Stella Maxwell
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The Year's Craziest Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories About LGBT People

While LGBT people have made great strides toward political and social equality in the past year, we’ve also continued to get the blame for a variety of ills — natural disasters, autism, even the crisis in Ukraine. The good news is that most people don’t take these accusations very seriously; the bad news is that some of the right-wing nutjobs making them are running for or even winning office, or have a following among certain religious believers. For our part, we think lampooning them is an important element in fighting them. Herewith, some of the leading LGBT-related conspiracy theories from the tinfoil hat crowd.

All hats added for emphasis.

 

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LGBT people cause natural disasters.
Susanne Atanus (above), a failed congressional candidate from Illinois, made this claim during the primary seasaon. “God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” and so he’s sending tornadoes, autism, and dementia, she said in an interview with the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper. Atanus somehow managed to win the Republican primary, even though state party leaders disowned her, but in the general election she had no chance against Democrat Jan Schakowsky, a popular incumbent and LGBT ally. Then later in the year, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who’s thinking about seeking the Republican presidential nomination, announced he’s having a supposedly nonpartisan prayer rally in January, and some of those participating could give Atanus a run for her money. Organizers of the rally released a “prayer guide” blaming Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, and the more recent tornado in Joplin, Mo., on homosexuality, abortion, and pornography. After some negative publicity, the prayer guide was removed from the event’s website, but the virulently antigay American Family Association, the rally’s primary sponsor, stood by its content. “We do know that natural disasters can be a form of God’s judgment on an unrepentant nation,” AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer (more about him later) told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. “It’s fitting that a part of the country that is obviously at risk for natural disasters would lead the nation in modeling repentance.” 

 

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We put very special flavoring in Starbucks’ lattes.
It’s been quite the year for Pastor James David Manning (above) of the ATLAH World Missionary Church in New York City. He’s advocated stoning of LGBT people, said President Obama has released “homo demons” on black men, and characterized gay athletes as pedophiles. But his wildest claim is that the lattes at Starbucks are flavored with “semen from sodomites,” something he apparently picked up from a satirical article, which he took seriously. Oh, he also said Starbucks is “ground zero” for the spread of the Ebola virus, due to the “upscale sodomites” who patronize the coffee shops and “exchange a lot of body fluids” there.

 

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We are gremlins.
We may appear to be cute and cuddly, but we’re really out to destroy the institution of marriage and the American way of life, according to Anthony Culler (above), a Republican congressional candidate from South Carolina, invoking imagery from the 1984 film Gremlins. “If you believe in traditional families and that marriage is defined as an institution between one man and one woman then I ask that you start acting like it and START VOTING like it!” Culler said in a Facebook post in October. “Do not buy the ‘cuteness’ and ‘What will it hurt?’ arguments whispered in your ears and marketed to our children. Same-sex couples that seek to destroy our way of life and the institution of marriage are NOT cute and cuddly but rather (for those of you that are old enough to remember the movie), Gremlins that will only destroy our way of life.” Repudiated by his own party, Culler went down to defeat in his race against LGBT-friendly incumbent Democrat Jim Clyburn.

 

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We’re recruiting and molesting children. Oh, and we’re basically rapists.
Actually, Jody Hice (above), a Georgia minister and talk-show host, vilified gay people in a 2012 book, but he got a wider audience this year with his run for Congress (and unfortunately, he won). Hice’s book It’s Now or Never: A Call to Reclaim America quoted this passage from a 1987 essay by a gay writer: “We shall sodomize your sons, emblems of your feeble masculinity, of your shallow dreams and vulgar lies. We shall seduce them in your schools, in your dormitories, in your gymnasiums, in your locker rooms, in your sports arenas, in your seminaries, in your youth groups, in your movie theater bathrooms, in your army bunkhouses, in your truck stops, in your all male clubs, in your houses of Congress, wherever men are with men together. Your sons shall become our minions and do our bidding. They will be recast in our image. They will come to crave and adore us.” One problem: Hice didn’t realize the entire essay was satire. Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., has offered a similar characterization of LGBT people. He marked World AIDS Day by posting video to Facebook of a sermon in which he said, “If you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant,” then followed that up by posting a video of him saying gay people are “disgusting,” “vile,” “reprobate,” “haters of the Lord,” “filled with murder,” and “basically rapists.” One of his protégés, Texas minister Donnie Romero, preached a sermon in December saying, “I’m not going to let any of these dirty faggots inside my church. They are all pedophiles. ... They’re always trying to rape and hurt other people. They’re relentless. They are relentless. They are predators, and given an opportunity to snatch one of your children, they would do it in a heartbeat.”

