When the "It Gets Better" project was taking the media world by storm, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins wrote the following about the effort and its supposed goals:
Because to Tony, it's "appalling" and "disgusting" to simply tell LGBT youth that life, no matter how hard it is now, will someday get better. Not a huge surprise, considering he's compared his own kids' theoretical homosexuality to drug abuse.
But Tony was not alone in condemning the "It Gets Better" (IGB) project. Concerned Women For America's Penny Nance, who has referred to gay teens as "probably troubled kids in a number of ways" and spoken against their self-acceptance, condemned an "IGB" ad as a "new tolerance for homosexuals campaign disguised as anti-bullying." When a popular primetime program ran the ad, Nance wrote that the show "lured us into a false sense of security and broke trust with us last night." Because, again, apparently telling LGBT youth that they are okay is out of line to Nance and Perkins. It's propaganda, if you will.
Not that it's confined to "IGB." When two teens were senselessly slain at a Tel Aviv youth center, activist Linda Harvey condemned the center itself, "as they enable kids to enter the homosexual lifestyle." The Heritage Foundation's Ryan Anderson has gone after LGBT-inclusive TV shows popular with teens, saying of his movement, "We should be as concerned about what the FOX TV show Glee has done to corrupt a young generation as we are about anything the Court has done." Illinois activist Laurie Higgins has determined that "[n]o one who publicly affirms homosexuality as an immutable, morally defensible identity is fit to oversee a committee dedicated to youth and family." Fox News' Keith Ablow told parents to keep their kids from watching Dancing With The Stars simply because Chaz Bono was a contestant. Florida activist David Caton has lashed out against an LGBT youth helpline, because "if you call this helpline, you are not persuaded to walk away from the lifestyle. You are persuaded to be proud and embrace it." And of course the entire anti-LGBT movement has, for decades, been built around the idea that LGBT adults "recruit" children.
Let's also consider the anti-LGBT movement's recent campaign against the Boy Scouts accepting gay youth. The man who led that charge, John Stemberger, certainly said nasty things about what inclusion would supposedly do to these young boys, but he was far from alone. Both the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer and Indiana activist Micah Clark suggested the Boy Scouts would be better off "drowned in the sea" than to "corrupt" youth. California advocate Karen England said the BSA's decision represented "the fall of an iconic institution" while WND publisher David Kupelian compared it to "suicide." Popular conservative commentator Erick Erickson told his supporters to leave the organization because "[o]ne cannot teach moral straightness when one lifestyle is not morally straight unless celibate." And those are just a few examples. Virtually everyone who works against LGBT equality came out in full force to stop this simple effort to allow all boys to be part of this institution regardless of their sexual orientation.
Then let's turn to the anti-LGBT movement's latest war: the one against gay and lesbian parents and their children. In this effort, they are working to tell youth, regardless of their own orientations, that same-sex parents are wrong. From claiming that gay mothers and fathers use their kids "like accessories I put in my purse" to equating same-sex parents to slave owners, this nation's anti-LGBT activists are making a concerted effort to frame certain kinds of families as a form of "propaganda."
And what about the constant efforts to frame inclusive school teaching as "indoctrination"? In every round of marriage fights over the past ten years, the opposition groups (the National Organization For Marriage, et. al) have run ads speaking of the supposed horrors of teaching schoolchildren that LGBT people exist among us. And let's be clear: when an anti-LGBT commentator like Matt Barber claims God is going to destroy America because of "homosexualist indoctrination in our schools" or a pundit like Fox News Todd Starnes denigrates public schools for being "indoctrination centers," they are going to bat against the most basic level of acceptance—tolerance, really—for LGBT human beings. It's not about our rights, even—it's about our simple visibility.
None of this is simply rhetorical lashing out, either; the anti-LGBT movement has tried to write every one of these ideas into policy. The fight for us to be unmarried, to be barred from adoption, and to be openly discriminated against in public sectors. They boycott shows that feature representations of our lives and companies that recognize us as customers. They go after politicians simply because they are LGBT. They fought against us serving our country in the armed forces, for goodness' sake! Oh, and let's not forget that the anti-LGBT movement still very much fights to "change" us via scientifically discredited "conversion therapy." Much of this is done, supposedly, to "protect the children."
Which brings me to Russia, which is now white hot in the news cycle thanks to this week's opening of the Sochi Olympic games. One of the most major (if not the most major) story of these winter Olympics involves Russia's law banning "gay propaganda." The controversy is so apparent that NBC, in its first night of primetime coverage on Thursday night, led its broadcast with an acknowledgement of it. An hour or so into the coverage, anchor Bob Costas hosted a lengthy sitdown in which he discussed the anti-LGBT nonsense with journalists David Remnick and Vladimir Posner. That is unprecedented for an event that is usually defined much more by spectacle and athleticism than it is by politics.
The story is a major one because the Russian laws are just so shocking. To most rational adults, the idea that one can face penalties, ranging from fines to possible jail time, for simply being open about their lives and loves is nothing short of shocking. These draconian laws certainly fly in the face of what we expect the Olympics to be about, which is one of the reasons why broadcasters have no choice but to cover the controversy. To ignore it would be an act of negligence.
But while the "gay propaganda" law is quite shocking, I really to have to wonder: is it really all that far removed from what American anti-LGBT activists are saying and seeking? No, there is no mainstream effort to impose the very law here in the states, but there is certainly an all-out "culture war" against what these at-home activists consider to be coercion. Just look back at some of the stuff I showed you above. This only makes up a fraction of what these activists, many of whom still maintain mainstream credence within political circles and prominent news outlets, say about us every day. Think about it: we still live in an America where senior fellows at conservative groups go on cable news and declare that "there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior,” so why shouldn't we believe that these anti-LGBT activist would seek a ban on "gay propaganda"? Would they do so if they had the opportunity? If you simply look at what they are saying and judge them by their own words, all signs point to yes.
Not to mention, more than a few anti-LGBT activists and commentators have specifically praised the Russian law. Iowa activist Bob Vander Plaats has done so. Radical activist Scott Lively also came out for it, continuing his penchant for global animus. The National Organization For Marriage's religious liaison, Bill Owens, came out for it—"for the children," natch. Plus let's remember that NOM president Brian Brown, who leads all efforts to ban marriage equality here at home, actually went to Russia to advocate for related anti-gay laws! Those are just the directly related examples I recall from memory and quick Google searches; there are surely others who have specifically spoken or acted in favor of what's going on in Putin's Russia.
It's neither unfair nor some great logic leap to think that what is happening over there is pretty darn similar to what is happening here. The primary difference is public support. The anti-LGBT activists here in America can't enact their full range of plans because the American public does not empower them to do so, which is a very fortunate difference. That fortune, however, does not negate or even mitigate the concerns. Even with limited power, a horrific game plan can cause damage. Even if restrained, toxic rhetoric can inflict psychological wounds. A wish that has no chance of succeeding is still newsworthy if the underlying intention still earns mainstream political credence and lesser versions of the broader goal still find their way into law.
As journalists continue to cover the Russian situation, I discourage them from looking at it in isolation.