The competition for Phobie of the Year was devilish in 2016, but one man out-hated all the rest. Pat McCrory, the outgoing governor of North Carolina, even outdid Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
At least in Indiana, where Pence was governor, he backed down when business representing millions of dollars threatened to leave the state over its Religious Freedom Restoration Act — also known as a “license to discriminate.” Pence signed a fix to the law so discriminating against LGBT people wasn’t allowed under the RFRA's protections. In North Carolina, though, even as jobs left the state and performers canceled concerts and millions piled up in lost revenue, McCrory and Republicans refused to rethink what they passed in House Bill 2.
Lawmakers hadn’t approved a RFRA exactly. Instead, they passed a law banning any locality from including LGBT people in antidiscrimination ordinances. In other words, they wanted to ensure that discrimination against LGBT people remains legal no matter where you go in North Carolina. They also barred transgender people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity in any government building, without citing a single incident caused in North Carolina by letting transgender people use the bathroom of their choice.
McCrory owns responsibility for the law, having called a special session to pass it. But he also sued the Obama administration to make the case that there’s no legal basis for protecting transgender people.
Republicans sided heavily with McCrory, who was just so sure he’d win by demagoguing transgender people that he went on Meet the Press to make the case nationally. The state GOP senatorial committee launched a Stand With McCrory website that was basically a fan site for HB 2. McCrory actually ran a campaign ad touting his transphobia as a major selling point. He invented a story about how liberals supposedly want boys to shower with girls in a TV commercial ironically titled “Common Sense.” He even had transphobic bumper stickers printed up.
“You know, when we were raising average teacher pay, creating new jobs, and cutting taxes, other folks were actually pushing to make our schools allow boys to use the girls' locker rooms and showers,” said McCrory. “Are we really talking about this? Does the desire to be politically correct outweigh our children's privacy and safety? Not on my watch.”
And with that, North Carolinians voted him out of office.
Even then, McCrory refused to go. He demanded recounts and signed last-minute legislation to thwart his successor, a Democrat who opposed HB 2. McCrory eventually had to face the reality that he lost. McCrory is so terrible, though, he just might get a new job in the Trump administration, according to reports.
The Arizona pastor who once said that “if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant” was banned from multiple countries in 2016. The Southern Poverty Law Center long ago named his church — Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe — an antigay hate group. Now Steven Anderson’s reputation precedes him.
First, South Africa barred Anderson from entering the country when he planned a mission there. Then Botswana deported Anderson after he did an interview with a radio station in the country’s capital, advising that Botswana kill LGBT people and stone adulterers.
It isn’t only countries that have banned Anderson. His YouTube video was removed after he reacted to the Pulse shooting by saying, “Obviously, it’s not right for someone to just shoot up the place because that’s not going through the proper channels.” He once again advocated for mass government killings of LGBT people, reminding the world that homophobia remains violent and real.
There’s always Ted Cruz. The Texas senator and former Phobie of the Year made his best try for president, airing a transphobic TV commercial and reaching out to the most homophobic elements of the party along the way. Even though he did not win the Republican nomination, Cruz is not going away. He wants to be seen these days as a champion of “religious freedom” and is already planning to propose the First Amendment Defense Act in the next Congress — a proposal that President-elect Trump promised on the campaign trail to sign. It’s essentially a federal version of the “license to discriminate” laws that are such a fad at the state level among Republicans afraid of same-sex marriage and transgender people. Cruz says — without any evidence except “common sense” — that letting transgender people use the bathroom corresponding with their identity will lead to an increase in child molestation. In the annals of 2016, we’ll always remember that time when former House Speaker John Boehner referred to Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh.”
The fight in court over transgender rights is being led on the transphobic side by Texas and its attorney general, Ken Paxton. Texas and several other states sued the Obama administration over its guidance that transgender students ought to be respected — which means things like using their preferred name and pronouns, and allowing them to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. A lack of respect would be grounds for a gender discrimination that is disallowed under Title IX as long as a school receives federal funding.
Basically, if there’s a legal fight over transgender rights that touches the Texas border, Paxton is somewhere in the mix. The Human Rights Campaign called out Paxton by name after he led the lawsuit against the Obama administration over school guidance. “Ken Paxton’s use of taxpayer resources to dismantle such protections is a reckless and expensive abdication of his responsibilities, and he should be held accountable," said spokesman Jay Brown earlier this year.
Where there’s a Ken Paxton, there’s often a Dan Patrick close behind. The Texas lieutenant governor is a noted anti-LGBT figure on his own. But he likes to tag-team with Paxton. When a Texas justice of the peace insisted he didn’t have to marry same-sex couples, he cited a rationale handed down by Paxton at the request of Patrick. When Paxton told a school district it ought to out transgender students to their parents, it was because Patrick had sent a letter queuing him up for the legal opinion. But LGBT people might remember Patrick most for a tweet he posted in the moments immediately after news broke of the Pulse massacre. Patrick was shamed into deleting a tweet and claiming its timing was coincidental after writing, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
Patrick has barely gotten started, though. He’s now advocating something called the Women’s Privacy and Business Protection Act, which bars transgender people from using the women’s bathroom. Yes, he’s targeting only the women’s restroom because, he says, “men can defend themselves.”
