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The 45 Biggest Homophobes of Our 45 Years

The 45 Biggest Homophobes of Our 45 Years


The LGBT rights movement has had its share of villains. These are some of the worst.


(UPDATE: View the 2013 Phobie Awards for the Year's Worst People)

The Advocate's occasional tradition of issuing a dishonor roll has gotten us in trouble more than once. The list, which began as the Phobies, became the Sissy Awards when an editor wanted to make a point about haters misusing that derogatory word. The dictionary says a sissy is "timid or cowardly," a fitting description. But the LGBT movement continues to favor reclaiming words as badges of honor instead of flinging them like the bullies we shame. So call them what you like -- bigot or hater or just plain wrong -- but here's our list of the 45 most odious homophobes from Advocate history.


Above from left: Police make arrests at the Stonewall riots; Robert Mugabe; Marcus Welby, M.D.

The Police
It might be hard to imagine now, with gay officers marching in pride parades and big-city squads having dedicated LGBT liasons, but The Advocate wrote in 1973 that gay people had come to think of police "as their natural enemies."

The very first issue, in 1967, announced a meeting between our founders and the Los Angeles Police Department. Most notorious among chiefs was Los Angeles's Ed Davis, who once compared gay people to lepers and opposed the city's first pride parade in 1970, saying, "As far as I'm concerned, granting a parade permit to a group of homosexuals to parade down Hollywood Boulevard would be the same as giving a permit to march to a group of thieves and murderers." Davis told the Christopher Street West Association that he "would much rather celebrate Gay Conversion Week, which I will gladly sponsor when the medical practitioners in this country find a way to convert gays to heterosexuals."

The only conversion Davis got was his own. The man who had once overseen hundreds of arrests for public sex in entrapment schemes (as well as raids on clubs where LGBT patrons were beaten or intimidated into staying home) went on to become a state senator and had a surprising turnaround. Davis voted for AB1, an antidiscrimination bill, and called for greater acceptance of gays by the Republican Party, which led opponents to chastise him as "the GOP's leading crusader for homosexual rights." The same phenomenon spread to law enforcement nationwide. If only more of the figures on this list had evolved.

Michael Maye
The New York City firefighter and former Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing champion went on trial in 1972 on charges of brutally beating a gay protester. Maye, head of a New York firefighters' union, was accused of knocking the man to the ground and then stomping on his crotch. He was acquitted after a judge found witnesses' accounts of the beating unreliable. The trial got big exposure on television, and in interviews Maye made clear his belief that "these people should never have been allowed to capture so much publicity by flaunting their ways in public." Maye said he'd been misunderstood; he opposed discrimination -- except gays shouldn't be allowed to teach in schools or serve with him in the fire department.

Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe's aging dictator said in 1995 that gays are "worse than pigs and dogs." He's called gays insane and unnatural, and homosexuality is still outlawed in his country. So when a member of Parliament told those attending an opposition party's rally in 2011 that Mugabe had multiple gay affairs, Mugabe proved his heterosexuality by locking her in jail for a week.

Mike Royko
Royko, then a Chicago Daily News columnist, wrote an elaborate story in 1974 of a faux world in which men "in love with monkeys" try stupidly to gain public acceptance. Royko, who later went to the Chicago Sun-Times and then the Chicago Tribune, was syndicated nationally to more than 600 newspapers and often made gays the subject of his jokes. He wasn't laughing, though, in 1994 when caught using antigay slurs during a drunk-driving arrest.

Marcus Welby
The lead character of ABC's fictional medical drama Marcus Welby, M.D. first got attention when advising a patient to resist his homosexual urges. Then the doctor triggered protests from gay rights groups and the American Psychiatric Association in 1974 with an episode in which a junior high boy was raped by a male teacher -- a plot that equated homosexuality with pedophilia. Some network affiliates bowed to pressure and refused to air the episode.


Above, from left: Ronald Reagan, Karl Rove, Phyllis Schlafly

Ronald Reagan
Even before Reagan was elected president, The Advocate was warning readers about the former California governor, who had called gay people "sick unfortunates" and stalled repeal of antisodomy laws in the state in the early '70s. When LGBT activists invited earlier this year to a reception at the Obama White House were photographed giving the finger to the official portrait of Ronald Reagan, they got shamed for poor manners. But during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s it would have been different. Reagan was named 1985's Homophobe of the Year and made the Phobie list repeatedly. Reagan didn't give a formal speech about the epidemic until 1987, after thousands had died.

