality Obama supporters over Giglio being given a place of honor at the inaugural – does not mean, as some pundits claimed, that people of faith are no longer welcome in the public square. Anyone who heard the prayers, music, and speeches at the inaugural would see that such claims are ludicrous.

It should be noted that Religious Right groups made similarly shrill claims that the addition of sexual orientation to federal hate crimes laws would result in preachers being thrown into jail for quoting scripture on homosexuality. And they claimed that allowing gay members of the armed forces to serve openly would destroy the military. Those claims have been proven to be not just wrong but ridiculous.

Baker quotes evangelical blogger Joe Carter (who used to work at Family Research Council), warning that young people will abandon anti-gay churches “for fear of being called haters.” What is far more likely is that many young Christians will leave anti-gay churches because they have gay friends and disagree with both the anti-gay theology and anti-equality policy positions of the Religious Right. And some may continue to hold traditional theological views on homosexuality while supporting legal equality as a civil matter. Polling shows that the generation gap on LGBT issues is huge within as well as outside the evangelical community – and that many young Christians are disillusioned with the anti-gay fixation of many church leaders.

The CNN piece finishes blogger Carter saying “he foresees a day when any church that preaches against homosexuality will be marginalized. Just as many churches now accept divorce, they will accept sexual practices once considered sinful.”

So let’s end with a consideration of divorce. The Catholic Church denies its religious blessing to divorced couples who get remarried without obtaining a religious annulment of their previous marriage. Many evangelical churches also frown on divorce. But all marriages – first, second, third, or fourth – are treated equally under civil law (good news for Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh!).  Yet no one is arguing that the status quo on divorce amounts to an attack on religious freedom – or that Christians who oppose divorce have been marginalized or hounded out of the public square. Their religious beliefs about divorce coexist with public policy that reflects societal reality and the opinions of a religiously diverse America. 

PFAW President Michael Keegan to Jason Collins: ‘We Are With You’

This week, NBA center Jason Collins made history when he became the first active player in a major men’s pro sports league to come out as gay.  In an interview with George Stephanopoulos aired yesterday on Good Morning America, Collins reflected that “when you finally get to that point of acceptance, there’s nothing more beautiful.” Collins has demonstrated his commitment to being open about who he is – and in doing so, has become a role model to all who are struggling to accept themselves.

Today People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan sent Collins a letter of congratulations and support:

Dear Jason,

Thank you. 

Becoming the first active player in a major men’s pro sports league to come out as gay could not have been an easy decision.  You said yourself that if you had your way, “someone else would have already done this” – but you were the one to take this step, and we’re grateful for your courage.

The majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people report experiencing harassment at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and the need for supportive LGBT role models has never been greater.  At this moment, no one can know the full effects of your decision to come out, but what I do know is that it will change the lives of so many others who are struggling to accept who they are.

On behalf of People For the American Way’s staff, board, and members all across the country, congratulations.  We are with you. 

With best regards,

Michael B. Keegan
President, People For the American Way

 

PFAW

NOM's 'Historic' Fail

For weeks, the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown has been touting the “historic” March for Marriage, telling supporters “this is our time” to "change history." A month ago he wrote excitedly about a “game-changer,” a $500,000 matching gift from one of the major donors that keep NOM afloat. Brown had been inspired by a massive turnout for an anti-marriage-equality protest  in France, and hoped for something similar in Washington. But even with big donors and heavy-weight Religious Right co-sponsors, Brown and his allies couldn’t pull it off. Not even close.

In reality, NOM’s rally had a few, perhaps several, thousand attendees.  (NOM’s Thomas Peters claims 15,000, which seems, um, generous.) And every time one of the speakers tried to make the crowd feel like part of a larger movement by talking about the 200,000 people they said marched recently for one-man/one-woman marriage in Puerto Rico, or the hundreds of thousands or millions in France and Spain, or even the 585,000 who have signed the Manhattan Declaration or the half million who marched against legal abortion, it only served to highlight how few bothered to show up in Washington. According to various speakers, the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia sent five busloads; anti-gay state senator Ruben Diaz claimed 32 buses from New York. Brian Brown gave a shout out to some Chinese Christians from Chicago.