Patrick will have to work on his fear mongering, as demonstrated by a major fail this year on Fox News in an interview with Megyn Kelly. He couldn’t answer a basic question about why anyone should be intolerant of transgender people merely existing.
Dubbed “the hate whisperer” of the Republican Party, Tony Perkins was at it again in 2016. The head of the Family Research Council — which the Southern Poverty Law Center long ago dubbed an antigay hate group — once again took credit for drafting the most anti-LGBT portions of the Republican platform, including one section that defends parents who want to subject their children to so-called conversion therapy. His latest move was to call on the State Department to fire all of its LGBT employees when Trump takes office. The Human Rights Campaign called it the Perkins “purge.”
Perkins often pretends to be merely another conservative leader. Meanwhile, he takes extreme positions like arguing that same-sex couples shouldn’t adopt children because “we pay a price for this incoherent, ideological campaign by havoc in our homes and blood in our streets.” Yes, you read that correctly. No, it doesn’t make any sense to blame same-sex parents for whatever he’s talking about.
As we look back on 2016, we will fondly remember that time Perkins was followed out of a Trump campaign meeting by a GetEqual activist who shouted, “Your lies are causing violence against the LGBT community.”
Our favorite new bill is the Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment — or PENCE. It was proposed this year in New York’s Erie County as a way of protecting minors from so-called conversion therapy, the kind that has long been supported by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about 2016 as it related to Pence is that he got away with so much. Here’s a guy who has said gays and lesbians can be turned straight but was then never asked about that during a lengthy national debate. He was never asked to account for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act he signed and that had business threatening to leave the state in droves. He was overshadowed so greatly by running mate Donald Trump that his own terribleness was largely unexamined.
But then there’s the PENCE bill. There’s also a transgender man suing the former Indiana governor over a discriminatory law. And Twitter nearly giggled itself to death when Pence was announced on the Trump ticket with a short-lived and ill-conceived logo. His new Washington neighbors are hanging rainbow flags all over the area, so we suspect folks are taking notice of his anti-LGBT reputation even if the media isn’t. There’s also the gay Mike Pence look-alike who is raising awareness as he sports booty shorts and raises funds for LGBT charities.
Ben Carson has said LGBT activists use “hate speech ridicule” to silence others, so he’s likely not a fan of being named a Phobie finalist.
This year, he picked to lead his campaign a Liberty University leader who once called LGBT people serving in the military a form of “social experimentation.” Carson himself argued that “it’s beyond ridiculous that you take the most abnormal situation and then you make everyone else conform to it.” He added, “That’s one of the very reasons that I have been an outspoken opponent of things like gay marriage.”
Among our favorite moments of the year is Carson being confronted by an actual queer person. "Do you think I chose to be gay?" asked a bisexual activist. Carson didn’t answer, saying only “that’s a long conversation.” It’s true, Carson has a long list of reasons he’s given that being gay is a choice, including that straight people have gay sex in prison.
The failed presidential candidate has a new job running the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump administration — which means we’ll be seeing and hearing more from this notorious character.
This was the year that Phil Robertson fully embraced his transphobia. The Duck Dynasty patriarch actually raised money to pass “bathroom bills” right alongside fundraising for “religious freedom” laws. “Just because a man may ‘feel’ like a woman doesn’t mean he should be able to share a bathroom with my daughter, or yours,” wrote Robertson in his email pitches on behalf of Citizens United. “That used to be called common sense. Now it’s called bigoted.” Also this year he gave a speech to the Western Conservative Summit, where he blamed the country’s murder rate on the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage, and somehow circled back to trans people using the bathroom. “Here’s a newsflash, you see this. This be male,” said Robertson onstage while pulling on his beard. “All you ladies, you will never ever catch this cat coming up in your bathroom.” This is also the year Robertson campaigned heavily for failed presidential candidate Ted Cruz, taking the microphone to call same-sex marriage "evil," "wicked" and "sinful.” The full quote is too incendiary to ignore, given that it seems to call for the extermination of some group of human beings: “Don't you understand that when a fellow like me looks at the landscape and sees the depravity, the perversion — redefining marriage and telling us that marriage is not between a man and a woman? Come on, Iowa! It's nonsense. It is evil. It’s wicked. It’s sinful and they want us to swallow it, you say. We have to run this bunch out of Washington, D.C. We have to rid the earth of them." By the way, the show’s over. The family declared an end to its 11-season run on A&E in 2016. No one knows what might be next.