John Briggs
This former California state senator was so worried that gayness would spread from San Francisco -- which he called the country's "moral garbage dump of homosexuality" -- that he proposed barring gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Even supporting LGBT rights would be grounds for firing. His 1978 ballot measure, nicknamed "the Briggs initiative," failed overwhelmingly with voters.

Karl Rove
If he's really Bush's brain, then we can safely credit Rove with cynically trying to stir his right-wing base in 2004 with 11 antigay November ballot measures and an endorsement of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage by President George W. Bush himself.

Richard Viguerie
Before Karl Rove and his American Crossroads super PAC, there was Richard Viguerie and his direct-mail dominance. Wielding a list of millions of mailing addresses for right-wingers, collected over the years by running numerous conservative campaigns, this political strategist was called "The New Right Kingpin" by The Advocate in 1977. Viguerie not only brought in the cash, he also decided how it got spent, and his choices were decidedly antigay, including an alliance with Phyllis Schlafly.

Phyllis Schlafly
She is the creator of the Stop ERA group that successfully blocked the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was supposed to ensure that women can't be discriminated against, but Schlafly waved the specter of same-sex marriage and other rights for gays and lesbians as a scare tactic that assured the amendment fell three states short of ratification at the deadline in 1982. Despite having a gay son, she continues to use her "pro-family" Eagle Forum to fight the expansion of LGBT rights -- which, to Schlafly, means that "perverts will be given the same legal rights as husbands and wives."


Above, from left: The John Birch Society, Sally Kern, Dan White

The John Birch Society
The society has long opposed antidiscrimination laws and was often linked to 1988's failed California Proposition 102, which required anyone who tested positive for HIV to be reported to the government and their sexual contacts investigated. It also would have erased laws against compulsory testing. Although once a mainstay of the right wing, the John Birch Society is now considered so wing nut it's not allowed to cosponsor the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. For entirely different reasons, neither is GOProud -- a group for gay conservatives.

Sally Kern
It was during an appearance at the John Birch Society's conference that this Oklahoma state representative warned in 2009 of a secret gay plot with "the final goal" of "eventual triumph of homosexuality as a superior lifestyle." Watch out, world, you're in for a makeover.

Fred Cherry
Long before Sally Kern, this serial postcard-mailer warned in the late 1960s of a coming "pervert world" in which gay people rule and heterosexuals are oppressed. His oversize postcards sometimes accused public figures of being secretly gay. And he sued the U.S. Postal Service for his right to mail them, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court. He lost.

Exodus International
The Advocate caught an offshoot of this group in 1987 trying to corner AIDS patients in their hospital rooms with the suggestion they stop being gay. But Exodus's primary activity since the late '70s -- when it was founded by Jim Kaspar and Mike Bussee, both of whom claimed to be "ex-gay" -- has been hosting conferences in hopes of opening the wallets of gays and bisexuals wanting to stunt their sexuality. Bussee left the organization -- and his wife -- to be with the man he loved, Gary Cooper, another Exodus pioneer. Bussee issued a public apology for Exodus's work in 1991. So maybe that's why no one's falling for this year's desperate attempt to remain relevant and stave off bankruptcy with an image makeover. Exodus's latest president, Alan Chambers, admits homosexuality can't be cured but claims it can be ignored. Good luck with that.

Dan White
The man who gunned down Harvey Milk and San Francisco mayor George Moscone in 1978 was sentenced to just seven years in prison for the killings. The light sentence sparked what became known as the White Night Riots.


Above from left: Marcus and Michele Bachmann, Anita Bryant, David Bahati

Michele and Marcus Bachmann
Give Congresswoman Bachmann credit this November when Minnesotans go to the polls to vote on whether their state should amend its constitution to ban same-sex marriage. It was her idea, first proposed while she was a state legislator. She's also proud to be a "small-business owner" who runs a Christian counseling clinic with her husband. In two hidden-camera stings, LGBT rights activists caught the clinic promising patients God can help them change from gay to straight. But remember that Bachmann also thought God wanted her to be president.

