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 updated 2016 list of the 50 most odious homophobes from Advocate history. Let it be a reminder that hate comes in many forms.
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. [Photo: Film still, Stonewall Uprising]
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.
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.
That was followed by an awkward pronouncement before the United Nations in 2015 when Mugabe shouted, “We are not gays!” He was seemingly protesting “new rights” for LGBT people, but no one is quite sure what made Mugabe declare his heterosexuality in that venue. Then, amid a massive drought this year in Zimbabwe, Mugabe made sure to announce that he would refuse $1.6 billion in requested food aid if it came with any string attached that required recognition of same-sex marriages.
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.
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.
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 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.
Above: San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk listens with a smile as state Sen. John Briggs, author of Prop. 6, the initiative targeting gay teachers, is interviewed by newsmen a block from San Francisco's famed Polk Street in San Francisco, November 1, 1978.
Briggs 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.”
Schlafly endorsed Donald Trump for president in the Republican primary, and one can only wonder what she thinks of Trump having since proclaiming himself a better candidate for LGBT voters than Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, it's hard to take that claim seriously when also proudly accepting the endorsement of Schlafly.
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 wingnut it’s not allowed to cosponsor the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. For entirely different reasons, neither was the now-defunct GOProud — a group for gay conservatives.
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.
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.
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. Exodus activist Randy Thomas came out in 2015, calling himself “gay with some level of bisexual tendencies.” So maybe that’s why no one fell for the group's desperate attempt to remain relevant and stave off bankruptcy with an image makeover in 2013. The group closed up shop, and its latest president, Alan Chambers, admits homosexuality can’t be cured but claims it can be ignored. Good luck with that.
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.
Michele and Marcus Bachmann
Give former Congresswoman Bachmann credit, because when Minnesotans went to the polls to vote on whether their state should amend its constitution to ban same-sex marriage, that had been her idea. She first proposed a ban while still a state legislator. Not only did that ban lose, it triggered a backlash the led to Minnesota passing marriage equality even before the Supreme Court ruled nationally.
Bachmann'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.
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.
This member of the Ugandan parliament was the author of that country's “kill the gays” bill and said in 2010 that he was doing it to protect the children. That bill got toned down to a "jail the gays" bill, and after it passed the international community threatend to revoke some $115 million worth in foreign aid. Bahati said his Anti-Homosexuality Act would be worth the cost, but in the end the country never paid the price because the government ruled the law invalid based on a technicality.
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.”)
Bob Jones Sr., Jr., and III
Bob Jones University, founded by Bob Jones Sr. in 1927, then led by Bob Jones Jr. until the ’70s, is so antigay that a support group, BJUnity, 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 (pictured above) that “it would solve the problem posthaste if homosexuals were stoned.”
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.
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 in 2012 and Sen. Ted Cruz lauched his presidential campaign in 2015. 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.”
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.”
The "man on dog" senator from Pennsylvania got an astonishing number of votes in the Republican presidential primaries in 2012 (certainly not in 2016) 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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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 was its official mouthpiece before being demoted in 2015. He sure has a lot to say, including that homosexuality should be criminalized, that gays will attack you like Nazis, that former Rep. Barney Frank is to blame for AIDS deaths. More recently, he's said that Caitlyn Jenner's mind is under the control of Satan.
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 in 2012. Then in 2015, Sen. Ted Cruz touted support by AFA leaders amongst his endorsements.
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 constant movement to expose his antigay views as extreme. Perkins has 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've been boycotted because after it chose a lesbian spokeswoman in Ellen DeGeneres. Perkins isn't fringe either, having taken a public role in drafting the Republican Party's platform plank on marriage equality in 2012. After the Supreme Court ruled, Perkins said "we pay a price for this incoherent, ideological campaign by havoc in our homes and blood in our streets."
The fight for marriage equality was waged state by state in lobbying campaigns, and opposing LGBT activists was often the National Organization for Marriage, which Gallagher founded in 2007. Numerous Republican presidential candidates over the years have aligned themselves with NOM. The candidates were asked to sign a 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. Meanwhile, NOM declares feckless boycotts on any major American business the shows any support for marriage equality. Gallagher herself has moved on from her role as founder but set the tone for years to come.
Early '90s Shock Jocks
Ringleader of all radio shock jocks Howard Stern (pictured above) 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.
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.
Before he died in 2014, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church defied 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.
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.
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.
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 has finally changed its way, 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. Then the scouts made headlines for kicking out a pack leader because she’s a lesbian. And people started sending back their Eagle Scout badges in protest, calling for changes, which happened incrementally. First, BSA allowed scouts to serve openly, then it allowed scout leaders to be out, though it still leaves the decision to boot gay leaders up to some religious-based troops.
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.” And by every account he was greatly bothered with the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. With his death in 2016, the high court has been left in limbo with only eight justices. But we can remember him always with this list of his greatest fits.
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.
