This picture sums up the overall mentality of the modern marriage discrimination movement:
This is the National Organization For Marriage's Jennifer Roback Morse speaking over the weekend at a rally on behalf of the pro-discrimination Minnesota For Marriage organization. In her speech (listen to it here), Roback Morse told the crowd that there is too much noise in the marriage debate and that she is tired of hearing people opposed to her. Her answer, as shown in the picture above? To literally cover her ears so that she won't have to hear those of us who are in support of the freedom to marry.
This is something I have experienced personally with Roback Morse. On a couple of occasions, she has referred to me as her "stalker" because I, a legally married gay man who advocates for equality, make note of the things she writes and says. Now keep in mind, Ms. Roback Morse collects a six figure salary (125k) from the National Organization For Marriage to write and say the things that she does. She also travels the country giving speeches, presumably netting her quite bit of coin on top of her base salary. I'd be be willing to bet Ms. Roback Morse clears $200,000 attacking people like me and my husband, in front of crowds that generally agree with her.
And she apparently is quite upset that she is unable to always operate in a vacuum. This NOM staff member wants to operate as a public person so that she can haul in the hefty chunk of change that comes from being a person publicly opposed to marriage equality, but she doesn't want to answer to the obvious challenges, counterarguments, or even conversations that come with her role. When people like me make note of her attempts to make me a celibate man, her campaigns to take away my marriage rights, or her connections to figures who say same-sex marriage is worse than bestiality or pedophilia, I am a "stalker" who is to be ignored.
And what happened? As predicted, within minutes, my comment was deleted and I was blocked from leaving any further thoughts on the page. Then when I made note of my blocking, others went over to the page and left their own thoughts. Focus on the Family began deleting comments as quickly as people could leave them. Every time I would refresh the page, other perfectly fair comments would disappear. Poof! As if they never happened.
Some "dialogue," huh?
Now, keep in mind that the Focus on the Family employee who wrote the "particularly evil lie of Satan" comment, Glenn Stanton, completely stands by it; he personally confirmed this to me (more on that at a later date). Also remember that Focus on the Family prominently runs the quote on its own primary website.
Yet despite these basic realities, I am somehow acting unfair or with hostility when I say nothing more than, "Hey, look at this." For simply holding a "pro-family" figures or organizations accountable for THEIR OWN WORDS, I am blocked from participating in the discussion. Even worse, these same figures and orgs often proceed to follow up with claims that people like me and projects like GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project are somehow threatening their freedom of speech - by actually expanding the audience their words reach. If they are not allowed to speak without criticism, and exclusively to a fully-supportive audience, they claim they are being persecuted, or silenced, or stalked. These "traditional values" folks morph public discourse, a traditional value at the heart of American freedom, into an act of unfairness.
And they couple it all with aggressive attempts to marginalize us. In addition to using words like "stalker" (which is something AFA radio host Bryan Fischer has also labeled me), they go after our side's watchdogs, as if our work is itself indicative of silencing. Family Research Council president Tony Perkins might be the most visible anti-LGBT spokesman working today, routinely appearing on cable news, in print, and at political events alongside the upper echelons of the conservative movement. However, he is one of the worst in terms of having his rhetoric challenged. On his daily radio show, Tony has begun prefacing just about anything he says that he knows will come across as out-of-line with some sort of "shout out" to the groups and individuals who he knows are listening in to see what incendiary things he (reliably) says. Here's an example:
Tony seriously does this on a near-daily basis. It'd be far easier to, oh, I don't know—stop saying terrible things! But since he is not willing to do that, Tony engages in the preferred far-right sports of "victim-playing" and "messenger-shooting." And, as you hear in the above clip, he likes to pretend that those of us who respond to him as always "foaming at the mouth," as if we are incapable of saying "you are wrong!" without coming across like rabid bulldogs. This is something doubly frustrating for me, since I pride myself on always pushing back firmly but fairly. This distinction matters greatly to me, yet it often goes unnoticed (or at least appreciated) by my opposition.
The reasons behind the other side's attempt to marginalize/stigmatize us are obvious, but let's unpack them anyway.
The anti-LGBT movement knows that it is the one that is discriminating. They know it. And under certain circumstances they'll admit it, by saying that there are certain groups of people who should be discriminated against. But they don't typically go down this road, because they know that American history has typically not broken in favor of those who wish to discriminate. Don't be fooled—they absolutely realize it, which is precisely why they need to flip the script. They need to recast people like me (and presumably you) so that we are the ones who are supposedly undermining their rights, silencing their views, and threatening their way of life.
These spokesfigures also know that these really over-the-top comments, from their own mouths, are powerful indictments against their work. This is why the anti-LGBT movement went downrightbatty when GLAAD launched the Commentator Accountability Project. These folks know that if we inform the public of the sentiments that lie behind their public statements — found in words, of course, that they say in less public situations—they are less likely to be seen as the mere "family values" folks that they so depserately want to be. They think that by marginalizing and stigmatizing those of us who make note of their own words and actions, they can somehow pull focus from their own record.
Building on the last one: they want to cultivate this same mindset within their base. I really saw this one during the whole Chick-fil-A brouhaha of 2012. After groups like the National Organization For Marriage and figures like Mike Huckabee strategically shifted the conversation into some convoluted matter of "free speech," anti-LGBT supporters started pushing that meme with a fury. None of them wanted to talk about what Chick-fil-A's executives said (reminder: gay people bring God's judgement), the many donations the fast food chain has made to anti-LGBT advocacy including those that try to "cure" gay people, or any of the other facts (like that the retreat center that the company operates pointedly bans gay couples). Instead, those of us who did little more than note the company's record were turned into mean people who wanted to shut down discussion. And again, don't be fooled: this happened because the groups and voices that steer this movement took that on as strategy! They told their supporters to not believe anything we say because we are just "leftists" with a "homosexual agenda."
Finally and most simply: People like to have an adversary. It's storybook simple. From each of our first days on Earth, we hear morality tales in which some sort of wolf or witch set out ot ruin the days of some sort of little pig or Gretel. Think of the anti-LGBT movement's "culture war" as a variation on this. Those of us who fight for LGBT human rights and dignity don't need this to be a fairy tale, because to us it is a human reality. For our opposition, however, the whole thing is a work of fiction. They need code words ("pro-family"), an agreed-upon story ("we're protecting marriage"), a hero ("the values voter"), and yes—an adversary. In their carefully spun fable, it's the "militant homosexual activist agenda" that they are up against, with some of that movement's leading voices quite literally stating that this "agenda" is guided by Satan himself. And if that is the tale they are wishing to tell, then they need to position everything that pushes back against their narrative as an offshoot of this supposed "agenda." Fair discussion is just another casualty of the anti-LGBT movement's carefully orchestrated game.
Some of this happened organically. stemming from their movement's past. For years—decades, even—the social conservatives were able to chat within impenetrable, like-minded circles. They used mailing lists, newsletters, magazines, church meetings, and various off-record venues to coordinate and rally. Even conservative media used to be mostly limited to supportive senses. What changed all of this was the internet. Nowadays, it is imperative for any organization that wants to build both an audience and credibility to put it all out there and let it play out in public. Or if you don't put it out there, someone else will. Net result: We all get to engage in conversations that were once less likely to make their way into the public space. We all get to have an opinion, and those of us with a counterpoint to make have much more of an opportunity to do so. We can now hold those who wish to discriminate against LGBT accountable for their words and actions—and they haaaaaaaaate it.
Which is why our work continues.
We as a culture are moving towards equality, through dialogue and discussion. And no headphones, no matter how tight, will keep our voices down.