Reverend David Renfroe
Before Marcus Bachmann, patients could ask David Renfroe to pray away the gay. He served as director of Anita Bryant's counseling center. According to a 1979 Advocate article, Renfroe said thousands of homosexuals had come to him and Bryant for help. "You are not even a homosexual," he told our writer. "There is no such thing. You are merely practicing homosexuality. God created only two sexes. When you call yourself a homosexual, you are saying God created a third sex. There is no such thing." The clinic fell apart when Bryant went through a messy divorce.

Anita Bryant
The singer turned Florida orange juice pitchwoman turned antigay crusader is one of the few people ever named to The Advocate's Sissy Hall of Fame; she was inducted in 1990. Bryant smiled in the spotlight as she campaigned to repeal an antidiscrimination ordinance in Miami-Dade County in 1977 -- doing it all to Save Our Children (the name of the antigay group she founded). Her campaign led to a voter repeal of the ordinance in June and made her a national icon of the antigay right; gay activists responded by, among other things, throwing a pie at her when she appeared in Des Moines. Following the law of unintended consequences, Bryant succeeded where activists couldn't in making LGBT rights a national story. "In the weeks before and after Dade County, more was written about homosexuality than during the total history of mankind," Harvey Milk said later, claiming Bryant's hatred helped educate the country.

David Bahati
This member of the Ugandan parliament is the author of that country's pending "kill the gays" bill and said in 2010 that he's doing it to protect the children.

Lyndon LaRouche
When a North Carolina pastor reacted to President Obama's support for marriage equality by suggesting a quarantine of gays and lesbians behind an electrified fence, it harkened back to the days of failed third-party presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche and his nutty band of followers. A group of his followers calling themselves PANIC, the Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee, actually put a measure on the ballot in California in 1986 that could have led to a quarantine of people with HIV. Among their awareness-boosting slogans was "Spread Panic, Not AIDS." (The best response to this idea might come from 1985 when Wisconsin minister Craig Hultgren made our Phobies list for using the marquee of his church to suggest "Stop AIDS Now -- Quarantine Gays." A neighboring bookstore with a marquee of its own responded with "Aid Gays -- Quarantine Bigots.")


Above from left: Tim LaHaye, Jerry Falwell, Paul Weyrich

Bob JonesSr., Jr., and III
Bob Jones University, founded by Bob Jones Sr. in 1927, then led by Bob Jones Jr. until the '70s, is so anitgay that a support group, BJUnity, recently formed for students who came out after graduation. Its members demand the university apologize for a 1980 comment made by then-president and current chancellor Bob Jones III that "it would solve the problem posthaste if homosexuals were stoned."

Tim LaHaye
The author of the best-selling Christian rapture series Left Behind also wrote a 1978 book called The Unhappy Gays. In it he predicted God would reach his mercy "breaking point" and mark the U.S. for "destruction" if ever homosexuality was considered "normal." In 2004 he joined a new organization launched by Jerry Falwell in the hopes of starting an "evangelical revolution." Looks like LaHaye is still waiting on all fronts.

Jerry Falwell
This Sissy Hall of Fame member, inducted in 1992, is well known for founding the Moral Majority (1979) and Liberty University (1971), where Mitt Romney gave the commencement address this year. Falwell got his first big win in 1981, after the city of Washington, D.C., briefly decriminalized gay sex. Falwell successfully lobbied Congress to overturn the decision, warning that D.C. would become "the gay capital of the world."

Paul Weyrich
Considered the father of the religious right, Weyrich helped give birth to a lot of right-wing groups. He coined the phrase "moral majority" and cofounded the organization of that name in 1979 with Jerry Falwell. He helped found in 2002 a coalition called the Arlington Group credited with lobbying for anti-gay marriage measures on ballots in several states in 2004. And he was a founder of the influential think tank the Heritage Foundation, which began operations in 1973. There are more, and all of them further his point of view. Weyrich once claimed that psychologists and psychiatrists say gay men are "preoccupied" with sex. He praised Rick Santorum as "the most important United States Senator that we have in this country."

Rick Santorum
The "man on dog" senator from Pennsylvania got an astonishing number of votes in the Republican presidential primaries this year with his unabashedly antigay agenda. Can that many people really agree with his plan to annul all same-sex marriages and reinstate the "don't ask, don't tell" policy? His homophobic ideas are too many to list here. Just Google "Santorum" and you'll find plenty.


