Sunday, April 17, 2011

Awakening 2011 Retrospective -- LGBT Issues

I've been blogging at a snail's pace recently . . .
Man, I'm really off my game. My busy schedule kept me from blogging about Awakening 2011 until this weekend, so I offer my regrets for this delayed post. 
-- Ahab

On April 8-9, Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA hosted Awakening 2011, an annual gathering of conservatives sponsored by the Freedom Federation. Featuring speakers such as Newt Gingrich, Lila Rose, Matt Barber, Matt Staver, and Rick Scarborough, Awakening 2011 was a veritable who's who of Religious Right figures. The titles of some of its workshops provide a taste of the conference's tone. (See freedomfederation[dot]org/content/awakening_2011_schedule)

- "Exposing Planned Parenthood and Sex Trafficking"

- "Abortion: Ending the Holocaust and Defunding Planned Parenthood"

- "The Kinsey Fraud, Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: The Problem and Possible Solutions"

- "Hooking Up, Homosexuality, Pornography, Abortion, Sex Trafficking, and Cultural Engagement"

- "Religious Liberty and the LGBT Agenda: A Zero Sum Game in the Military and Beyond"

- "Sharia Law and the Constitution"

- "ObamaCare: Dismantling the Monstrosity in the Courts, in Congress, and in the States"

- Screenings of the film Maafa 21

We owe a debt of gratitude to the American Independent for its exhaustive coverage of the event, as well as Right Wing Watch for capturing excerpts of the conference on video.

One of the most controversial discussions during Awakening 2011 was at the "Religious Liberty and the LGBT Agenda" workshop, featuring Ryan Sorba (chairman of Young Conservatives of California), Greg Quinlan (president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays), Robert Knight (executive director of the American Civil Rights Union), and others. American Independent posted a video excerpt of the workshop, in which Ryan Sorba discouraged listeners from using the word "gay" because the term acknowledges LGBT identity. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

At the beginning of the video, Sorba encourages audience members to refer to LGBT people with terms that do not suggest an identity, such as "sodomy."

"Stop using the word "gay," because if we continue to give them this term that is grounded in an identity, we're conceding the premise that it is an identity. And the rest of the debate is--we're on their ground. We're arguing on their terms. He who defines the terms controls the debate and by extension public opinion. What we need to do is state that look, this is either same-sex attraction, or maybe they're engaging in same-sex intercourse, or sodomy, whatever word you're comfortable using, and that's it."
At the 0:48 mark, Sorba denies that anyone is born gay, insisting that humanity's "procreative design" is evidence that humans are naturally heterosexual. (Where this leaves intersex people is unclear.)
"I don't believe that anyone is born gay. You are your body. Your body is procreative by its natural design ... To divorce yourself from the self-evident nature of your procreative design is to divide yourself against you."
In another video posted by Right Wing Watch, Robert Knight claims that Washington is dominated by gay staffers. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

"On Capitol Hill in Washington, you find a lot of sympathy for the homosexual cause. Part of it is because there are a lot of gay staffers. [Audience members say "yes" and "amen."] They work all hours. They tend not to have family lives, so they tend to be very valuable staffers. But they have veto power. You don't want to upset them, and so a lot of the people who know better on Capitol Hill aren't willing to take up the banner of this issue, because they know they'll be undermined from within."
In another workshop, Vision America founder Rick Scarborough claimed that HIV was a divine "judgment" on gays. Right Wing Watch posted a video excerpt from Scarborough's talk, available here, in which he makes the controversial comment about HIV.

"I happen to have believed, and haven't changed my mind, that [HIV] was a judgment as a result of an immoral act. It was interesting. In those days, it was still largely called GRIDS, gay-related immune deficiency syndrome. To this very day, the overwhelming majority of those who are transmitting that disease are still homosexuals. It is a homosexual disease."
Uh, Rick, HIV afflicts heterosexuals and intravenous drug users in substantial numbers too. It is NOT just a "homosexual disease." Furthermore, to suggest that HIV is some kind of divine punishment for homosexuality is a grave insult to both the LGBT community AND people living with HIV.

In short, several speakers at Awakening 2011 displayed animosity toward the LGBT community, demonstrated by homophobic and misinformed comments. From strategizing to change the semantic of LGBT issues to claiming that Washington is dominated by gay staffers, rhetoric at Awakening 2011 cast the LGBT community in an ominous light. Implicit in all of these quotes was the notion that LGBT people are immoral or abnormal, revealing once again that homophobia is very much alive on the far right.

Bruce Garrett recently posted commentary at Truth Wins Out that captures a basic truth about absurd, homophobic fear-mongering. While his commentary was about the National Organization for Marriage, I feel that his observations are equally valid here as well.

"If there was the slightest bit of truth to anything you’ve been yap, yap, yapping for years about The Homosexual Menace you wouldn’t need to do any of this.  You wouldn’t have to lie for votes.  You wouldn’t have to resort to junk science.  You wouldn’t have to fake a backlash.  But you do.  Because gay people are not monsters.  We are not trying to destroy the family.  Many of us are Christian too.  And there is nothing wrong with us.  Some of us  just want to marry and settle down and make lives together, just like the heterosexual girls and boys.  And all the work and all the money you put into propping up your cheapsh*t bar stool prejudice is just laughing back in your face now."
To read my post on reproductive issues and education at Awakening 2011, click here. For additional news and commentary on LGBT issues at Awakening 2011, visit the following links.

American Independent: Christian Conservatives Discuss Strategy for Fighting War Against Gays: Start with Semantics

Colorado Independent: War against gays becomes a war of words–literally

Huffington Post: Ryan Sorba: Replace the Word "Gay" with "Sodomy," "Unnatural Vice"

Truth Wins Out: Conservatives Announce New Battle in War on Reality

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Scarborough: AIDS is God's Judgment on Gays

Good As You: Sorry, Africa: God Hates You Most, Per Rick Scarborough's Logic

Right Wing Watch: Knight: Gay Staffers Control Congress and Washington D.C.


  1. They're not interested in presenting a balanced perspective, are they. I know that goes without saying but in light of all the gay youth who have committed suicide one would think that a so-called "think tank" would try to fairly address those real life issues that LGBT individuals face.

    But the RR agenda does not accommodate balance, truth, or fairness. Only bigotry and prejudice. And lies.

  2. Cognitive Dissenter -- Too true. Too many Religious Right figures focus on demonizing the LGBT community instead of addressing actual issues.


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