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