#IStandSunday riles up anti-LGBT crowd in Houston with same old anti-LGBT leaders

Last night in Houston was an event that prominent social conservatives called "I Stand Sunday."  Essentially the event, held at Houston's Grace Community Church, was a thinly veiled get-out-the-vote rally ahead of Tuesday's election, meant to inspire like-minds across the nation to show up at the polls and "take your country back."  However, the conceit was wrapped around the framing of Houston's mayor, Annise Parker, and the completely ridiculous notion that she is targeting the local pastors who are attempting to overturn a recently passed ordinance that protects LGBT people from discrimination (backstory on that here).

The first thing you will notice if you look at the roster is that it's the same core group of people you find at all of these events.  From Family Research Council to Fox News' anti-gay correspondent Todd Starnes to the brothers who became martyrs when their hostile rhetoric against LGBT people (and others) lost them their contract for a reality TV show, the speakers' list was a "who's who" of professional "victims" who think pushing back against their discriminatory views is itself "hate."  Here's the full lineup:

This one was particularly notable for its inclusion of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, the man who became a huge far-right rally point when he went to GQ Magazine and equated homosexuality with bestiality and made deeply offensive comments about the Jim Crow south.  We'll get to him in a minute.

Let's start with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins.  Tony kicked off the show and served as the host throughout the whole evening, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the event's tone.  After all, this is a man who has, on several occasions, referred to gay people as "pawns" of "the enemy," as well as equated homosexuality with drug abuse (to name just two of his worst).  Considering the focus of the night was on a mayor who happens to be an out lesbian, you can be sure that things will be inherently personal and patently offensive when your top guy is someone who believes the mayor, her life, and her family are something akin to heroin abuse.  Devilish heroin abuse at that.

But Tony was far from an anomaly.  On the local front was a man named Dave Welch.  It made sense that Welch was on hand, considering Welch has been at the center of the attempt to kill the nondiscrimination ordinance at the heart of the evening.  However, I do wonder if those in attendance at Grace Church would be as receptive to Mr. Welch's "I'm the victim" routine if they knew some of the terrible things he's said.  For example, there's the time he suggested that LGBT rights are as offensive to God as slavery:

-- Claims LGBT rights are "equally offensive" to God as slavery, Jim Crow, and other forms of discrimination against African Americans: "It is hard to imagine how offensive it should be that the civil rights movement and the historic plight of blacks have now been hijacked by those of the lowest levels of sexual deviancy. The tyranny, oppression and evil of slavery, institutional discrimination, “Jim Crow” laws and the dehumanizing of blacks (all products of rejection of a Christian worldview) were an offense to God. The perversion of man created in His image, the perversion of the marriage covenant and the perversion of justice are equally offensive to Him...From the depths of my soul, I appeal to black pastors in particular to speak up NOW and stand against this wickedness and evil that has stolen the cause of racial equality and, as the Evil One always does, twisted it into moral decadence."

FULL: Dave Welch [GLAAD CAP]

One would hope cooler heads would have prevailed, had those gathered in the church last night known the extent of Mr. Welch's views.

Then again, the pastor of the very church where the event was held, Steve Riggle, once demanded, on church letterhead, that business owners who have to serve LGBT people are like African-American business owners who have to serve the KKK:

-- Claims ordinance barring discrimination against LGBT people is on par with forcing African American business owners to serve the KKK: "There is no comparison between this ordinance and a true Civil Rights bill. Instead, this bill would be the equivalent of forcing a print shop owned by African Americans to print KKK posters. As for those who say that gay is the new black, there is no behavior or lifestyle associated with being black, but there is a definite behavior and lifestyle associated with being gay."

And not only was Riggle a speaker at last night's event, but one would assume that many of those in attendance were supporters and congregants.  So perhaps they're used to this kind of talk and have made the choice to see it as okay.  Bad choice.