The ethnically diverse speakers’ list was a mix of old and new, including some familiar faces on the anti-gay circuit, such as Harry Jackson, Gary Bauer, and Iowa’s Bob Vander Plaats. Harry Jackson led the crowd in a chant that he said was a prayer for the Supreme Court: “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered.” Bauer delivered a blustery message to the Republican Party that if they “bail” on marriage, he’ll lead as many people as he can out of the GOP (which may not be that much of a threat). Vander Plaats urged Supreme Court justices to look to the Founding Fathers, Billy Graham, and Pope Francis. Also speaking were Doug Mainwaring, now making the circuit as the anti-equality gay man the Religious Right loves to love; Frank Schubert, the mastermind of the dishonest Prop 8 campaign and every anti-equality campaign since then; and Jim Garlow, who made a name for himself among the Religious Right with his pro-Prop 8 organizing. Garlow insisted you cannot call yourself a Christian and support the Court’s “obliterating” what he called a “core aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Garlow should have seen the packed crowd at the morning’s pro-equality interfaith service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation.) Garlow warned Supreme Court justices that they will one day stand before “the Chief Justice of the Universe” and will be held accountable if they defy His ways.

A couple of groups sent under-30 speakers to say how wrong the media is to suggest that Millennials are a lost cause on this issue.  But facts are facts, and polls show that support for marriage equality is overwhelming among under-30 Americans: 72 percent of Millennials believe same-sex couples should be able to get legally married, including 58 percent of under-30 Republicans.

Many of the speakers were on-message to the point of being boringly redundant, repeating the message on marchers’ pre-printed signs: “Kids do best with a mom and a dad” and “Every child deserves a mom and a dad.” Sometimes this came with a strong shot of gender stereotypes: mothers provide tenderness and fathers provide protection.  Brian Brown even showed a video of the Religious Right’s newest heroine, the 11-year old who testified against marriage equality in Minnesota and asked which of her parents she did not need, her mother or father. Perhaps someone could explain that no same-sex couples seeking to get married have any desire to force her to get rid of either parent.

NOM’s backers for the marriage march included the far-far-right-wing Catholic group Tradition, Family & Property, with its scarlet banners, capes, and marching band (see Adele Stan’s reminder who TFP is), Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, a couple of Catholic dioceses, the Knights of Columbus and the Institute on Religion and Democracy.  Brown gave special thanks to the Mormon-run GFC Foundation for providing grants for buses.

 

FRC to Pastors: Now THIS is an Anti-Gay Sermon!

If the Family Research Council gets its way, evangelical Christians all across America will hear their pastor deliver a sermon written by an FRC official condemning homosexuality and the advance of marriage equality this weekend or next.  On March 26 and 27 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in cases involving California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and this week FRC emailed pastors urging them to hold a “Stand for Marriage Sunday” before then, providing links to a sermon and full-color bulletin insert recapping its main points.

The 4300-word suggested sermon and accompanying power point presentation start with the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and march through every Religious Right talking point on homosexuality, marriage equality, and the Satanic, anti-Christian, Nazi-like gay rights movement that is inviting the downfall of civilization. Here are the section heads and some highlights:

Section 1: The Divine Pattern

The sermon says God created men and women to complete each other, and actually includes, “Aren’t you glad God created Adam and Eve, and not just Adam and Steve?” It quotes James Dobson saying “More than ten thousand studies have concluded that kids do best when they are raised by mothers and fathers.” And it asserts that in both the Old and New Testaments, “one man and one woman in a marriage covenant relationship for life is the divine pattern.” (The sermon does not address the abundant inconvenient exceptions to one-man, one-woman marriage in the Bible.)

After reviewing all the ways marriage makes people, couples, and children happier, the section concludes:

God’s way works! Think about it. Every civilization in history is built upon the institution of marriage. It is the foundation. The happiness of couples, the welfare of children, the propagation of the faith, the wellbeing of society, and the orderliness of civilization are all dependent upon the stability of marriage according to the divine pattern. When this God-given pattern is undermined, the whole superstructure of society becomes unstable. Any deviation from the divine pattern invites disaster.

Section 2: The Deceptive Perversion

According to the sermon, homosexuality is a deceptive perversion, a sin that is “open rebellion against the divine pattern.” It cites the familiar “abomination” verses and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Section 3: The Definitive Problem

This section compares gay-rights advocates’ claims that people are born Gay or that “God made us gay” to Nazi propaganda. “They essentially practice Joseph Goebel’s Nazi philosophy of propaganda, which is basically this: Tell a lie long enough and loud enough and eventually most mindless Americans will believe it.” The sermon also compares homosexuality to other “sexual sins” such as promiscuity, adultery and pedophilia. “I do not believe,” it says, “that God would not place in your genetic code something that would damn your immortal soul.” [sic on the double negative]

Section 4: The Destructive Program

This section recounts the dangers of the “radical homosexual agenda,” its goal of “silencing critics in the clergy and Christian media,” and its conquest of the entertainment, educational, and legal arenas, citing a litany of familiar Religious Right horror stories about the alleged persecution of Christians who stand against the merciless gay rights steamroller.  And it pushes one of the primary talking points of Religious Right leaders and their conservative Catholic allies: that equality and religious liberty are fundamentally incompatible:

Where homosexual activists win legal approval, whether by court action or legislation, they often deny our full rights as Christians because a homosexual’s so-called “civil rights” and a Christian’s freedom of conscience and speech opposing homosexuality are mutually exclusive.