Above from left: Jimmy Swaggart, Jesse Helms, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Jimmy Swaggart
The TV evangelist served on the board (with upstanding folks like Jerry Falwell) of the American Coalition for Traditional Values, which called on politicians to sign a pledge promising never to accept campaign contributions from gay people. Later in life, Swaggart apologized for saying on air, "I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I'm going to kill him and tell God he died." It was all a joke, of course, he said. Swaggart gave a similarly vague apology when caught with a prostitute.

William Dannemeyer
A 1992 Sissy honoree for saying he'd like to wipe all HIV-positive people off the face of the earth, the California congressman had a mouth that put him in the pages of The Advocate with a regularity reserved for only the biggest homophobes. Dannemeyer signed that pledge from the American Coalition for Traditional Values promising never to take campaign donations from gay people. And when he was in search of a consultant on AIDS in the '80s, Dannemeyer hired Paul Cameron.

Paul Cameron
The chairman of the Family Research Institute used to claim that a substantial number of gay men eat feces and that Americans are something like 15 times more likely to be murdered by a gay person than a straight one. He still calls himself a psychologist even though he was kicked out of the American Psychological Association for his debunked views. There was a time when Cameron was frequently called as an expert witness in legal proceedings. For example, when Houston voters in 1985 followed the Anita Bryant model from Miami and stopped a proposed antidiscrimination ordinance, Cameron had been paid $1,600 to speak before the City Council. The cover of the October 29, 1985, issue of The Advocate asked, "Paul Cameron: Most Dangerous Antigay Voice in America?" He divulged in a radio interview this year that as a young boy he was attracted to other boys. But don't worry; he says now, "If anything, I am repelled by it."

Jesse Helms
"If you want to call me a bigot, fine," the U.S. senator from North Carolina once said. So naturally he's on our list of ultimate homophobes. Helms made that dare after refusing to confirm a "damn lesbian" named Roberta Achtenberg as assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He later threatened to never let gay philanthropist James Hormel get a confirmation hearing on his ambassadorial nomination by President Clinton. Helms even ranted against the U.S. Postal Service for a postmark commemorating the Stonewall riots. "Bosh and nausea and a pox upon whoever in the postal service made this irrational decision," Helms said -- not while mixing a potion, but from the floor of the Senate in 1989.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
It was surely odd when Iran's president claimed in 2007 that there were no gay people in his country, especially since the government had recently executed a few by hanging.


Above from left: James Dobson, Mel Gibson, Pope Benedict XVI

James Dobson
He's like an antigay media mogul. The pastor founded Focus on the Family in 1977 and then, in 1998, Love Won Out, a group that claims it can "cure" homosexuality. He's written books, he runs a newsletter, and his radio show airs on thousands of stations. He's @DoctorDobson on Twitter -- if you'd like to send him a message.

Mel Gibson
When the actor was caught in an anti-Semitic meltdown and arrested in a 2006 DUI or embarrassed in 2010 by tape recordings of a violent, racist rant against his ex-girlfriend, gay media were quick to point out neither was his first offense. Gibson was named 1992's Sissy of the Year for pointing to his backside during an interview and declaring, "This is only for taking a shit." That Gibson felt a need to clarify should have been the world's first hint that something is a little off with this guy. And the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has taken him to task more than once for what it said were homophobic portrayals in his movies. Defending Gibson even now are his loyal friend Jodie Foster (a 1992 Sissy winner for long staying closeted) and his gay brother. But that original interview reads like a Hollywood script's foreshadowing of scenes to come: "I don't lend myself to that type of confusion," he said. "Do I look like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?"

Pope Benedict XVI
When Pope John Paul II made his highly publicized visit to the United States in 1987, gay rights activists protested because of what had become known as the "Rat Letter" -- an unprecedented damning of homosexuality as "intrinsically evil." It was written by one of his cardinals. That cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, went on to become pope.

Bryan Fischer
The American Family Association was founded by Donald Wildmon (no minor homophobe in his own right) and is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group"; Fischer is its official mouthpiece. He sure has a lot to say, including that homosexuality should be criminalized, that gays will attack you like Nazis, that Rep. Barney Frank is to blame for AIDS deaths. AFA isn't screaming from the sidelines of American politics. It was Texas governor Rick Perry's partner in a massive prayer rally held in a Houston football stadium days before announcing his presidential bid.

