By all accounts, 2013 was a banner year for the gay rights movement: The Supreme Court struck down the worst part of the Defense of Marriage Act, nine new states legalized marriage equality, polls showed Americans backing gay rights in ever-growing numbers, anti-gay crusader Ken Cuccinelli was defeated in his bid to become Virginia’s governor, the Boy Scouts loosened their discriminatory policies, and the “ex-gay” movement began to self-destruct.
But although it’s become an annual tradition to declare the end of the Religious Right, we have seen that equality opponents are only ratcheting up their rhetoric in the face of new challenges and fights next year.
Here we take a look back at some of the worst anti-gay rhetoric and activism of 2013.
10. Class Action Lawsuit Against Homosexuality?
Tea Party Unity founder Rick Scarborough wants to put homosexuality on trial … literally. Scarborough, a right-wing Texas pastor with close ties to Republicans including Ted Cruz and Rick Perry, said during a Tea Party Unity conference call with anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera that he hopes there will be a “ class action lawsuit ” brought against homosexuality much like the one brought against tobacco companies.
9. Pat Robertson Lives In Fear Of AIDS Rings
While televangelist Pat Robertson usually isn’t one to shy away from his own vitriolic anti-gay statements, this year there was one deranged and bigoted view that he tried desperately to cover up. After we caught Robertson telling his 700 Club co-host that gay people wear special rings that they use to deliberately infect others with HIV/AIDS, his Christian Broadcasting Network edited the comments out of the version of the show posted online and temporarily got YouTube to remove our video clip of Robertson’s remarks.
Ultimately, CBN lost its fight to censor its own leader, and Robertson continued to spew homophobic rhetoric. For example, he talked about how he wanted to vomit at the sight of gay couples, offered horrendous advice on how to treat gay friends and family members, and promoted even more anti-gay conspiracy theories. In spite of it all, Robertson insists that he is “not anti-gay”…since gay people don’t exist.
The Virginia GOP’s far-right ticket went down in defeat in November, despite Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson’s best attempts to hide their anti-gay records. As Virginia’s attorney general, Cuccinelli led an all-out crusade to block LGBT partnership benefits and anti-discrimination policies; he then tried to spin his homophobic rhetoric once his views became increasingly unpopular. His running mate, Jackson, even blatantly lied in an attempt to deny his past anti-gay comments, including his claims that homosexuality is a sickness and that gay rights will lead to divine punishment of the U.S. military.
7. Always Playing The Victim
When the Senate approved the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) last month, Religious Right activists baselessly argued that the legislation would punish religious businesses, protect pedophiles, “represent the return of Jim Crow laws,” incite a revolution and lead to “bankruptcy, starvation, even death.” American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer warned that this persecution had become such an epidemic that “homosexual mobs” were now assaulting Christians while crying “Homo-Akbar!”
Conservatives also created a martyr out of an Air Force sergeant who claimed he was disciplined and reassigned for opposing marriage equality. An investigation deemed his story baseless: it turned out the sergeant himself actually requested to be reassigned.
6. Dangerous Transphobic Smear Campaign
As part of its campaign to repeal a California law protecting transgender students, the Pacific Justice Institute fabricated a case of sexual harassment by a transgender girl in a Colorado school. The student who was targeted by the PJI hoax was placed on suicide watch as a result of the baseless smear campaign, but that didn’t stop right-wing activists from citing the case as reason to oppose protections for transgender kids. Gordon Klingenschmitt even accused the transgender student of “visual rape” and demonic possession:
Before the Boy Scouts of America even decided to lift its ban on openly gay youth (a resolution that passed with over 60 percent support), anti-gay Religious Right activists were claiming that any revisions to the organization’s longstanding ban on openly gay members would encourage sexual abuse and aid sexual predators. Several activists even linked the BSA’s new policy to Satan and the End Times, while others compared gay rights advocates to terrorists, serial killers and cannibals. The head of the Southern Baptist Convention even suggested that openly gay scouts could trigger a nuclear attack by North Korea.
Alan Keyes worried that gay scouts would bully their peers until they succumbed to their “sexual advances” and warned of increased rates of drug abuse and gang violence, while John Stemberger — who this year launched an anti-gay alternative to the BSA — feared the change would not only “create a wave of boy-on-boy sexual abuse.” Stemberger was also upset that young people think “it’s hip, it’s edgy to be gay and so they’re all saying they’re gay.”
