Sunday, October 9, 2011

Homophobia at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

Bryan Fischer at
2011 Values Voters Summit
(To read about tensions between evangelicals and Mormons at the 2011 Values Voters Summit, click here. To read about science and nature, click here. To read about reproductive issues, click here. To read about Glenn Beck's speech, click here.)

In my prior post, I expressed amazement that several voices at the Values Voters Summit frowned on anti-Mormon statements made by Robert Jeffress and Bryan Fischer, while overlooking homophobic rhetoric at the event. In this post, I'd like to focus on anti-gay organizations and speeches at the 2011 Values Voters Summit.

In the exhibit hall, dozens of right-wing organizations set up information tables, with materials on abortion, human trafficking, Israel, media, and other issues. However, tables for two homophobic organizations -- the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) -- caught my attention. NOM is a national organization opposed to same-sex marriage, while PFOX is one of the organizations involved in the so-called "ex-gay" movement.

The PFOX table was selling copies of Wild Elephant (also published as Chased by an Elephant), which takes a dim view of homosexuality and pre-marital sex. Also on the table was a companion book for children entitled Me Tarzan, You Jane, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman while urging kids to respect "God's age-old rules" for feelings and behavior. Pamphlets on the table bore titles such as "Can Sexual Orientation Change?", "Gender Identity Confusion", and "Tolerance for the Ex-Gay Community." Oy!

The Values Voters Summit speakers, however, made countless anti-gay statements throughout the weekend. First, in his opening talk on Friday, October 7th, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins lambasted President Obama over his economic policies and stance on social issues. At the 13:30 mark of C-SPAN Friday morning coverage video, Perkins referred to President Obama's recent speech at Human Rights Campaign's annual national dinner, demonizing HRC in the process.

"Last weekend, speaking at a fundraiser for an organization that is working to redefine the family and overturn the laws that protect marriage and morality, this is what the president said. He said the 2012 elections "are a contest of values. That's what's at stake here. The fundamental debate about who we are as a nation." You know what? That's the first time I've agreed with this president. This is a contest of values."
Perkins later chided the president for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act. He also criticized the State Department for "bullying" foreign countries into "giving special rights to people based on their sexual behavior."

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, whose reputation for anti-gay comments is well-known, associated a strong economy with "traditional" marriage. At the 3:10:56 mark of the C-SPAN Friday morning session video, Santorum had this to say.
"You want to have a successful economy? The single thing you can do is to nurture and support the institution of marriage and fathers taking responsibility for their children, building that solid foundation upon which society rests. And that means standing up and defending the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman, not backing away from it."
Santorum was not the only GOP presidential candidate to defend "traditional" marriage. During his Saturday speech, Mitt Romney vowed if elected president to defend "traditional" marriage and appoint an attorney general who would support the Defense of Marriage Act. (Wayne Besen kindly posted a video of Romney's talk here.)

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who has a long history of homophobic comments, claimed that acceptance of gays and lesbians was somehow incompatible with religious liberty. During his Saturday morning speech, he described the "homosexual agenda" as the greatest immediate threat to American freedom.
"We need a president who understands that just as Islam represents the greatest long-range threat to our liberty, so the homosexual agenda represents the greatest immediate threat to every freedom and right that is enshrined in the First Amendment. It's a particularly threat to religious liberty ... We need a president who understands that every advance of the homosexual agenda comes at the expense of religious liberty. We need a president who understands that we must choose as a nation between homosexuality and liberty, because we cannot have both; a president who understands that we must choose between homosexuality and liberty, and who will choose liberty every time."

Fischer went on to argue that the U.S. needs a president who will endorse a federal marriage amendment, revoke military chaplain's right to perform same-sex unions, reinstate the ban on "homosexual behavior" in the military, and treat same-sex sexual behavior as a public health threat.

Remember Rev. Robert Jeffress, whose anti-Mormonism comments at the summit created controversy and earned him Bill Bennett's disapproval? In this video interview posted by Think Progress, Jeffress claims that the audience at the Fox News/Google debate wasn't booing veteran Stephen Hill because he was gay, but because they disagreed with his position. He makes contradictory statements about gays in the military, first expressing gratitude toward gay and lesbian service members, then condemning inclusion of gays in the armed services because of HIV (!?).

JEFFRESS: When I was watching it, I did not take that he was booing the soldier before because he was gay, but booing the position that the soldier was taking, so I think there's certainly room for debate on that. I think all of us are grateful for any man or woman who serves in our military, regardless of their sexual orientation.

INTERVIEWER: But do you agree that gay service members who become public should be prosecuted?