 

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Gays in the military spend their time giving and getting massages, making us soft and vulnerable to terrorism.
Texas congressman Louie Gohmert (above) is an endless source of homophobic hyperbole. He’s likened LGBT activists to Nazis, said judges who rule for marriage equality “need some basic plumbing lessons,” and claimed gay Boy Scouts are pedophiles. One of his most bizarre statements this year came in a discussion of gays serving in the military, during a radio interview in October. “I’ve had people say, ‘Hey, you know, there's nothing wrong with gays in the military. Look at the Greeks. Well, you know, they did have people come along who they loved that was the same sex and would give them massages before they went into battle. But you know what, it’s a different kind of fighting, it’s a different kind of war, and if you’re sitting around getting massages all day ready to go into a big, planned battle, then you’re not going to last very long. You are going to be ultimately vulnerable to terrorism and if that’s what you start doing in the military like the Greeks did.” We’ll let the great Stephen Colbert have the last word on Gohmert: “This man is brave enough to say the things that no one has the slightest desire to say.”

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We’ll incite God’s wrath by urging Uganda to be accepting of LGBT citizens.
It’s not just U.S. domestic policy on LGBT issues that draws God’s wrath — it’s foreign policy too, at least in the warped mind of Wisconsin politician Glenn Grothman (above). Back in April, while still a state senator, he gave a radio interview in which he objected to Secretary of State John Kerry’s denunciation of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act. “I wish we had more political leaders and religious leaders speaking out and saying, what in the world is John Kerry doing?” Grothman said. “I mean, what must God think of our country? If now, rather than sending people to Uganda to explain better agricultural techniques, sending missionaries to Africa educating people on Christianity, we send scientists to Africa to say how wonderful the homosexual lifestyle is. It is just unbelievable what has become of our country.” Unfortunately, Grothman now has a national platform for his views — he was elected to the U.S. House in November.

 

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We caused the Ukraine crisis.
Also in the realm of foreign policy: LGBT people are somehow responsible for the crisis in Ukraine, the former Soviet republic invaded by Russia this year, with Russia annexing Ukraine’s Crimea region. That’s according to Scott Lively (above), the extremist minister who, we’re happy to say, attracted very few votes in his run for governor of Massachusetts as an independent candidate. He didn’t say quite how we caused the problems in Ukraine, but he wrote the following in a column in March: “The greatest point of conflict between the U.S. and Russia is the question of homosexuality. (I believe even the conflict in Ukraine is being driven to a large extent by this issue, at least on the part of the Obama State Department and the homosexualist leaders of the EU.)” Lively is a strong supporter of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, and he’s said he’s proud to have helped inspire it. He’s also facing a lawsuit for human rights violations through his agitation for antigay laws in Uganda, although he claims Uganda came up with that idea all on its own. Scott Lively by Tim Pierce / CC-BY

 

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Court rulings upholding marriage equality are like those upholding slavery.
The far right just can’t resist equating LGBT progress with some of history’s greatest horrors, such as slavery and the Holocaust. Among those making the slavery analogy this year was the ever-reliable Bryan Fischer (above) of the American Family Association. In October, after the U.S. Supreme Court let several marriage equality rulings stand, he invoked the court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that blacks were not and could not be U.S. citizens, and therefore Scott, an African-American slave who had sued for his freedom, must be returned to slavery. “The Court duplicated its wrongheaded and grossly immoral Dred Scott ruling yesterday by imposing same-sex marriage on the entire country. This is tyranny,” Fischer wrote in a column. “The Court was wrong in 1857 and it was wrong [Monday]. It was wrong on slavery and it is wrong on sodomy. … By the time this Court has finished working its mischief, all 50 states will be bludgeoned into recognizing the infamous crime against nature as a basis for marriage. This is a monstrous evil.”

 

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We’re endangering the soul of America.
Republican politician and pundit Mike Huckabee (above) didn’t quite liken LGBT advances to the Holocaust after leading a tour of Nazi concentration camps in November — he reserved that comparison for abortion — but he did segue into marriage equality pretty quickly. The former Arkansas governor, apparently gearing up for another presidential run, took a select group of conservative Christian ministers to Auschwitz and Birkenau, then gave a speech denouncing abortion as well as those who “tinker” with “the foundation of our society and culture, marriage.” “When we tinker with its definition and we decide that it can mean anything we wish for it to mean and that rather than to take a biblical perspective we will take a very human one and we will base marriage on human experience and desire as opposed to biblical standard, then I fear that we will pay the consequences for having upended the very foundation which is the essence of how a civilization survives,” he said. “So the soul of America is in real trouble.”