Let's now talk about Mike Huckabee.  Americans might remember the former Arkansas governor as a politician who, while decidedly conservative, actually liked to portray himself as someone concerned about policy rather than constant fear-mongering.  Alas, the onetime presidential candidate has shaped himself into a "culture war" activist who jumps into any situation he thinks he can stir up in order to fire up and angry crowd.  For the past couple of years, LGBT fights have been his big enchilada.  From being a catalyst for much misinformation about Chick-fil-a back in 2012 to speaking at events for organizations like the National Organization For Marriage to essentially provoking civil disobedience in the wake of marriage equality's expansion, Huckabee now lends his name and Fox News platform to the self-victimizing causes of the anti-LGBT community's biggest foes.

Huck's role at event was to convince the gathered that voting is a Christian responsibility, that American must be "saved" from things like LGBT equality, and that protections like LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances (if not lesbian mayors) are due to apathy.  Here's his speech, in full:

I found it notable how Huckabee rounded out his speech with his vow to fight and die for his children, grandchildren, and loved ones.  I often wonder if people like him give even half a damn abut the fact that we LGBT people also have families.  Personally, I would fight and die for my husband and daughter, which is precisely why I work to make a world that is fairer and more accommodating to our lives.  It's precisely why I stand against Huckabee's agenda—a fight, might I remind you, that comes at *NO EXPENSE* to his own family or rights.

The Benham brothers didn't speak long, but just the fact that they were there was pretty funny to me.  The whole reason they lost their HGTV reality show earlier this year is because their years of hostile comments toward LGBT people (among others) came to light.  Yet ever since that turn of events led to their cancelled show, they seem to do nothing but condemn LGBT people.  Which on one hand is kind of refreshing, since they are at least owning the very thing that earned them notoriety.  But it does remain quite sad to me how modern conservatism is increasingly an arena in which saying more and more egregious things about minority populations is not only something for which the speaker is forced to take no responsibility, but is in fact something off which the speaker is usually able to build a lucrative speaking career.  Nowadays, it seems that if you want to become a conservative movement star, allowing a film crew to track you while you let everyone know who and what you are against is the quickest way to earn an invite to the next "values" conference.  I'm not sure if that says more about our entertainment culture or our politics—or if I'm repeating myself by disconnecting the two. 

Which leads me to the biggest reality moment of this "I Stand Sunday" event: The Duck Dynasty portion of the evening.  There were actually two DD stars on hand.  Son Alan, a lesser light on the show, showed up to talk about Sodom & Gomorrah, "the evil one," and how people are supposedly attacking his family:

I'll remind you that the only reason most non-viewers know to care about his family beyond a silly TV show is because they, led by the father, chose to go on the attack against others.  And speaking of that father....

...Phil Robertson was the biggest star of the whole evening.  The man who declares that STDs are God's punishment, who directly compares gay people to murderers and rapists, and who insists that Jesus will cure you of being gay, began his speech by making a joke about how he doesn't want to use the women's restroom, a clumsy but apparent swipe at the nondiscrimination bill in question.  He then went on to declare that his opposition "will be destroyed" and that people on his team will "be saved by God."  Here's his full speech (the comments about being destroyed come around the 7:40 mark):

The crowd loved him.  

The only other speaker I think it's particularly notable to talk about is Rick Scarborough.  Not so much because of what he said last night (his speech was strange and went into a bit about sex ed and condoms), but more because of what he has said in the past.  This is a man who has quite literally insisted that AIDS is God punishing us for homosexuality and who has suggested there be a class action lawsuit against homosexuality:

-- Says that the AIDS epidemic is God's "judgement as a result of an immoral act" (at 0:10 mark) and calls it "a homosexual disease" (at 0:27 mark).

-- Says of gays: "Those who engage in unnatural acts should hang their heads in shame – so should the president who asks us to celebrate their sinful lifestyle."

-- Has suggested the filing of a class action lawsuit against homosexuality

-- Wrote column directly comparing gays to pedophiles: "Who says Sandusky’s Behavior Was Wrong?"

-- On gays and "change": "..to fail to call homosexuals to repent of their sin and come to Jesus, is the highest form of cowardice and sin for it denies homosexuals of the privilege of hearing the good news that Jesus forgives all sin and can set them free.  The real hate speech is that which perverts the Word of God to fit the latest cultural fad."