“Listen,” the sermon warns, “homosexual activists won’t stop at recognition, their aim is domination. They will not stop until they win over our children and our convicting voice is silenced.”

Section 5: The Determined Plan

These are the action steps FRC wants people hearing the sermon to take:

Action Step 1: Pray

The sermon calls on people to pray for spiritual revival and for “God’s mercy on a nation that is speeding toward Sodom, and hurtling toward Gomorrah.”

Action Step 2: Practice

This section says Christians give up their credibility to challenge the culture when their divorce rate is the same as everyone else’s, and urges people to follow biblical instructions on marriage and home life.

Action Step 3: Participate

This section is a direct rebuke to people who think politics are of the world, something Christians should stay out of. “Since God created the institution of government, would He want His people to stay out of it? No. If Christians don’t ‘render to Caesar’ (Matt. 22:21) and don’t function as ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Matt. 5:13-16) in the arena of government, then we disobey the commands of Christ and allow Satan to prevail by default.”  The sermon urges people to write blog posts, use Facebook and Twitter, comment on news stories, knock on doors, contact elected officials, and join the March for Marriage being organized by the National Organization for Marriage and its allies in Washington DC on March 26.

Action Step 4: Proclaim

This section urges people to tell those in the “homosexual lifestyle” that they do not have to remain “slaves to sin” but can pray away the gay.

Let’s stand along these poor misguided and lost people trapped in Satan’s snare. Let’s love them out of that sinful and destructive lifestyle! ... But let’s also exercise our rights as Christian citizens! Listen, we can make the difference. Together, Christians all across America can protect and preserve marriage for our children and our children’s children. Let’s stand for God’s plan for marriage because our future depends on it. And all of God’s people said: Amen!

Tony Perkins: 'Totalitarian Homosexual Lobby' Out to Destroy Religious Freedom with ENDA

While the Supreme Court prepares to take up cases on marriage equality, the Family Research Council’s latest mailing [PDF] takes on ENDA – the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  “Like a B-grade 1950’s horror-movie, ENDA is coming back from the dead,” warns FRC President Tony Perkins. Perkins says President Obama is working with the “totalitarian homosexual lobby” to sneak ENDA into law, and if that happens, “Our freedom of religion will be destroyed.” The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer sounded a similar alarm in January.

“In fact,” says Perkins in his new letter, “under ENDA biblical morality becomes illegal.”

What ENDA would really do is simply extend existing protections against various forms of legal discrimination in the workplace to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The real point of the FRC letter is to raise money from people who think persecution of Christians in America is just around the corner, if not well under way:

“And no battle could be more urgently important than the battle against NEDA.  The rights of more than 60 million Americans – the right to live and share our faith and live according to biblical values – are literally at risk of being vaporized by a single vote of Congress or the stroke of the President’s pen.”

Polls show overwhelming public support for protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination on the job. But that doesn’t matter to FRC, which has a lot invested in convincing its supporters that LGBT equality is incompatible with religious freedom.  

Several years ago, FRC warned that a federal hate crimes law would be used to silence preachers.  Other religious right leaders said Christians would be tossed into jail for preaching against homosexuality. That legislation was signed into law in 2009; as Perkins himself makes clear, the freedom to trash-talk LGBT people has survived.

FRC Urges Congress to 'Pressure the Supreme Court' on Marriage Cases

The Family Research Council has launched what it is describing as “an ambitious, no-holds-barred campaign to keep marriage as between one man and one woman and preserve the American family.”  FRC is worried about two cases before the Supreme Court that will have “a lasting impact on the very soul of our nation” -- one on California’s Prop 8 and one on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. 

In a direct-mail piece dated on Valentine’s Day, FRC President Tony Perkins says it is important to get members of Congress “to pressure the Supreme Court to come down on the right side of marriage.” Recipients of the letter are encouraged to sign petitions to their representative and senators to urge them to “PRESSURE THE SUPREME COURT TO RULE IN FAVOR OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE!”

