Earlier this week, during an appearance on Family Research Council president Tony Perkins' daily radio show, FRC senior fellow (and Ohio's former Secretary of State and Cincinnati's former mayor) Ken Blackwell ostensibly set out to talk about the violent tragedy that a young man carried out in Isla Vista, California, over the holiday weekend. Yet rather than focus on rightful areas that any reasonable discussion would entail (guns, mental health, misogyny, etc.), Blackwell, working off a prompt from head honcho Perkins, went on a rant about how "attack" on "institutions" like "natural marriage and family" are what really leads to tragedies like this one. Right Wing Watch caught the clip:
In case you don't speak the language of the anti-LGBT far-right, let me assure you that he means us. We, the LGBT people and our allies, are the ones who are "attacking" marriage and family. "Natural marriage" is the language Blackwell always uses to fight our rights.
So if you're among the vast majority of reasonable people who place a premium on kind treatment toward your fellow humans, your first thought is likely one of disgust. For obvious reasons. It truly baffles the mind how social conservatives have chosen to pin any and everything on LGBT people and our progress. In my decade of doing this kind of work, I think I've heard us blamed for everything other than hangnails (and I'm sure I just missed that one). They have gone beyond scapegoating and turned LGBT rights into the master key that will open any one of Pandora's plague-filled boxes. When it comes to projecting ills onto others in order to absolve themselves, their movement, or anything else they care to clear of wrongdoing, we are their favorite Imax screen, by far. And it's sick.
But beyond just being jaw-dropping in its inhumanity, this constant barrage of blame does something else that gets little to no mention: it keeps us from ever seeing them as anything other than our "enemy." This creates a truly toxic debate culture that divides us in greater ways every day that these anti-LGBT groups stay in business. And in does so in a myriad of ways.
In terms of fair and free discourse, a prize all Americans are taught from birth to cherish, these folks' insistence on turning us, our families, and our rights into virulent pariahs has managed to turn their movement into the ultimate boy who cried "wolf." By now, after so many years of onslaughts against us, every single organization working in the socially conservative space, from the ones who manage their way onto cable TV to those who can barely squeeze their way into a fringe Twitter debate, have made the very kinds of links that Ken Blackwell does here. Oftentimes much worse. I can honestly say that there isn't one group working in the anti-LGBT movement that doesn't have at least two senior staffers who have said the kinds of things about LGBT people and our placement within society that most politically disconnected folks would be shocked to hear are still commonplace in 2014 society. And yes, anti-equality Catholic conservatives, demanding that all of the world's millions of gay people must live a life of celibacy does, in fact, qualify as a view that would shock most people.
Then there's the deep and utter mistrust that they these activists cultivate through their crude willingness to denigrate and deny others for political gain and profit, if not sport. Americans are incredibly distrustful of government., its institutions, and the political process itself. When you have an incredibly visible and vocal movement that is out there, day after day, showing such disrespect for a minority population that its senior voices are both able and willing to link that population's freedom to marry to an obviously mentally unstable gunman's desire to end multiple lives in order to carry out a warped vision, it doesn't help things. Clearly. In fact, in many real and easily demonstrable ways, the anti-LGBT movement is the most conveniently condensed embodiment of what is wrong, broken, and disturbing about politics. Whether its for the sake of fundraising (as it most always is) or to move the public opinion needle, the anti-LGBT movement defines American exceptionalism by who it excepts from the fabric of America and carries out this drive to exclude through a win-at-all-costs, attack-first-and-ask-questions-never mindset. What a corrosive game they play!
Plus there's the way they destroy any possibility and/or hope that we might ever be able to come together and work together on something for the sake of society's greater good. We could have an adult conversation about guns, if not for their insistence to loop it into an attack on us. We could have a grownup chat about how to strengthen marriage, if not for their insistence that we married gays—no matter how strong our bond, how lengthy our partnership, how committed our families—are the real problem. We could have a chat about the environment, if not for the anti-gay activists who would surely jump in and say that natural disasters are God's punishment for homosexuality. We could chat about a great many issues, and maybe even solve a few. We could—but we can't. They've destroyed that possibility.
I used to have a cordial relationship with a guy who was pretty high up at one of the major "pro-family" groups, and he used to always talk about how he wished we could find common ground. He would talk about how there being more that unites us than divides us, and how we probably agree more than we know. And I'd actually agree, for the most part. I'd certainly hope that many LGBT activists and many anti-LGBT activists, despite the latter's "culture war" against everything that makes us L, G, B, or T, do want many of the same things for America. Only problem? After one of our chats, when I'd close my message window and go back to my work, I'd find the very same organization for whom this guy so proudly and prominently labored making yet another outlandish claim about LGBT people, our rights, and our placement within society. Worse, these hit pieces would sometimes include quotes from this very individual! The same guy who was all like, "Unity, buddy!" in our personal dealings would frequently—typically, reliably, usually—obliterate any potential goodwill with a political agenda that seeks to literally disunify my family.
All around, in a number of ways, the anti-LGBT movement has made a really nasty bed. And I'm only focusing in this post on how they breed and reap ill will when it comes to LGBT people; their reach is broader than that. For instance, this movement has driven moderate politicos downright crazy with a political agenda that comes at the great cost of so much time and potential accomplishment. They've also driven a great many people (and particularly young people) from faith, politics, or both. Or what about the fact that there are whole professions now—medical, legal, educational—that this movement, in a push for false equivalency, bombard with misinformation that responsible practitioners within the field are forced to beat back just to get back to square one? To name just some examples of those caught up in the anti-LGBT movement's wider net.
Yet when it comes to aggressive alienation, squandered peace, egregious waste of time and resources, and overall inability to trust anything that comes out of their mouth, they save their worst part of their legacy for LGBT people and our rightful placement and movement within American life. And while it makes me angry, obviously, it makes me sad, too. The fact is, we are a lesser and more divided America because of this movement.