The biggest homophobes and transphobes of the year are remembered here for their terrible work. One is crowned worst of all.
The top clerk in Rowan County made a name for herself this year. Kim Davis refused to let same-sex couples marry, then when that didn't work she wouldn't let anyone in her Kentucky county get married — gay or straight. Eventually, her "protest" got Davis thrown in jail for contempt, until her release, broadcast on live TV, when presidential candidate Mike Huckabee held her right arm toward the sky and a crowd of supporters roared while "Eye of the Tiger" blared on speakers. Finally, she switched parties from the Democrats to the Republicans.
That last move was perhaps the most symbolic of her entire debacle. By and large it's the Republicans who tried to stop nationwide marriage equality this year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June. And many of the names of those officials litter The Advocate's annual Phobie Awards this time around.
But Kim Davis is effectively a stand-in for everyone who those officials hope to count amongst backers and donors and voters. She is the everywoman in Kentucky who cites "God's authority" over the Supreme Court. And she believes, or at least she says she does, that her discrimination against same-sex couples is actually the reverse, that it's the government discriminating against Christians.
Never mind that the majority of the Supreme Court justices are Christians. Never mind that President Obama is a Christian, or that many bisexuals, gays and lesbians want to marry in their own churches, before Christian pastors who don't share Davis's views.
What Kim Davis has so effectively done this year is to strip down the entire argument against same-sex marriage to a disagreement over separation of church and state. It's always been a fight over whether a twisted version of Christianity is allowed to dictate the rights of a minority group that the religion says is immoral.
Until Kim Davis, the argument over "religious exemptions" was being told with bakers, florists and pizza shop owners as the main characters. This one county clerk managed to draw in the cameras (more effectively than a number of other county clerks doing the same thing) and transform the national conversation into one about elected officials shirking their jobs because of overt animus.
The U.S. senator from Texas — and last year's Phobie of the Year — was there when Kim Davis was let out of jail. He tried stealing some limelight but video shows he was stopped from getting on stage by a Mike Huckabee staffer.
That's how important Kim Davis was this year, that two Republican presidential candidates elbowed for position as her political accomplice.
But it's been Cruz who has so far managed to win over evangelical voters in Iowa, where polls have him ahead of all Republican opponents. He announced his presidential bid at notorious Liberty University, which was founded by Jerry Falwell. Part of his winning strategy has been winning endorsements from some of the most antigay figures on the religious right — the National Organization for Marriage, Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader, Flip Benham of Operation Save America, and Sandy Rios of the American Family Association are just a few.
Every candidate for president makes promises. Cruz pledges to overturn marriage equality. On a conference call organized by failed Virginia lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson, Cruz railed against LGBT equality this month. Employing his typical scare-language, Cruz called the marriage ruling "one of the greatest threats to our democracy we have seen in modern times." And he talked up his own stalled bill in Congress that would invalidate marriages and let states effectively overrule the Supreme Court going forward.
Cruz is not only against marriage and anti-discrimination laws and open service for transgender members of the military, and the list goes on, he campaigns on those ideas. And he's winning votes doing it.
Mike Huckabee might have missed his moment. The big Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day he once spearheaded was years ago, back in 2012, the last election cycle. And the Arkansas governor sat out that year only to watch antigay rival Rick Santorum go on to win 11 states in the Republican presidential primary.
His political action committee, called "Pursuing America's Greatness," is out with an attack ad in Iowa proclaiming Ted Cruz of all people soft on same-sex marriage opposition. For his part, Huckabee has also promised to roll back the Supreme Court ruling and said states need not listen to the justices. At his peak, Huckabee marshaled the hero's welcome for Kim Davis held this year outside the jail where she was released. Back when Indiana tried to pass its "license to discriminate" law, Huckabee was on right-wing radio shows calling it "true discrimination" that the law had to be rolled back after outrage.
There was a time when Mike Pence's name was on every list of possible presidential candidates. Then the conservative governor signed a RFRA — Religious Freedom Restoration Act — and was forced by outrage among voters and the business community alike to undo it. In a Republican primary, it's not exactly a selling point to have backed down on what the right calls "religious freedom" — and what LGBT activists dub a "license to discriminate" bill. Pence called the whole thing a "perception problem." He's facing reelection in 2016 and still not sure how to fix things permanently.
The former governor of Louisiana tried his hardest to win the mantle of social conservatives during his short-lived run for the presidency. He made headlines with a New York Times op-ed that condemned changes made to the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" in Indiana, saying LGBT activists were trying "to bully elected officials." And when his state couldn't pass a "religious freedom" bill, Jindal issued an executive order instead. It barred Louisiana from penalizing workers who cite religious beliefs about marriage when shirking their jobs. Jindal's state was among the last to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court ruled in June. And he was one of three Republicans to appear at the notorious Religious Liberties Conference — dubbed by some as the "kill the gays rally" — hosted in Iowa by antigay pastor Kevin Swanson.
Right-wing minister Kevin Swanson, who hosts an Internet radio show out of Colorado, has made his share of outrageous statements in the past, such as saying Girl Scout cookies should be boycotted because they support lesbianism and abortion, the movie Frozen is part of a gay conspiracy, and bakers asked to make cakes for same-sex weddings should inscribe them with a Bible verse calling for death to gays. But Swanson, who maintains that the Bible indeed supports the death penalty for homosexuality, raised his national profile significantly this year by hosting three Republican presidential hopefuls at his so-called National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines in November. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal (who has since dropped out of the race) all appeared alongside the homophobic pastor, meanwhile dodging questions about his extremist beliefs. But it would be disingenuous for them to say they didn’t know what Swanson preaches. At one point during the conference, he said churches should have sackcloth and ashes at their entrances for Christian families whose “sons are rebelling, hanging out with homosexuals, and getting married, and their parents are invited. … And I would sit in cow manure, and I would spread it all over my body.” Swanson also denounced various pop-culture phenomena, including the Harry Potter books and films, the movie How to Train Your Dragon, and even country music as being too pro-gay. And, of course, there were Swanson’s ravings about the Bible prescribing death for homosexuality, although he said he’d give gays time to repent before carrying out the sentence. “This was a Republican presidential candidates event,” Rachel Maddow reported on her program. “These were not the ‘kill the gays’ ravings of the guy hosting this event from some time in his past. This was not something we dug up that he said a long time ago, that maybe these presidential candidates didn’t know about.”
The lieutenant governor of Texas was one of the leaders in the campaign to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, an LGBT-inclusive measure that opponents fought by using the discredited argument that it would allow male sexual predators, disguised as women, easy access to spaces reserved for women. The law, Patrick said in a Facebook video, “is not about equality. … It’s about letting men in women’s locker rooms and bathrooms.” Voters, unfortunately, bought the argument and repealed HERO in November. After the election, a New York Times editorial excoriated Patrick’s “hateful rhetoric” as “the latest, ugliest example” of transphobia and said that Patrick and his cronies would share responsibility for the next suicide by a transgender youth. Patrick, if he even saw the editorial, was undeterred. The week after HERO’s defeat, he criticized the Dallas City Council’s vote to add gender identity to the municipal nondiscrimination ordinance. He called it “an ordinance to allow men in women’s restrooms” and “both mind-boggling and appalling.” By the way, Patrick isn’t any friendlier to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals than he is to trans people. Back in February, he addressed a crowd at the Texas capitol at a cake-cutting to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He noted that opponents of marriage equality were in a battle, but predicted, “We will be victorious. Because with God, who can be against us?” Well, the U.S. Supreme Court, for one. And the Texas amendment actually wouldn’t have its 10th anniversary until November — and it didn’t last that long.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, colloquially known as the Mormon Church, has never been particularly LGBT-friendly, but it upped its homophobia quotient this year. After retreating from battles over marriage equality for a few years and even endorsing a Utah LGBT rights law that has a broad exemption for religious groups, the church delivered a one-two punch in November. It updated its leadership manual to include same-sex marriage under the definition of apostasy — rejection of church teachings — and said it would deny baptism to children of same-sex couples. Once those children reach age 18, they can be baptized and become church members if they stop living with parents who are in same-sex relationships and take a position opposing such relationships, although this would still require approval of the top church governing body. Mormon leaders later tweaked the baptism policy — barely — to say that it applied to children whose “primary residence” is with a same-sex couple, and that kids of gay couples who are already baptized needn’t be excluded from church activities. This led more than 2,000 members to submit resignation letters to the church, although many of them hadn’t been particularly involved in the faith lately. But the Mormon Church being anti-LGBT is nothing new; it welcomes people with same-sex “attractions” to worship, but expects them not to act on those attractions. And earlier in the year, a church leader decried “the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God himself established.”
Franklin Graham made headlines this year for his totally misguided attempt to shame Wells Fargo for being too vocally pro-LGBT by switching his group's accounts all over to BB&T. Upon announcing this big protest, the Internet quickly pointed out that BB&T also score highly on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index for being LGBT friendly. But that kind of feckless posturing is a mere highlight among Graham's Phobies bona fides. During a trip to Russia this year, the heir to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association praised Vladimir Putin for cracking down on LGBT people. “I very much appreciate that President Putin is protecting Russian young people against homosexual propaganda,” he told a newspaper. When President Obama raised LGBT equality as an issue during a visit to Kenya this year, Graham unloaded in a Facebook post, “I didn’t know that we were sending our president halfway around the world to promote the gay & lesbian agenda!”