The text of the petition:

[Representative/Senator], as one of your constituents, I ask that you please use your influence to urge the Supreme Court to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act and state statutes banning same-sex “marriage.” The covenant marriage relationship between one man and one woman is a universally accepted social tradition that transcends all cultures and predates any religion. It is essential for procreation and the stability of society. I respectfully request that you do all in your power to urge the Court to uphold traditional marriage. Thank you for your service to our country.

The letter also recycles some of the same false claims that FRC and its allies made about federal hate crimes legislation, suggesting the advance of marriage equality will lead to the federal government dictating what pastors can preach about homosexuality or prosecuting those who preach against same-sex marriage.  Perkins also claims – falsely  – that the “vast majority of Americans do not want to see marriage redefined” and “the vast majority of voters are against the legitimization of same-sex ‘marriage.’” Actually, a majority of Americans supports marriage equality, according to recent polls by Gallup, Wall Street Journal/NBC, Washington Post/ABC, and CBS News.

But what difference do facts make to Tony Perkins? He says that if the Supreme Court were to support marriage equality, it would be “siding with an extreme minority and defying the will of the majority.” That’s why, he says, “the justices need to know up front that this majority will be anything but ‘silent.’”

FRC’s new “Marriage Preservation Initiative” is, of course, not the first effort to recognize, in Perkins’ words, that, “[d]espite the fact that Supreme Court justices have a reputation for being independent, they, too, are political and can be influenced by public pressure.” Back in 2010, after a district court ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional, the late Chuck Colson launched his own campaign to convince the justices that a pro-marriage-equality ruling would lead to “cultural Armageddon.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Supports LGBT-Inclusive Immigration Reform

CHC says that it will “protec[t] the unity and sanctity of the family, including the families of bi-national, same-sex couples, by reducing the family backlogs and keeping spouses, parents, and children together.”
PFAW

If Only NOM Had Used its 'Devastating' Playbook on Election Day

Election Day was a disaster for the National Organization for Marriage: it lost in all four states in which marriage equality was on the ballot in some way; it failed to take out another Iowa Supreme Court justice who had ruled in favor of equality; and it failed in its mission to defeat Barack Obama.

NOM’s answer to all the above is a new book that Brian Brown calls “the strongest pro-marriage argument ever written.”  Brown says the book What is Marriage? “demolishes the usual objections to our cause.”
 
Brown says it’s “Providential” that the book will be released in just a few weeks.  But if the book is as “devastating” to marriage equality arguments as Brown claims, wouldn’t it have been more “Providential” to have it come out before, not after, NOM lost four statewide campaigns in which it was presumably making all the same arguments? Look for deep discounts on What is Marriage?

Richard Mourdock and the Supreme Court

If Mitt Romney wins the election, his Supreme Court justices would empower far-right politicians like Richard Mourdock to codify their religious beliefs into law.
PFAW

Sessions Suggests Gay Republican Welcome in House as Long as He Avoids ‘Personal Crusade’

Cross-posted at AlterNet

Pete Sessions heads the National Republican Congressional Committee and in that role his top goal is electing Republicans. To that end, Sessions has worked with Log Cabin Republicans – and was honored by the group with its Barry Goldwater Award in 2010 – in spite of his own strongly anti-gay voting record: during the past three sessions of Congress his rating on HRC’s scorecard has ranged from zero all the way to six percent and now sits at three percent.  Sessions has voted repeatedly for federal constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage, and against ENDA and repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

At a press event in Tampa this morning, Sessions was asked about Richard Tisei, an openly gay Republican congressional nominee in Massachusetts.  The questioner specifically asked how Tisei, who is pro-choice and pro-marriage equality, would fit in with the Republican caucus.
 
“I have a litmus test and that’s to be able to get elected,” said Sessions, who said he is in regular communication with Tisei and will be a strategic and tactical partner in his race.  Sessions did not talk about LGBT issues directly, but said it was his sense that Tisei is “not on any personal crusade” but “wants to become a professional member of Congress.” Tisei’s opponent, Rep. John Tierney, has been hurt by financial scandals involving his wife and other family members.
 
Indeed, there’s no “personal crusade” on behalf of LGBT equality evident on Tisei’s campaign website, whose issues page does not mention LGBT issues – it focuses on right-wing talking points on the economy, Medicare, education, and Israel.
 
