Phobie Awards: The 13 Worst People of the Year

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 13 2013 5:00 AM ET

PHOBIE OF THE YEAR: VLADIMIR PUTIN
To hold the the president of Russia responsible for every antigay incident within his country's borders might be unfair. But it's far less offensive than what's happening to LGBT Russians.

A neo-Nazi group is posting video of gay men it captures and then tortures by humiliating and often violent means. Someone threw poison gas into a gay nightclub in Moscow in November, and that was the second time it had been attacked in a week. The first time men showed up with guns and shot at the front door indiscriminately.

Meanwhile, Putin is touting his Olympic Games in Sochi, suggesting that maybe the series of antigay laws he signed won't be enforced. In 2013, Putin signed a law banning any foreigner from adopting a Russian child if they come from a country supportive of marriage equality. Now the standard is so strict that Russia's Children Rights Commissioner says only Italy is narrow-minded enough to meet the qualifications. And Putin famously signed the so-called gay propaganda ban this year. It's a law so vague that Olympians could be fined or jailed for kissing their partners. Putin told the International Olympic Committee that he will do "everything" to ensure guests are "comfortable" in Sochi. But he's also banned protests of any kind there while the games go on. And photos of those daring to protest the law already show vicious beatings as a result. This is the sort of thing that Pride parades were invented to combat. But we're now one year into a 100-year ban on those in Moscow thanks to a law passed in 2012. Capping off the year, just this week Putin gave a speech in which he said Russia was right to reject "so-called tolerance, being genderless and fruitless."

To be named Phobie of the Year seems like a slap on the wrist compared to what LGBT advocates in the United States are actually worried about. When activist and Broadway producer Harvey Fierstein wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that drew so much attention from the mainstream to this problem, he invoked the specter of the 1936 Olympic Games. "In 1936 the world attended the Olympics in Germany. Few participants said a word about Hitler's campaign against the Jews," he wrote. "Supporters of that decision point proudly to the triumph of Jesse Owens, while I point with dread to the Holocaust and world war. There is a price for tolerating intolerance." What an ominous games the 2014 event may be. While the Olympic charter claims to promote "human dignity," and the games will draw the world's attention in February, the Russian parliament is on the verge of considering yet another antigay law. This one would order children with gay or lesbian parents to be taken from their homes. That's because in twisted Russia, it's LGBT people who are considered a danger, and not their government. — Lucas Grindley

PHOBIE AWARD: THE GOP'S VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL TICKET
We couldn't be happier that the Tea Party-blessed match of Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli for governor and Bishop E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor lost in November in Virginia. It's still amazing, though, that the Republicans nominated either. This was the second big loss this year for Cuccinelli, who appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a law against sodomy and finally failed in October. In a debate in July, he opted to stand by a comment from 2009 that "same-sex acts are against nature and harmful to society." That lines up pretty well with the views of his running mate, Jackson, who claimed that gays and lesbians have "perverted" minds and are "very sick people psychologically, mentally, and emotionally." There's hope for Virginia yet, though, with Democrat Terry McAuliffe winning the governor's job while also campaigning in support of marriage equality. — Lucas Grindley

PHOBIE AWARD: DICTATOR ROBERT MUGABE
This isn't the president of Zimbabwe's first appearance on our list of homophobes. He actually made "The 45 Biggest Homophobes of Our 45 Years" list back in 2012. Mugabe's done everything from calling gays "worse than pigs and dogs" in 1995 to locking up a member of parliament in 2011 for publicly suggesting the aging dictator might be gay himself. Then in 2012, Mugabe used a state-televised speech to say "to hell with you" to British prime minister David Cameron, who had said foreign aid might be tied to progress on human rights issues. With foreign aid further threatened, Mugabe still didn't tone it down in 2013. Instead, he used a rally before thousands of people to order decapitation of gay men. "If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that," he said in July, "then we will chop off their heads." — Lucas Grindley

PHOBIE AWARD: PACIFIC JUSTICE INSTITUTE
This California-based right-wing "Christian" organization came out swinging this year with a bevy of blatant, unapologetically transphobic attacks. In an effort to undermine California's recently passed Student Success and Opportunity Act, which guarantees trans students access to the facilities and sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, the Pacific Justice Institute targeted a transgender 16-year-old in Colorado, claiming she was "harassing" other female students in the bathroom. When the school district and police confirmed that no such harassment took place, the institute amended its claim to contend that the mere presence of a transgender student in the bathroom constituted harassment. The organization then published a video painting the cisgender teenage girls and their parents as the "victims" of this transgender student's so-called insolence. Naturally, the institute is also a key player in the Privacy for All Students campaign, the deceptively named right-wing coalition aiming to repeal California's trans student law. Privacy for All Students is currently attempting to repeal that law through a voter referendum — though initial analysis of the signatures gathered for the initiative makes it not exactly promising that the initiative will qualify for the ballot. If the coalition's campaign to repeal the law at the ballot box fails, the Pacific Justice Institute plans to stall the law's January 1 implementation with legal challenges. The institute's executive director has said on numerous occasions that his organization won't wait until there are actual "victims" of the law. Instead, the group has issued repeated calls to parents of cisgender students who have a classmate who "claims to be a transgender" to "come along side to be a plaintiff at our action." — Sunnivie Brydum