Tony Perkins
The president of the Family Research Council might still be able to get on cable TV, pretending to represent the Christian viewpoint, but there's a growing movement to expose his antigay views as extreme. This year alone, Perkins said kids are made gay because of immoral parents, that the Secret Service prostitution scandal was a result of the adminstration's repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," and that JCPenney should have been boycotted because it chose a lesbian spokeswoman in Ellen DeGeneres.


Above from left: Michael Savage, Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson

Maggie Gallagher
Numerous Republican presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, have aligned themselves with the National Organization for Marriage, which Gallagher founded in 2007. The candidates signed a NOM pledge vowing to ban same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution, repeal it in the District of Columbia, and investigate NOM's enemies with a new presidential commission.

Early '90s Shock Jocks
Ringleader of all radio shock jocks Howard Stern was shamed in 1990 with a Sissy Award for joking that lesbians would turn for him -- "Probably cure 'em forever," he said -- and claiming gay men actually like being hit, tortured, and bruised. He's long since changed his tune, like a lot of '90s shock jocks. But it was a Connecticut DJ by the name of Sebastian who was blamed for inciting violence with punch lines about castrating "fags" as a way to end the AIDS epidemic. "When I say I hate fags, I'm saying I hate what they've done to our society," said Joseph Schlosser (his real name) in a 1989 newspaper interview meant to clear up the controversy.

Michael Savage
This shock jock of the political kind lost his television show on MSNBC in 2003 after telling a caller "You should only get AIDS and die, you pig." He also used the term "sodomite," which you don't often hear unless you're standing near a funeral protest by the Phelps family.

Fred Phelps
The leader of the Westboro Baptist Church defies description with his twisted "God hates fags" logic for protesting funerals of everyone from Matthew Shepard to Iraq war casualties, but it's worth pointing out he first made our Sissy list back in 1992, then quickly made the Hall of Fame in 1994.

Pat Robertson
The failed Republican presidential candidate, multiple Phobie award winner, and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network is also a hobbyist weatherman. When Hurricane Gloria threatened his Virginia Beach headquarters in the 1980s, the power of his prayers reportedly turned it away. So he had a warning for gay pride revelers in Orlando in 1998: "I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you." Robertson had previously blamed gays for an earthquake in Southern California, Hurricane Andrew, cold weather bothering the East and Midwest, and famine in East Africa.


Above from left: Ralph Reed on the cover of The Advocate, Antonin Scalia, Laura Schlessinger

Ralph Reed
As Pat Robertson's handpicked executive director for the Christian Coalition, Reed was considered "the face" of the religious right during much of the '90s. So we put his perpetually smiling countenance on our cover in 1997. Then his God-given talent for raising money by scaring people with social issues got Reed stuck in an ethics scandal.

Roy Cohn
This closeted gay aide to Sen. Joe McCarthy presumably used his gaydar to help root out the rest of the country's homosexuals during the Red Scare of the 1950s. But his homophobia will be remembered forever thanks to the numerous fictional portrayals he inspired after he died in 1986 of AIDS complications, in such works as Tony Kushner's Angels in America and the award-winning cable movie Citizen Cohn.

Boy Scouts of America
The BSA is in the news these days for kicking out a pack leader because she's a lesbian. But the organization started barring gay scouts and leaders long ago, earning a Sissy Award in 1992 and leaving a trail of celebrities and companies condemning its policies. Change seemed finally on its way when headlines this year reported the group is reconsidering. But a spokesman was quick to dash those hopes in multiple media interviews.

Antonin Scalia
This Supreme Court associate justice wrote the dissent in the case that struck down antisodomy laws, Lawrence v. Texas, railing in a defense of discrimination that the court had bowed to the "homosexual agenda."

Laura Schlessinger
The "doctor" (she has a Ph.D. in physiology) said in 1998 that homosexuality is a "biological error" and in 1999 that "a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys." Pressure from gay rights groups shamed Paramount for signing a TV talk show deal with the homophobic radio hack. Due to the international protests the show was more controversial than popular, and not long after it first aired in 2000, advertisers fled. The show was soon canceled.

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Lucas Grindley

Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.
Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.