Republican politicians also criticized the policy shift: Gov. Rick Perry likened gay rights foes to opponents of slavery; Rep. Louie Gohmert suggested the policy change would lead to child abuse; Rep. Steve Palazzo warned it would bring about the end of America and former Sen. Rick Santorum said it would “murder” scouting.
4. ex-gay Movement Gets Even More Desperate
As a growing number of states work to curb harmful and discredited ex-gay therapy for minors, “ex-gay” activists are trying to regroup…despite the closure of a major ex-gay ministry and the defection of the movement’s poster boy. Washington D.C.’s “ex-gay Pride Month” rally, which supporters hoped would draw “thousands” of ex-gays, was a complete disaster, and “ex-gay Awareness Month” fared no better.
ex-gay activists even demanded that Will Portman, the openly gay son of Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), be placed into ex-gay therapy and become an ex-gay role model. But the ex-gay movement did offer us at least one of the most disturbing books and strangest science experiments of the year.
3. Blaming Gay People For Natural Disasters
In the perennial tradition of blaming everything bad that happens on gay people, we learned in 2013 that gay rights caused everything from tornadoes to forest fires and floods… including Noah’s Flood. After Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage, one radio talk show host even confidently predicted that the state would face economic and weather-related punishment.
Self-proclaimed prophet Cindy Jacobs, who linked the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to freak bird deaths, feared that the Supreme Court marriage rulings would lead to divine wrath in the form of natural disasters:
2. Religious Right’s Global Reach
Facing a losing battle at home, anti-gay groups are increasingly looking abroad to defend existing anti-gay laws and push for even more extreme measures. Just days after Russia’s parliament passed its infamous ban on “gay propaganda,” the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown traveled to Moscow to testify in favor of a new ban on the adoption of Russian orphans by same-sex couples and even single people who live in countries that allow for marriage equality. Brown did so at the invitation of the World Congress of Families, a group that allies with nearly every major Religious Right group in the United States, which is planning to hold its annual conference in Moscow next year.
Brown tried to keep his Russian visit quiet – until we found out about it – but plenty of his fellow Religious Right activists have not been so shy in their public embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay crackdown.
American anti-gay activists were also active in pushing anti-gay policies throughout Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Uganda, which just passed its draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Massachusetts-based pastor Scott Lively helped craft Uganda’s extreme legislation. He also had a hand in Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, which he called “one of the proudest achievements of my career.”
1. Religious Right Explodes Over SCOTUS
Perhaps nothing ignited right-wing fury this year as much as the Supreme Court’s decisions on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. As soon as the high court struck down a key part of DOMA and declined to revive Prop 8, activists started warning that it is only a matter of time before God destroys America (and the world) or the country collapses on its own. One ex-gay leader reacted to the decisions by claiming that Justices Kennedy and Kagan and President Obama are all secretly gay.
Republican elected officials also reacted with sometimes unhinged fury. Rep. Tim Huelskamp accused the justices of attacking Jesus Christ and claimed the DOMA opinion would have caused them to flunk out of law school. Rep. Louie Gohmert chided the justices for their “ignorance,” while claiming that homosexuality undermines the theory of evolution.
The two rulings led to fears that gay marriage would lead to anti-Christian persecution, second class citizenship for Christians, a ban on opposite-sex unions and mass murder, and also prompted calls for secession, civil disobedience, civil war and revolution.
Bryan Fischer Bonus
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who stands of a class of his own for his near-daily ranting against LGBT people. This year, the Focal Point host added to his anti-gay repertoire by charging that gay people not only led Nazi Germany but also are bringing Nazism to America with a Jim Crow-style campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against Christians.
Not surprisingly, Fischer praised India’s Supreme Court ruling outlawing gay sex and fawned over Russian president Vladimir Putin for his anti-gay policies. Fischer declared that Hillary Clinton may be “the first lesbian president”; blamed gay people for the 2008 financial crisis; said that NBA teams should not sign openly gay player Jason Collins because he would be “eyeballing” his teammates; and warned that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would lead to the reinstatement of the draft.
Fischer did get a surprise lesson in heterosexual privilege this year, although it doesn’t seem that he learned anything from it: