Reasons for Pride: Setbacks for the Right Wing

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com June 30 2014 6:22 AM ET

Being antigay can cost you a TV show.
OK, we didn’t get rid of Duck Dynasty, but HGTV scrapped plans for a show starring twin brothers David and Jason Benham. The brothers, sons of anti-abortion leader Flip Benham, have insisted that they “love homosexuals,” but they oppose “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation.” David has the more extensive record — protesting at LGBT pride celebrations, warning that marriage equality will “erode the moral fabric of society” while citing the biblical death penalty for homosexuality, and comparing opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples with the fight against Nazi Germany — but Jason appears to share his views. In May, after publicity about their antigay statements, HGTV pulled the plug on Flip It Forward, a show that was to feature the twin real estate agents.

NOM’s March for (Straight) Marriage was a spectacular flop.
The National Organization for Marriage claimed 10,000 people attended its June 19 march against marriage equality in Washington, D.C., but other observers put the crowd at roughly 2,000, leading to much online mockery. Even some of the antigay folks have conceded the march tanked, with a right-wing minister named Dan Cummins, for one, lamenting the “dismal turnout.” Meanwhile, how many thousands of people showed up for Pride parades all over the U.S. this month?

And NOM keeps losing in court and elsewhere.
A federal judge ruled in May that NOM had no legal standing to intervene in the Oregon marriage equality case. It had sought to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage after the Oregon attorney general declined to do so. But NOM is a national organization with only about 100 members in Oregon, none of whom were willing to be named, so Judge Michael McShane ruled that the case was none of NOM’s business. Also, he struck down the ban, and Oregon joined the ranks of marriage equality states. NOM, not giving up easily, then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop same-sex marriages in Oregon, only to be turned down there as well.

Then in Maine, where NOM had been active in fighting marriage equality in a 2009 referendum, the state ethics commission imposed the biggest fine in its history, $50,250, on the organization for failing to register as a political action committee or disclose its donors. NOM is appealing, but we’ll see what happens.

In NOM’s case against the Internal Revenue Service regarding donor disclosure — the IRS was not supposed to  reveal donor names, but it did — NOM did manage to get a settlement of $50,000 in actual damages, that is, the amount it had to spend to deal with the matter. A judge ruled, however, that the organization could not claim punitive damages, potentially a much larger sum.

Some conservatives are conceding the fight on marriage equality.
“Let’s face it, anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on,” said U.S. senator Orrin Hatch of Utah (pictured), one of the most conservative members of the body, on a radio show in May. Maggie Gallagher, founder of NOM, had already admitted, “We are now in the 'gay marriage in all 50 states' phase whether we like it or not.” And Pennsylvania’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, declined to appeal the court ruling striking down his state’s ban on same-sex marriage, and he has also endorsed antidiscrimination legislation covering sexual orientation and gender identity. This from a man who once awkwardly compared same-sex relationships to incestuous ones.

“License to discriminate” legislation is failing in most states.
After much outcry, in February Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would have allowed business owners to evade antidiscrimination law by citing their religious beliefs — for instance, if they didn’t want to serve a gay couple or members of a different faith. Similar proposals have failed to pass in several other states, including Kansas, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, South Dakota, and Tennessee, and Indiana. Unfortunately, one passed in Mississippi and was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant in April. Would Mississippi like to secede again?

Virginia is not for haters.
Last November’s gubernatorial election saw Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli (pictured), who, as state attorney general, had sought to reinstate Virginia’s sodomy ban. Also, for lieutenant governor, Democrat Ralph Northam easily beat E.W. Jackson, a minister who referred to gay people as “sick” and “perverted,” then tried to claim he hadn’t done so even though he’d been recorded.

Fred Phelps may have recanted his homophobia.
It sounds far-fetched, but his grandson, Zacharias Phelps-Roper, claims the notoriously antigay minister did so shortly before his death in March. Also, in February Zacharias joined the parade of Phelps family members leaving the hateful Westboro Baptist Church.

“Ex-gay” therapy is getting more and more marginalized.
In November a federal court upheld New Jersey’s law banning use of the practice on minors by state-licensed therapists, following an August ruling that upheld a similar law in California. Activists are still fighting to get bans in other states, but the momentum is against the discredited and harmful so-called therapy. Also, as of the New Year’s Day, a Mormon “ex-gay” therapy group disbanded, following in the footsteps of the most famous “ex-gay” group, Exodus International, which shut down last summer.

The idea of stoning gay people doesn’t go over in the U.S.
Brunei has enacted a heinous law allowing for such punishment, but the idea didn’t find much favor in even one of the most conservative states in the U.S. Scott Esk, who was seeking the Republican nomination for a state representative seat in Oklahoma, defended stoning as biblically endorsed. “I never said I would author legislation to put homosexuals to death, but I didn’t have a problem with it,” he explained. Last week Esk lost the primary, receiving only 5 percent of the vote. It’s scary, though, that he got even that much — and that two candidates in the field of five got less.

But we still have to watch our backs.
While homophobia and transphobia are being relegated to the margins in the U.S., they’re very much alive in the laws of some other nations, such as Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, and Brunei. Also, antigay types in the U.S. keep playing the victim card, with some, like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, comparing LGBT activists to Nazis. And the virulently antigay minister Gordon Klingenschmitt won a state representative primary in Colorado, while a less famous but equally homophobic candidate, Susanne Atanus, won a Republican congressional primary in Illinois (but she’s up against a popular incumbent Democrat, Jan Schakowsky, in a heavily Democratic district). So the fight goes on — but we have much to be proud of in setting back the right wing in the past year.