Nike canceled its endorsement of Manny Pacquiao this year after the boxer appeared to call for the death of gay people in a deleted tweet and compared gay couples to animals. Numerous sports stars condemned him. Pacquiao was even banned from a Los Angeles mall for being so anti-LGBT.
Still, Pacquiao basically stood by what he said. "What I am saying is right,” he said in an interview. “I mean I am just stating the truth, what the Bible says.” Actually, he’s misunderstanding the Bible. And, as you might expect, Pacquiao is opposed to marriage equality, basing his reasoning on a false understanding of whether homosexuality appears elsewhere in nature. (It does.) "If we approve male on male, female on female, then man is worse than animal,” he said.
The boxer turned senator for the Philippines only sort of apologized for the insulting comparison on Facebook, adding, “God Bless you all and I'm praying for you." Now everyone is wondering whether Pacquiao will use his celebrity and anti-LGBT thinking to run for president of the Philippines.
Johns Hopkins University is home to one of the most notorious transphobes in the world of junk science: Paul McHugh. He’s basically impossible to fire given his tenure. So he apparently gets a free pass to regularly call gender-confirmation surgery “mutilation,” and his latest big splash was in the The Wall Street Journal this year. Author Nathaniel Frank responded to that piece with his own in Slate, titled “The Wall Street Journal’s Ignorance on LGBTQ Issues Is Alarming.”
McHugh released a paper this year that got a lot of attention among the right-wing press for its claim that there’s no evidence people are born gay or transgender. Famed scientist Dean Hamer responded to the latest research from McHugh in a column for The Advocate, titled “New 'Scientific' Study on Sexuality, Gender Is Neither New nor Scientific.” That's really all you need to read.
Among the unsung homophobes of the last year is Phil Bryant, who has achieved much more compared to even Pat McCrory or Mike Pence when it comes to passing anti-LGBT legislation. But he manages to slide under the radar, maybe because he’s governor of Mississippi.
Bryant this year signed one of the most vicious “religious freedom” laws in the country, formally called the Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act. The law lets anyone cite their “sincerely held religious belief” as grounds for discriminating against LGBT people and others. Actually, it lists the specific sincere beliefs that it protects, just in case anyone was unclear.
Mississippi protects the belief that "marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman"; that "sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage"; and that "male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth." That last part is aimed at ensuring you don’t have to accommodate transgender people, or even serve them in your place of business. Happily, a federal judge blocked the law before it could go into effect.
Bryant spoke this year at a conference hosted by Tony Perkins (elsewhere on this list) and the Family Research Council. There he made the case that Christians must fight for laws like the one he passed. “They don't know that Christians have been persecuted throughout the ages,” he said. “They don't know that if it takes crucifixion, we will stand in line before abandoning our faith and our belief in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So if we are going to stand, now is the time and this is the place."
Bryant is so transphobic that when his own attorney general opted out of joining a lawsuit against the Obama administration, Bryant signed up the governor’s office instead. His office hitched onto the lawsuit that contended schools don’t need to accomodate transgender students.
There’s a power couple among the anti-LGBT set: Mat and Anita Staver of Liberty Counsel. He’s the group’s lawyer, and she’s president. The group is best known for defending Kentucky clerk Kim Davis when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Anita Staver might be best remembered this year for saying, “I'm taking a Glock .45 to the ladies room. It identifies as my bodyguard.” She was tweeting her support for a boycott of Target after the retail chain said it would let transgender people use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Her panic isn’t based in reality, as evidenced when Anita Staver during a radio interview couldn’t produce a single example of any transgender person assaulting someone in a women’s bathroom.
Nonetheless, Mat Staver admitted in an interview this year with CBS News that his organization is helping to draft “bathroom bills” in at least 20 states. He seems to view them as a chance to bring a case to the Supreme Court and challenge the Obergefell ruling that sent marriage equality nationwide. Mat Staver has a theory that those groups advocating letting transgender citizens use the bathroom are actually secretly pedophiles. Liberty Counsel was identified this year as integral to spreading hate in a special report called “Enemies of Equality.”
Maybe this will be Sally Kern's last year on the annual list of Phobies. Thanks to term limits, this was her last year in the Oklahoma House of Representatives serving District 84. But Kern — whose most horrible moments we’ve tracked over the years — made sure to deliver on last dig at LGBT people with her farewell address. "Yes, in 2008 I did say that the homosexual agenda is worse than terrorism," she said, complaining that transgender people use the bathroom that matches their gender identity and that same-sex couples can not only get married but also get service at local wedding businesses. She added, "I didn’t apologize in 2008, and I don’t apologize today either because God’s word has not changed. Things are worse today than they were then, and I’m afraid they’re going to just get worse."
Kern spent her last year helping push what was a record number of anti-LGBT bills in Oklahoma, with 27 proposals. All of the legislation was defeated.