The anti-transgender movement needed a national spokesman, so North Carolina’s Republican governor decided to embrace his potential celebrity in 2016. While running for reelection, Pat McCrory called a special session of the legislature and in 24 hours passed and signed House Bill 2. It undid any local ordinances that had included LGBT people in anti-discrimination statements. And it explicitly barred transgender people from using the public bathrooms and locker rooms and other facilities that match their gender identity. Failure to comply, he said, amounted to trespassing.
McCrory wasn’t content to keep his fight local. Instead, he went on Sunday news shows including Meet the Press and spread the lie that transgender people are child predators. When the Department of Justice told him the state was violating federal law, he counter-sued and made national headlines again. That was partly what prompted the Obama administration to issue guidance to schools nationwide that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender, and that segregating trans student amounted to discrimination.
By all accounts, the state has lost millions in business over the backlash. Musicians have refused to play there. Hollywood has refused to shoot there. Conferences have stopped coming. If all of that doesn’t win him reelection, we’ve got some good news. We’re only halfway through the year, but McCrory is the leading candidate for 2016’s Phobie of the Year.
We’re still in the midst of a 100-year ban on pride parades in Moscow thanks to a law passed in 2012. It was an early harbinger of laws to come.
The next year, Vladimir Putin signed a ban on any foreigner adopting a Russian child if they come from a country supportive of marriage equality. And Putin signed the so-called gay propaganda ban, which said positive representations of being LGBT were a danger to children. Some who dared to protest the law were met with vicious beatings. It's a law so vague that Olympians heading to Sochi in 2014 worried they could be fined or jailed for kissing their partners. Putin promised the International Olympic Committee guests would be safe but he also banned protests during the games. Putin said Russia was right to reject "so-called tolerance, being genderless and fruitless."
Meanwhile, a neo-Nazi group was posting video of gay men it captured and then tortured. Someone threw poison gas into a gay nightclub in Moscow, 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. Putin, our Phobie of the Year in 2013, has set the tone for his country.
The Supreme Court sent marriage equality nationwide in 2015, but there were holdouts.
The top clerk in Rowan County, Kim Davis, made a name for herself (though she’d elbow you to get to any camera and deny she wants attention) by refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. When that crazy idea didn't fly with the legal system, Davis wouldn't let anyone in her Kentucky county get married — gay or straight.
Her "protest" got Davis thrown in jail for contempt. Her release was broadcast on live TV, when presidential candidate Mike Huckabee held her right arm toward the sky and a crowd of supporters roared as "Eye of the Tiger" blared over the loud speakers.
Kim Davis cited "God's authority" over the Supreme Court. And she embodied the “religious freedom” rhetoric pressed by the right wing, which contended that discriminating against same-sex couples is holy and the government is actually to blame for discriminating against Christians. The Advocate named her Phobie of the Year in 2015.
Until Kim Davis, the argument over "religious exemptions" was being told with main characters like bakers, florists and pizza shop owners. This one county clerk managed to draw in the cameras (more effectively than a number of other county clerks doing the same thing) and transformed the national conversation into one about elected officials shirking their jobs because of overt animus. She even weaseled her way into a fishy meeting with the pope. The way she remembers it, Saint Kim went to jail for your sins.
The Mormon Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, colloquially known as the Mormon Church, first got LGBT people mad when it funded passage of Proposition 8 in California. When it became clear the church couldn’t stop marriage equality nationwide, it took a new tact. The church first endorsed a Utah LGBT rights law that has a broad exemption for religious groups. Then 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.”
Anyone who shot dead 49 people and wounded 53 others in a massacre at an LGBT nightclub would absolutely need to be counted among the worst homophobes of the last 50 years. For some, Omar Mateen is the inevitable outgrowth of all the worst elements of homophobia, found elsewhere on this list.
But Mateen is a complex product of a violent and bigoted world. He is seen as part terrorist, part hate. No one can be sure of how the killer learned such a twisted view, whether from the country he grew up in — the United States of America — or from foreign influence, or both.
Mateen’s own father alternately explained his son’s murder rampage in an LGBT nightclub as a reaction to seeing two men kiss in Miami, or as an example of ISIS warping his mind. Either way, Mateen’s homophobia isn’t in question. Either way, it was no accident that he chose LGBT people as his victims.
ISIS is infamous for throwing men it accuses of being gay off of roofs, in some cases with the crowd below waiting to stone that man to death if the drop doesn’t finish the job. ISIS has cheered the Orlando attack, even if the FBI says it never coordinated with Mateen on planning it.
The FBI said on Monday it’s still investigating accusations that Mateen himself might have secretly been gay or bisexual, following up on leads by several Florida men who said they’d seen Mateen on gay dating apps, or in the nightclub as long as several years earlier. Internalized homophobia has a long track record, one that’s wrought by violence. No one in the LGBT community would be too surprised to discover it had played a part.
What’s certain is Mateen has inspired the likes of Westboro Baptist Church and a handful of preachers like them to come out of hiding and declare their support for the death of LGBT people. No matter what motivated Mateen, praise for the murder of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people will always be like the fruit of his tree — and a moment for homophobia that has already marred our history books.