FULL: Rick Scarborough [GLAAD CAP]

And yet not only did Scarborough get a key speaking slot, but his organization was actually a sponsor of the event.  Because again, that's the kind of even this was.  Increasingly, it's how all of the desperate opposition's events are turning.  The more they lose, the harsher they are getting. 

And of course the "victim" thing is also getting more and more time and attention. Interspersed throughout the night were clips from videos featuring those same bakers and florists who the far-right has turned into heroes simply because they denied services to a same-sex couple.  An attorney from the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom also gave a speech about how basic accommodation of LGBT people is an undue burden on those who wish to discriminate. Fox News' Todd Starnes hit similar notes in his speech.  I can only hope that people are starting to catch on this, the one and only card that they are now playing and playing and playing again, as if it's the wild card that will reverse their fortunes.  The crowd at this event certainly ate up these same, rehashed, carefully spun-up stories, as we would expect.  I suspect and hope the American public is a little more discerning, and I would also argue that the anti-LGBT movement's constant beating of this same drum will only help reveal the underlying agenda for what it truly is: an attempt to mask suppression of minority rights behind the veil of "religious freedom."

The event closed out with another reality TV person: a singer, Moriah Peters, who apparently appeared on the early rounds of a past season of American Idol.  Her song was all about how the persecuted need to be brave.  For a second, I sincerely wondered if maybe her communications channels got crossed and she thought she was at a pro-equality rally, since her message was all about those who truly suffer under oppression (i.e. minorities still fighting for basic rights).  But then I stumbled on a Twitter comment where Ms. Peters applauded a gay man for supposedly "overcoming" his sexuality.  So yep—she was at the event she meant to be at, and she seems to have bought into the idea that those who wish to discriminate are "the persecuted."  

After Ms. Peters' out-of-touch song and the whole thing came to an abrupt end, I wasn't annoyed in the way I have been with similar events in the past, or even angry, the way a gay man understandably is after watching speaker after speaker take to a pulpit and play religio-political games with your life.  Instead, I was just kind of confused by the whole mess of the night. What was the main point? Did they want people to vote?  Are the trying to get Mayor Parker out of office for wrongdoing that was neither wrong nor or her doing?  Do they think that this will stunt will somehow change their fates and ultimately put the nondiscrimination before a public vote (which is their ultimate goal)?  Or are the anti-LGBT activists just so shell shocked by the past two years of intense and unceasing change, to the benefit of the right side of history and all who engage on it, that they just feel like they have to keep showing defiance in order to keep up the illusion?  I really didn't have a concrete answer.  And to be honest, I didn't really even stew on it to much.  By the way I made my way into the next room to watch The Good Wife, I was all but done with thinking about the whole thing.  This event didn't sit on my mind the way others in the past have done.  It almost felt like I spent the past hour or so listening to  an inside pep rally from another realm—one that didn't involve me. 

I think that might be the statement here. We can be fairly sure that these kinds of activists are going to keep doing this for years and years.  The are likely to keep staging these events and insisting that they are the downtrodden in need of a boost.  But the question, increasingly: Will we have to care?  I mean, their whole game plan right now is a ruse.  All of these "victim" cases lose in court because they are losing cases; the same goes for their fight to preserve marriage inequality.  Virtually every last thing that the speakers insisted to be truth at last night's event was, at the very least, a conservative variant on reality.  In many cases they were peddling outright lies (the ADF attorney insisted we are forcing pastors to marry same-sex couples).  And I do suspect they will keep doing this kind of thing and pushing these same fallacies for a long time to come.  But it's not working, and there is no reason to believe it will work better in the future.  So when we get to the point (and soon) where this deceptive agenda does stop actually affecting reality in any real way, will we still have to care about it?  If they keep holding political rallies that don't actually apply to anything their opposition is saying or doing, and that don't accurately assess what they are doing on their side, will there even be a reason to monitor what amounts to purposeless noise?