PHOBIE AWARD: FRIGIDE BARJOT
As France debated whether to legalize same-sex marriage and allow couples to adopt, comedian Frigide Barjot (that's the stage name for Virginie Tellenne) was often leading the massive protest rallies in opposition. What was most disturbing about debate in France, though, was its often violent turn. After France eventually passed the law, Barjot condemned the violence while in the same breath defending it with a well-what-did-you-expect-would-happen attitude. The comments came after a pro-gay activist was left brain-dead in June by a beating from extremists. "This extreme fight is the result of a power that for nine months has refused to listen to the French people," she wrote for the French site Newsring, criticizing President François Hollande for pressing for the law. "The president has caused extremism to grow by passing a law that the French didn't want, and in a manner that was authoritarian and undemocratic. When we refuse to act like a democracy, extremism grows. In a way, you could say that there was a death because of this denial of democracy." Whatever anger she stoked in France, Barjot all the while claimed to be separate from it. So after marriage equality passed, it was all the more strange when she started asking for police protection from the antigay side. — Lucas Grindley

PHOBIE AWARD: TIMOTHY DOLAN
The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t have antigay doctrine; it just has a public relations problem, says the archbishop of New York, leader of one of the largest Catholic archdioceses in the nation. “I think maybe we’ve been outmarketed sometimes,” he said on Meet the Press recently. “We’ve been caricatured as being antigay.” Oh, never mind that Dolan was a prominent opponent of New York State’s marriage equality law, and that he thinks “redefinition” of marriage is akin to totalitarianism and will lead us on the slippery slope to polygamy. It’s Hollywood, politicians, and LGBT activists who’ve made the church seem antigay, he said. Dolan has also downplayed Pope Francis’s conciliatory remarks regarding LGBT people and emphasized that the church still considers “homosexual acts” to be sinful. Gays are “entitled to friendship,” he said on the Easter Sunday edition of ABC’s This Week, but “sexual love” is “only for a man and woman in marriage.” — Trudy Ring

PHOBIE AWARD: PAT ROBERTSON
If we gave out an award for the single worst thing anyone said all year, Pat Robertson would get that award. But it would be hard to pick which of his comments was 2013's most offensive. There was his conspiracy theory in August about gay death rings. Basically, Robertson suggested that men in San Francisco wear very sharp rings that could cut you during a handshake and spread HIV. Or, in July, he advised one 700 Club viewer to never "like" a social-media photo of a gay couple kissing because it would equate to condoning their relationship. "To me, I would punch 'Vomit,' not 'Like,' but they don't give you that option on Facebook." Robertson denied he's antigay and said that he actually has "thousands" of gay fans who watch his show looking "to have a better way." Yes, you read that correctly. Pat Robertson believes thousands of LGBT people watch his show in hopes it will turn them straight. Lately, he's been spouting new antigay things that we've never heard before. But he also reliably returns to old homophobic myths, like the time in November when he advised a parent whose son came out to investigate his sports coaches in case the son had been molested. Then for those who missed his baseless belief that people turn gay because of child abuse, in December he told a viewer whose nephew had come out that he may have been molested, and the best fix is to show him the Bible. And just this week he advised a woman to be wary of letting her children meet a lesbian friend of hers, as "you don’t want your children to grow up as lesbians." By the way, over the years, Robertson is a repeat Phobie winner. — Lucas Grindley

PHOBIE AWARD: ORSON SCOTT CARD
When his book Ender's Game was transformed into a Hollywood movie this year, author Orson Scott Card could have helped protect the potential blockbuster film from a threatened boycott by renouncing his antigay past. But he kept mum. All this proves is that Card is a true, ardent homophobe. No amount of money or risk to the livelihoods of others could persuade him to reconsider his belief that people are made gay through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse. He's not going to stop believing that "regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy." In the end, the film wasn't a blockbuster even though its backers went out of their way to ensure a weary public that Card wouldn't make a cent from ticket sales for the movie. They probably saw what was coming when DC Comics had to shelve a new story for the Adventures of Superman series over bad press because Card had been hired to write it. The artist who was supposed to illustrate the comic quit the project in March over Card's participation. And stores had promised not to stock the issue if Card stayed on as author. — Lucas Grindley

PHOBIE AWARD: BRYAN FISCHER
What's most astounding about Bryan Fischer is that someone who's said so many outrageous things is often still considered mainstream by Republicans or the media. Fischer is a radio personality and spokesman for the American Family Association, which is termed a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its consistent spreading of misinformation about LGBT people. During this year alone, Fischer said striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act was a worse travesty than Trayvon Martin's death, praised India's courts for recriminalizing homosexuality and called for laws against sodomy to be reinstated in the United States, called Mary Cheney a "lesbian bigot" for standing up for her marriage, claimed that if Hillary Clinton wins in 2016 she would become the "first lesbian president," implied that gay Boy Scout leaders would try to molest the troops, and then said it's all owing to his deep concern for LGBT people. "There's a sickness there, there's a pathology associated with homosexual behavior," he said in September. "You know these are not happy people. They are not well-adjusted people. It just breaks your heart to see what this perverted sense of homosexuality is doing to them. It's just destroying their humanity." — Lucas Grindley

PHOBIE AWARD: SCOTT LIVELY
This Massachusetts minister has made a lively art of exporting homophobia around the world. He’s facing a trial for his role in fueling the antigay climate in Uganda, and he’s spoken proudly of helping to inspire Russia’s “gay propaganda” law. Oh, and violence against LGBT Russians? “The ones that are doing it are butch homosexuals who are beating up effeminate homosexuals,” Lively told fellow homophobe Linda Harvey on her radio show in November. The U.S., he said, is moving toward “totalitarianism with a heavy gay emphasis,” and according to Lively, it won’t be the first civilization brought down by the gays: Early in the year, he blamed the great flood chronicled in the Bible on same-sex marriage. “We need to remember that in the time leading up to the flood what the rabbis teach about the last straw for God before he brought the flood was when they started writing wedding songs to homosexual marriage,” he said on antigay activist Sandy Rios’s radio program. Lively is running for Massachusetts governor as an independent, but we predict his candidacy will be sunk.  — Trudy Ring

PHOBIE AWARD: LOUIE GOHMERT
Gohmert is a prime contender for the title of most homophobic member of Congress, and the Texas Republican is certainly one of the most outrageous and illogical. In his antigay rants this year, he hit the usual notes of linking marriage equality to bestiality and polygamy, gay Boy Scouts to pedophilia, and hate-crimes laws to the end of religious freedom. But he also showed great, uh, imagination in putting gun control and evolution into the mix. In one of his choice comments, he said that limiting the amount of ammunition a gun owner can buy is “kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman anymore, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal?” Later he rhetorically asked believers in evolution, “How does the mating of two males evolve the species upwards?" — Trudy Ring

PHOBIE AWARD: ANTONIN SCALIA
Justice Antonin Scalia has taken his homophobia on a speaking tour, arguing regularly that judges shouldn't make decisions on what he sees as moral issues, not constitutional ones. For his part, Scalia claimed repeatedly this year that "I haven't expressed my view about gay marriage." That seemed odd given his snarky dissent in the Supreme Court's landmark Defense of Marriage Act case, Windsor v. U.S.A. "As I have observed before, the Constitution does not forbid the government to enforce traditional moral and sexual norms," he wrote, referring to his epic dissent in 2003's Lawrence v. Texas. "It is enough to say that the Constitution neither requires nor forbids our society to approve of same-sex marriage, much as it neither requires nor forbids us to approve of no-fault divorce, polygamy, or the consumption of alcohol." Lately, Scalia has seemed resigned to keep losing legal fights but can't get over it. He told the Utah State Bar Association in July that "I accept, for the sake of argument, that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged," he said, reportedly earning a few laughs. "Rather, I am questioning the propriety, indeed the sanity, of having a value-laden decision such as that made for the entire society by unelected judges." Scalia seems aware of his prominent role in trying to stop adoption of equal rights for gays and lesbians. But he told New York magazine in October that he doesn't care. "Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it," he said. "At least standing athwart it as a constitutional entitlement. But I have never been custodian of my legacy. When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy." — Lucas Grindley

PHOBIE AWARD: SEN. MARCO RUBIO
This Republican golden boy helped broker a deal in the Senate on comprehensive immigration reform while simultaneously threatening to toss out his signature piece of legislation if Democrats added help for same-sex couples who were being split up by outdated immigration rules. "If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill, he said on conservative radio in June. "I'm gone, I'm off it, and I've said that repeatedly." Then in September, a Miami association for black lawyers accused Rubio of dropping his support for the nomination of William Thomas for a federal judgeship because Thomas is gay. While back in Florida, Rubio consorts with the most extreme antigay forces. Even with so-called reparative therapy being outlawed for minors in California and New Jersey (home to another Republican darling), Rubio accepted a gig as keynote speaker for the Florida Family Policy Council's annual fundraiser. Not only does the group support trying to turn gay people straight, the event was honoring one of the chief architects of the legal fight against the new bans. The event included the obvious rants against marriage equality but also called on supporters to oppose gay scoutmasters in the Boy Scouts and warned against letting transgender people become schoolteachers. Despite all this, Rubio used his speech this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington to insist, "Just because I believe states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot." Usually politicians don't use big speeches to deny they're bigots. We're just saying. —Lucas Grindley