Sessions’ attitude reflects a growing split between the Republican Party’s conservative evangelical base – which flexed its muscle in this year’s platform committee – and the growing support among Americans, including Republicans, for LGBT equality.  Politico reported in March that Republican congressional leaders have tried to dial back the caucus on marriage, while anti-gay activists continue to battle marriage equality around the country.
 
“I will proud to have him be a member of our conference,” said Sessions.   But if he does win, Tisei probably shouldn’t expect too much support from his colleagues for any “personal crusades” for equality.

Religious Righting the Republican Platform

Yesterday, the head of the Log Cabin Republicans said that the Republican Party platform might actually contain language saying that all Americans have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Imagine! Although the language included no reference to LGBT people, Log Cabin argued that it would be a “positive nod” toward them. 
A nearly imperceptible, practically meaningless nod, perhaps.  Anti-gay groups typically use similar rhetoric to soften their image.  Even the most stridently anti-gay Religious Right leaders insist they don’t hate gays, they love them so much they want to save them from their evil, wicked, Satanic, hell-bound lives.
Last night, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins provided a bit of a reality check. He sent a memo bragging that “our team has had several hands” working on the platform:
With a presence in the committee meetings, the FRC Action staff has been able to help delegates hold the line of social issues. Just this morning, our efforts made what was already a good document even better.
Before this week, the GOP’s draft platform included solid language defending the family – and FRC Action, in tandem with Eagle Forum, made it even stronger.
Perkins boasts that as a delegate on the subcommittee handling health care, education, and the family, “I was able to reinforce the language on marriage and successfully helped with amendments on conscience rights, abortion in health care, and stem cell research."
Joining Perkins on the Platform Committee is David Barton, the promoter of bogus “Christian nation” history whose recent book on Thomas Jefferson was slammed as grossly inaccurate by so many scholars that his Christian publishing house, Thomas Nelson, pulled the book from the shelves. But Barton’s abuses of the truth have never been enough to discredit him with his friends in the GOP. Barton is serving on the platform committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution, where Tony Perkins assures us Barton led efforts that “fended off liberal attacks that would have watered down the wording” on marriage and “life.”
This morning, the Tampa Bay Times reports that the draft moving forward includes a call for a federal constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex couples from getting married anywhere in the U.S., and for a constitutional amendment applying the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment to “unborn children." There is no exception for allowing abortion in the case of rape or incest.
The full Platform Committee will take up the work of the subcommittees today.

Religious Right Exploiting Tragedy to Blunt Criticism of Its Extremism

Religious Right groups have publicly seethed at the Southern Poverty Law Center's decision a couple of years ago to designate several of them as hate groups for consistently spreading false, inflammatory, and defamatory propaganda about LGBT people.  It is now clear that Religious Right leaders are hoping to exploit this week's shooting at the Family Research Council to try to damage the SPLC.
 
FRC's Tony Perkins said this week that the SPLC gave the shooter "license" to attack the organization by calling it a hate group.  Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber accused the SPLC of having blood on its hands.  The American Family Association and Traditional Values Coalition were among others who blamed SPLC for the attack.  Religious Right groups have long equated any criticism of their positions or tactics as attacks on their freedom of speech and religion; now they are taking it a step further to say that critics must stop calling out their hateful rhetoric and naming it as such.
 
It is important not to let Religious Right groups exploit this violence - which was quickly and unequivocally condemned by progressive movement leaders, including People For the American Way President Michael Keegan - to divert attention from the Religious Right's anti-gay extremism.  As Right Wing Watch has noted, FRC was not labeled a hate group because of a simple policy disagreement, as FRC's backers would have you believe; the SPLC cited very specific examples of FRC's wildly inflammatory anti-gay language.
                                                                                                            
You don't have to look far.  Last year Perkins called gay-rights activists vile, hateful, pawns of Satan.  In 2010, Perkins responded to President Obama's call for civility on the issue of homosexuality by slamming the president for criticizing Uganda's kill-the-gays bill. Perkins described the infamous law as "enhanced penalties for crimes related to homosexuality" and an effort to "uphold moral conduct."  FRC spokespeople have supported laws criminalizing homosexuality overseas and here in the U.S.  
 
Perkins, of course, has lots of company in the anti-gay right who are now joining in the attack on SPLC.
 
One of them is Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, who went on CNN on Thursday to say it is "totally irresponsible and unacceptable" to call FRC a hate group.   But Brown was flummoxed when CNN anchor Zoraida Sambolin confronted him with an actual example of FRC rhetoric claiming that "one of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the 'prophets' of a new sexual order."  Brown repeatedly refused to acknowledge that such rhetoric is hateful, exposing his call for "civility" as nothing but empty political posturing. 
 