JEFFRESS: Well, I believe we ought to obey the law of the land, whatever that law is at the time. And I do believe that there's a good reason for keeping the tradition of not having homosexuals serve in the military. And I think there is a strong reason to do that. I mean, the fact is, you have Matt Foreman, the director of the gay and lesbian task force saying in 2009, AIDS is primarily a gay disease, with 70% of the gay population, that way. It's a fact that it's a gay disease, and so I think there is a reasonable reason to exclude gays from the military, but I don't think people were booing this man because he was gay.
Also, during an interview with the Brian Fischer for AFA's Focal Point, Jeffress also said that, "We have the most pro-homosexual, most pro-abortion president in history. We must defeat him."

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention a Saturday plenary session entitled "Straight Talk on Gay "Marriage"", moderated by FRC Senior Vice President Tom McClusky. The panel began with a talk by Dan Avila, who spoke warmly of efforts to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Avila urged listeners to reject claims that acceptance of same-sex marriage was inevitable. Next, Maryland Family Alliance president Derek McCoy emphasized the need to bridge racial divides, arguing that the involvement of minority groups was vital to the success of Proposition 8 in California. He claimed that gay issues are about removing God completely from the discussion, and that churches and pastors must "regain their moral voice" on the marriage issue.

Maggie Gallagher on screen at
the 2011 Values Voters Summit
Finally, National Organization for Marriage co-founded Maggie Gallagher spoke at length about how anti-gay efforts "took back territory" in Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The culture war, she explained, is essentially a war about reality, about whose version of reality will be dominant in the public square. Gallagher insist that the same-sex marriage supporters are not "live and let live," but seek to create a society in which government sees no difference between same-sex unions and opposite-sex unions. Amusingly, Gallagher spoke of the importance of civility and decency. She told the audience that they must never become the caricature that the media tries to portray them as, and that truth and love will prevail.

As usual, many voices from the Religious Right scapegoated the LGBT community at the 2011 Values Voters Summit, framing LGBT struggles for equality as attacks on home and country. LGBT Americans were demonized as a force that would weaken religious liberty, undermine the family, and threaten public health. The fact that such beliefs still circulate in our political culture suggests that we still have a long way to go.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Advocate: Romney Plays Both Sides at Values Voters Summit

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Phony Christian event turns into free range gay bashing and hypocrisy

Religion Dispatches: Gay-Bashing the Religious Right's Forever Issue

Mother Jones: Ex-Gays Jump to Michele Bachmann's Defense

Good as You: NOM at Values Voters Summit

Right Wing Watch: "Fischer: "Homosexual Agenda" Is America's "Greatest Immediate Threat"

Right Wing Watch: Bryan Fischer's Speech to the Values Voters Summit


  1. Many thanks for subjecting yourself to this bastion of warped logic and reporting back! Well done! I read all of your posts, but couldn't decide which one amazed me the most. Maybe this one.

    You want a successful economy? Forget education. Forget innovation. Forget strategic investment. Focus on marriage. What what?!?

    What is really interesting to me is that they see same-sex marriage as an attack on religious liberty. That connection is logically baffling. I guess they are afraid that if homosexuals are allowed to marry, then they would be forbidden to practice the hate prescribed in their holy scripture? Unreal. And sad. And thankfully out of touch with the generations which are coming up through the ranks now.

    However, there is a sense of desperation in the air of the country regarding the economy. I fear that some far-right nut jobs will be elected just out of the confidence they exude in "knowing" the solution to the economic issues, and that will mean that some of these fringe ideals will be carried along with them into office.

  2. Wise Fool -- Thanks!

    The Religious Right definitely seems to think that heterosexual marriage will solve everything. I attended a breakout session called "How the Welfare State Erodes the Family," which stated that single mothers and their children have higher rates of poverty than married couples. Their answer to poverty was to ENCOURAGE MARRIAGE! Not create jobs. Not raise the minimum wage. Not fund education. Encourage marriage. I wanted to tear my hair out.

    The religious liberty thing is rooted in their perceived "right" to criticize gays, without being labeled bigots. The thing is, no one is trying to take their religious liberty or freedom of speech away. It's weird.

    "However, there is a sense of desperation in the air of the country regarding the economy. I fear that some far-right nut jobs will be elected just out of the confidence they exude in "knowing" the solution to the economic issues, and that will mean that some of these fringe ideals will be carried along with them into office."

    Have you ever read AMERICAN FASCISTS or EMPIRE OF ILLUSION by Chris Hedges? You should. He explores this possibility.

  3. I haven't read Hedges, but I'll take look. Thanks.


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