Those who were around in the 1980s remember Oliver North, now the new president of the National Rifle Association, for his role in the Iran-Contra affair. What's less well-known but just as egregious is his anti-LGBT record, which includes equating the opposition to marriage equality to the fight against slavery.
North, then a Marine Corps officer, because infamous during Ronald Reagan's presidency for his work in supplying arms to Iran in exchange for Americans held hostage as well as money that was funneled to the Contras, a group opposing Nicaragua's left-wing government, at a time when such aid was banned by a law passed by Congress. He was prosecuted and convicted on several charges, but his convictions were later vacated.
North then became a right-wing politician, running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate from Virginia in 1994, and commentator, with a regular gig as a Fox News contributor, from which he retired as of last Monday. He has often made LGBT people a target, as documented in a Washington Blade story.
He likened marriage equality opponents to antislavery activists in a 2014 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a premier gathering of the far right. "Some say that we must ignore social issues, like the definition of marriage, the sanctity of life, religious freedoms," North said, according to the Blade. "I say those are not social issues, they are deeply moral and spiritual issues and should be part of America's elections."
"In the 1850s, a political party was born on the idea of a great moral issue: Human bondage, the abolition of slavery in America," he continued. "If we, as conservatives, cease to be a place where people of faith and those who believe in strong moral values can come, we will cease to be a political force in America."
In the same speech, North offered a thinly veiled denunciation of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which had come a few years earlier. "The members of our armed forces and their families deserve better than being treated as laboratory rats in some radical social experiment," North said.
He has made other comments criticizing the inclusion of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the military. In 2010, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said in a Senate hearing that service members who don't want to work alongside LGB people should "find another place to work." North responded in a National Review article that Mullen's comment "illuminates a deeply misguided commitment to political correctness and foreshadows serious adverse consequences for our national security."
The same year, the Blade notes, he told Fox News host Sean Hannity that allowing openly LGB people in the military would lead to allowing pedophiles. "Now, here's what's next," North said. "NAMBLA members, same-sex marriages. Are chaplains in the U.S. military going to be required to perform those kinds of rituals? Do they get government housing?"
Jason Lindsay, founder and executive director of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, told the Blade North's anti-LGBT views will fit right in with the NRA. "The NRA is on a quest to dismantle our nation's gun safety laws and stands in complete opposition to any new reforms, despite public opinion and the tragic human cost," Lindsay said. "Of particular concern to the LGBTQ community is North's inflammatory statements regarding the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' which he implied would lead to pedophiles being admitted to the armed forces. His previous actions and statements make clear that this is not an individual who should have a leadership position in any organization, but is not a surprising choice for an organization as disastrous to public safety as the NRA."