Mat Staver and the legal group he founded, Liberty Counsel, could be found just about everywhere homophobia and transphobia reared their ugly heads in 2015. Liberty Counsel represented Rowan County, Ky., Clerk Kim Davis in court as she sought to avoid having to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, racking up a long losing streak. The group also spread misinformation about an alleged South American rally to support the clerk and claimed she had a private meeting with Pope Francis when he visited the U.S.; a Vatican spokesman said she was merely in a receiving line with several dozen others. (By the way, the pope did meet privately with a gay man — a former student of his — and the man’s partner and friends during the U.S. visit.) Staver called Davis “the bravest woman in America” and compared her situation to that of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and to Jews in Nazi Germany. “Does that mean that if you’re Christian, don’t apply here? ... What happened in Nazi Germany, what happened there first, they removed the Jews from government public employment, then they stopped patronizing them in their private businesses, then they continued to stigmatize them, then they were the ‘problems,’ then they killed them,” he said. This year Staver also said the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allow openly gay adult leaders would make the organization “a playground for pedophiles”; asserted that the Supreme Court decision for marriage equality means the government will require children to experiment with same-sex relationships and question their gender identity as early as kindergarten; and endorsed a Tennessee bill that would declare the marriage equality ruling null and void in the state. Further, one of his underlings at Liberty Counsel threatened to sue a Wisconsin school if it didn’t cancel a reading of I Am Jazz, a book coauthored by transgender teen Jazz Jennings. The school did cancel the event, but supportive parents stepped up and organized a reading at the local public library.
The man who passed the so-called gay propaganda ordinance in St. Petersburg that all of Russia used as a model for its own law is now crazed about enforcing it. Vitaly Milonov started the year by prosecuting the head of an online support group for LGBT youth, who was fined. Then when a lesbian couple spotted the St. Petersburg councilman sitting behind them on a flight, they thought it a great time for a selfie while kissing with Milonov uncomfortably caught in the photo's background. In revenge, Milonov had authorities raid the lesbian club owned by own of the women, accusing the establishment of admitting underage patrons and selling drugs.
There is actually a man who is nicknamed in headlines as the "'Sodomite Semen' Pastor," and he is James David Manning. He once went after Starbucks for supposedly putting “the semen of sodomites” in its coffee. And the name just stuck. The pastor of ATLAH Missionary Baptist Church in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood has also called this year for a boycott of all Sodomite-friendly businesses. The marquee outside his church always comes with eclectic messages, such as "Many of these homos moving into Harlem looking for some black meat." The church was actually added this year to the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of antigay hate groups. But perhaps even more predictable a moment was when Manning — who supports stoning to death LGBT people — admitted on an episode of The Young Turks that he'd been "tempted" by gay sex but "didn't yield to temptation."
Naturally, the archconservative Supreme Court justice authored the dissent from June’s marriage equality ruling — and in it he was reliably hostile. “The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact — and the furthest extension one can even imagine — of the Court’s claimed power to create ‘liberties’ that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention,” he wrote. The court was engaging in “social transformation without representation,” he continued, and the majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was full of “showy profundities” but “often profoundly incoherent.” He particularly objected to the idea that intimacy was enhanced by marriage, saying, “One would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.” (Scalia appears to be a little behind the times, in more ways the one.) A few months later, speaking to first-year law students at Georgetown University, he said there is no constitutional basis for gay rights decisions made by the court and that the logic behind making LGBT people a protected minority could apply just as easily to child molesters. “What about pederasts?” he asked, with some sarcasm. “What about child abusers? So should I on the Supreme Court say this is a deserving minority. Nobody loves them. … No, if you believe in democracy, you should put it to the people.” He also said, “The notion that everything you care a lot about has to be in the Constitution is a very dangerous notion. It begins with stuff that we all agree upon … and at the bottom of that slope is same-sex marriage.”
Back in August, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported to the United Nations that at least 30 LGBT people had already been murdered by ISIS as punishment for who they are. Still, the international community continues hearing horrific tales — often substantiated by graphic video — of men being thrown from roofs to their deaths. Or, if they survive the fall, then being stoned to death by the crowd waiting below. The group is murderous about its homophobic beliefs, and it has even killed a young boy it accused of being gay.
Mississippi is the last state still trying to ban same-sex couples from adoption. And leading that effort is Phil Bryant, who just won a third term. He's being sued by couples who point out the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this year that the Constitution demands they be treated just as any straight couple. Luckily, someone is willing to speak out against his policies.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality it was striking to hear another judge of any court insist that there was no need to listen. But that's what Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore argued. He told an Alabama newspaper that marrying same-sex couples would be too immoral. "Could I do this if I were in Nuremberg [at the war crimes trials after World War II], say that I was following the orders of the highest authority to kill Jews? ... Could I say I was ordered to do so?" In the end, after lots of delay, Moore was forced to relent and same-sex couples can marry in Alabama.
