AFA launches anti-Pete attacks; prepare for more

In the past decade, candidates from both parties were running for President on platforms that either mildly or viciously stood in opposition to marriage equality. Now, we have an out, married, Democratic Presidential candidate leading the current delegate count. That is historic. 

GLAAD is a 501(c)3 tax exempt non-profit which means the organization is not permitted to endorse candidates in any political race, and neither will I. But, the positive impact that stems from this sort of visibility is  momentous.  

However, as we well know in the LGBTQ community, with greater visibility often comes greater backlash from the forces that depend on discrimination to say afloat. This is precisely what is starting to happen with Mayor Pete in the wake of his recent successes in the primaries.

Currently, it's the American Family Association leading the charge. On all of its web properties, the AFA is featuring a piece from longtime activist Michael Brown, in which the professional proponent of inequality is insisting that a gay candidate is a non-starter before he ever even utters a word: 

Choosing an out and proud “married” gay man to run for president, let alone become president, would contribute to the further degeneration and moral confusion of our society along with further attacks on our most fundamental rights.

...Mayor Pete has talked about how his homosexual relationship to his “husband” Chasten has brought him closer to God. He has kissed his partner at public rallies. He is pushing his homosexuality, not apologizing for it.

You better believe that he will do everything in his power to normalize homosexual relationships even more in the eyes of America. He will also do his best to marginalize those who are convinced that these relationships are contrary to the will of God.

Source: AFA

Of course to most, gay relationships have become more and more accepted for quite some time, which is part of the reason why his marriage has not been a roadblock to him securing so many primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. The AFA, however, has made tens of millions of dollars over the years based solely on their insistence that LGBTQ people and not deserving of equal rights, which is why they are continuing to pump this angle. On their farm, there is still some cash in that cow, and they are going to keep milking it until those pennies dry up.

You can expect much more of this, and from even more "mainstream" voices on the right, should Buttigieg continue to lead in the delegate count. We've already had Franklin Graham insist Pete should "repent," and he is someone who President Trump has personally lauded from the White House. Just this week, Rush Limbaugh suggested Pete and Chasten Buttigieg's marriage and affection was something parents would struggle to explain to kids, and Trump recently gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. If Pete gets even closer to the Democratic nomination, you can rest assured that the attacks on his character, marriage, and essential core of being will be loud, vicious, and even more connected to the Oval Office itself.

This is precisely why we have to be in front of them. Just as the visibility of an out, gay presidential candidate is surely inspiring countless LGBTQ kids and  allies, the demeaning rhetoric that his opponents will use the counter this visibility has the potential to do the opposite. It's wonderful to grow up in this world where history is being made, but for the kids whose parents subscribe to the beliefs of a Rush Limbaugh or an American Family Association, this counter element could be  devastating. "Yes, I can be accepted as gay -- but at the same time, my unchangeable, inborn, essential sexual orientation is something that some adults believe should disqualify me from jobs, love, and public view." In a perfect world, the first part of that trend would win out, but as we know all too well, the second part -- the condemnation, the fear, the harsh resistance -- can weigh on the mind in a much heavier way. This is especially true for those who live in less accepting communities.

Sure, young people all over the country are growing up in a world where one more limitation regarding who can and cannot become president is being lifted. We now know, without a doubt, that a gay man can have electoral success. That a person of color can become President. That a woman can win the popular vote. That a crude-talking, scandal-plagued, anti-LGBTQ reality TV host with many failed businesses attached to his name can lead the party of "values" and "fiscal responsibility." So many barriers coming down everywhere!

Because of the changing landscape, and because our own community gains in recent years have been so monumental, it can be easy to dismiss these lingering attacks against an LGBTQ candidate. Yet linger they do, and so we must go forward in this presidential season knowing full well that one candidate's simple declaration of candidacy will be enough to provoke the anti-LGBTQ crowd into action and that his benign choice to congratulate his husband on election nights will continue to send them into apoplectic rage. We must be honest about these negative reactions so that we ably combat these irresponsible voices who refuse to know, speak, and do better. We must realize that there are people all across the nation who are processing not only the milestone, but also the response to it. 

Jeremy Hooper is a longtime researcher and strategist, with a particular focus on the anti-LGBTQ religious right. His work has been featured in press outlets across the globe, and has been used by numerous political campaigns. From 2004 to 2015 he ran the popular blog Good As You, and wrote a well-received book on his own LGBTQ rights journey. He lives in NYC with his husband and daughter.