Speaking of civility, Brown has presided over at least one anti-gay rally at which a fellow speaker said gays were worthy of death.  And NOM welcomed onto its board author Orson Scott Card, who had written that the advance of marriage equality was tyranny worthy of revolution:

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn. [...] American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.

Freedom for 'Phobes

It has been known for years that Chick-fil-A supports right-wing groups. The company has given out gift cards at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. At a recent Religious Right gathering, a speaker talked about how wonderful it was to live and work in Atlanta, where, he said, there’s a Baptist church on every corner and the streets are paved with Chick-fil-A.

So I am no fan of Chick-fil-A, but I’m a big fan of freedom, and that includes Chick-fil-A’s freedom to open its restaurants, even in cities where progressive political leaders don’t like the reactionary politics promoted by the company and its owners.

There’s been a robust campaign by advocates for LGBT equality to call more attention to Chick-fil-A’s contributions to “traditional family” groups, which total in the millions of dollars. But the feathers really flew when company president Dan Cathy made comments in an interview with Baptist Press bragging about his company’s position on marriage – “guilty as charged” -- and his comments to an Atlanta radio station.

I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” said Cathy.

I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about,” he added.

It’s no surprise that Cathy’s comments have stirred supporters of LGBT equality to respond. Much of that response has been in the best traditions of free speech and protest. In Washington, D.C., this week, the Human Rights Campaign organized a protest in front of a Chick-Fil-A food truck. Other activists have rallied outside Chick-Fil-A stores and some students have protested the company’s presence on their campuses.

In addition, a number of political leaders have spoken out in defense of marriage equality and in opposition to the company’s support for discrimination. Twenty years ago, I would never have imagined elected officials taking the time to publicly criticize a business on behalf of the ability of same-sex couples to get married. It’s a good thing – a sign of amazing progress.

But a couple of politicians have gone too far – suggesting that the power of government should be used to prevent the company from opening restaurants based on its political donations and the positions of its owners. That’s not a good thing. As a matter of principle, the government shouldn’t treat individuals differently based on their political or religious beliefs, or companies based on the political activities and contributions of their owners.  As others have noted, we wouldn’t want cities or states to have the power to prevent the opening of stores whose owners support LGBT equality or other progressive causes. 

People For the American Way’s headquarters is located in the District of Columbia, where elected officials have recognized that LGBT people should be treated equally under the law. DC’s progressive public policies stand in stark contrast to the anti-equality work of groups like the Family Research Council, but we would never suggest that the DC government could or should have prevented FRC from planting its headquarters in the center of downtown DC. Our commitment to freedom and equality should extend to those who don’t share it.

PFAW Foundation

"End a" Discriminatory Workplace with ENDA

As a freshman in high school I approached my principal to request a space to perform one of the five mandatory Muslim prayers that happened to start and end during school hours. I had been praying for years in school and thought nothing of it, until she said no.  As unfortunate as her response was, I was lucky for two reasons. The first was that there were laws in place that protected me from facing this type of discrimination, and I was eventually allowed to pray in school thanks to the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The second reason is that experience was transformative and opened my eyes not only to the struggles of other Muslim Americans, but to all groups who face discrimination. As lucky as I was with my specific situation, I soon realized that not every group had legal recourse in situations arising from discrimination.

Yesterday, over nine years after my high school experience, I went to the office of US Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to lobby for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). I, along with two other constituents from the Lone Star State, met with a staffer to discuss our desire for the senator to support this legislation that would protect the millions of Americans who identify as LGBTQ. We explained that current legislation does not extend to LGBTQ individuals in the workforce who face discrimination and action must be taken to protect the rights of these millions of Americans. We each told her why this issue matters to us individually – I told her about my experience seeking time to pray in high school. She explained a number of factors that might keep the senator from supporting ENDA, including states’ rights concerns and the timing around the election. She also reminded us how long the process has been for previous groups trying to secure equal rights in America.

But why does this group of Americans needs to wait any longer to enjoy equal rights? We need our senators and representatives to be leaders. The rights of minority groups may not always be popular with the majority, but leadership on a federal level is required to protect those rights, just as it was and remains necessary with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. LGBTQ individuals should be able to walk into their places of employment or prospective employment and not fear that who they are is going to result in discrimination – and they should be able to do so today. I call on Sen. John Cornyn and every other member of Congress to get one small step closer to ending discrimination by passing ENDA. It’s the American thing to do.

PFAW
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