Every year Pat Robertson spouts off a new conspiracy about LGBT people. This time around, with marriage equality going nationwide, the former presidential candidate turned host of the 700 Club on cable television lamented the landmark ruling, urged parents to skip their gay children's weddings, and warned of a collapse of the nation's finances if nothing is changed. He also warned that LGBT activists are after Christians and want all of their opponents jailed. "I want you to know right now, you’ve heard it here," he said in September, "the gays do not just want to be recognized, they do not want to be accepted, they do not want to have just freedom, they want everybody to agree with them, and everybody who doesn’t agree with them and does not comport with their way of thinking, they want to be punished, put in jail, or fined. That’s the way they want it and you might as well get used to it.”
The president of The Gambia has enacted lifelong prison sentences for LGBT people, and in a speech to soldiers this year warned that LGBT equality would lead to the demise of powerful nations. "This evil empire of homosexuals will also go down the dirty drain and garbage of hell," he said, seeming to refer to the United States. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign ran ads this year headlined "Meet Your Neighbor" in, of all places, Potomac, Md. — where it turns out Jammeh owns a home.
The owners of the now defunct Portland-based bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, made a name for themselves by proudly discriminating against a same-sex couple that ordered a wedding cake. For months, they stalled on paying a fine of $136,927.07 for breaking non-discrimination law all the while raking in donations via an online fundraiser as they toured the country at religious conferences and programs. They only finally paid up this month.
One of the little known but pivotal architects of the transphobic campaign that brought down the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is a former Republican Party official named Jared Woodfill. The former head of the Harris County GOP launched a group called the "Campaign for Houston" that used radio ads and a misinformation campaign to spread fear about men who are sexual predators taking advantage of gender identity protections to sneak into women's restrooms — something that's never happened anywhere in the country. He's turned up most recently in Dallas to fight an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance. Expect to see more from him, though, as he told the Houston Chronicle, "We said from day one wherever these ordinances appear we're going to be on the ground and ready for the battle."
The cardinal, who is archbishop of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, isn’t crazy about the fact that an openly gay man is U.S. ambassador to the heavily Roman Catholic Caribbean nation. In a December press conference, he responded to Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster’s recent statements accusing Dominican officials of widespread corruption by saying, “That man needs to go back to his embassy. Let him focus on housework, since he’s the wife to a man.” The cardinal also said Brewster was promoting a so-called gay agenda. This isn’t the first time Lopez has made homophobic comments about Brewster; when President Obama announced the diplomat’s nomination two years ago, the cardinal referred to Brewster as a “maricón,” the equivalent of “faggot.” The U.S. State Department and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, himself a Catholic, have registered their objections to Lopez’s rhetoric, with Durbin asking Pope Francis to intervene.
Here's what The Advocate wrote about Ben Shapiro when he was named to our list this year of "The 13 Biggest Trolls in Media:"
This young conservative columnist raised his troll profile recently by calling reporter Zoey Tur, a transgender woman, “sir” when they were discussing Caitlyn Jenner on an episode of Dr. Drew on Call. After Tur objected to Shapiro’s claim that “every chromosome, every cell in Caitlyn Jenner’s body is male,” Shapiro asked her, “What are your genetics, sir?” She then placed a hand on the back of Shapiro’s neck and said, “You cut that out now. Or you’ll go home in an ambulance.” The exchange led Shapiro to file a police report accusing Tur of battery. Shapiro has also said there was nothing brave about NBA player Jason Collins’s coming-out and characterized TV shows such as Friends and Sesame Street as vehicles for gay “propaganda.”
The grandly named "One Million Moms" continued their parade of outrage at LGBT-friendly businesses this year. The group launched failed boycotts against Chobani yogurt, Campbell's soup, plus new shows from The Muppets, comedian Samantha Bee, and transgender teen Jazz Jennings. When Campbell's included a pair of real-life gay dads and their son in an adorable ad, that had them really mad. “How confusing for this little boy and for all children viewing this commercial," the group said. "Obviously, Campbell's is sending the message that homosexual men are raising children, whom they wouldn't have if a woman wasn't involved, and they are ok with it."
Don't forget about Rick Santorum! Remember that last election cycle Santorum managed to come from nowhere and win 11 states. Now the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania is running for president again, and this time he's touting a crafty strategy for overturning marriage equality that many of his Republican primary opponents have adopted. He's since attacked a number of them for being too soft on LGBT equality, even going after failed candidate Scott Walker because his wife seemed supportive of same-sex couples. Most recently, he slammed Ted Cruz for only pretending to be as socially conservative as Santorum.