 

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We’re suppressing Christianity and will send those who don’t agree with us to camps, like the Nazis did.
More Nazi imagery came from Rick Santorum (above), the former Pennsylvania senator and failed presidential candidate. Santorum is now an executive with EchoLight Studios, which this year released the documentary One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty, which claims the U.S. government is suppressing Christianity to promote LGBT rights. In promoting the movie during an interview with Bryan Fischer (him again!), Santorum claimed those who oppose LGBT rights because of their religious faith will become “martyrs,” and he alleged, “There was a case in Colorado where someone had to go to a re-education camp.” The trailer to the film uses clips of Nazi rallies and a mention of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s martyrdom for speaking out against Hitler. Another EchoLight exec tried to do some damage control. “This example was used to illustrate the extreme consequences that can occur when freedoms begin to erode unchecked,” Jeff Sheets told Time. “The ‘Church’ in Germany sat by as their freedoms and the freedoms of the Jews were restricted. By the time they woke up, it was too late. America is NOT Nazi Germany nor is there an inference in the movie that our government is taking that extremist position.” But, well, the damage was done.

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Allowing transgender people access to the restroom of their choice encourages sexual predators.
The claim that allowing transgender people access to the restrooms and locker rooms that accord with their gender identity will provide opportunities for sexual assault is not a new one, but unfortunately, some people are continuing to make it. A group of conservative ministers in Houston forced the removal of a restroom access provision from the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. “Church and Republican political leaders have used the clause to claim the ordinance ‘provides an opportunity for sexual predators to have access to our families,’” the Houston Chronicle reported in May. And in Cleveland, a proposal to close a loophole in existing nondiscrimination law that explicitly allowed businesses to deny access to restrooms based on a person’s gender identity has had opponents raising the specter of sexual predation as well. One editorial writer for the city’s Plain Dealer newspaper wondered if this would “make it easier for heterosexual men with criminal intent or just kinky habits to gain access to bathrooms used by women and children.” A reader commenting on the editorial put it more baldly: “There is no way I want a PERVERT in the same bathroom.” However, some of the paper’s editorial writers and online commenters emphasized that it’s transgender people who are really in danger if not allowed to use the appropriate restroom and that allowing them such access has resulted in no problems in other cities.

 

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Laverne Cox is doing Satan’s work.
This has been a banner year for transgender visibility, and Laverne Cox has become perhaps the most successful transgender actress ever, earning an Emmy nomination for her work in Orange Is the New Black and appearing on the cover of Time. But actually she’s doing the devil’s bidding, according to anti-LGBT activist Linda Harvey (above). “I think America is quickly moving into chaotic territory where we are blessing and approving behaviors that so completely defy reality and the will of God that the consequences will be devastating, especially to kids,” Harvey said on her radio show in June, shortly after the Time cover appeared. “If Satan were to devise a strategy to confuse and undermine the moral base of America, he could not have chosen a better vehicle than pushing gender confusion, which is just the latest offshoot of the homosexual movement.”

 

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We’re trying to put a wedding chapel out of business.
With the spread of marriage equality to all but a few U.S. states, same-sex couples are ordering cakes and flowers, and booking wedding and reception venues, but some establishments don’t want their business, citing religious beliefs against same-sex marriage. In cities and states with LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination laws, some businesses have had to pay fines, leading the right wing to accuse us of “persecuting” these so-called Christian entrepreneurs. In Idaho this year, one business claimed such persecution when no legal action had been taken against its owners. Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who own the Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, said the city had threatened them with fines or jail time if they did not agree to host same-sex weddings, and this prompted an outcry from conservative commentators. “Whenever a city passes a nondiscrimination ordinance it seems like it’s open season on Christians,” wrote Fox News pundit Todd Starnes. Mike Huckabee (him again!) weighed in too, along with many others. The city, however, had made no such threat. And the Knapps announced a plan to reincorporate the chapel as a nonprofit religious entity, making it exempt from nondiscrimination laws.

Our “totalitarian worldview” caused Brendan Eich’s ouster at Mozilla.
Another claim of LGBT activism interfering with businesses’ freedom involved the resignation of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla, the nonprofit organization behind the popular Firefox Web browser. After Eich was appointed to the position in the spring, there was a quick outcry after it was revealed he had donated to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, which temporarily revoked marriage equality in California. It also turned out he had supported antigay extremist Pat Buchanan when Buchanan sought the Republican presidential nomination. Other executives at Mozilla, which has an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy, encouraged Eich to step down, and he did so after just 10 days as CEO. Antigay conservatives roundly denounced LGBT activists who had criticized Eich. National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown, for instance, said Eich’s critics engaged in a “McCarthyesque witch hunt that makes the term ‘thought police’ seem modest.” He added, “This attack to deny Mr. Eich his livelihood for supporting true marriage is a continuation of the shameful pattern we have consistently seen from gay activists. It basically says to all those in America and around the world who believe in a view of marriage that is consistent with the teachings of their faith that they are all bigots and haters and there is no place for them in civil society. This is the totalitarian worldview we will all be under if marriage ultimately is redefined in the law.” However, gay activist and blogger John Aravosis pointed out that some of those defending Eich’s right to keep his job despite his antigay views thought it was perfectly OK to fire someone for being gay.

 

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We’re spreading HIV through towels.
Televangelist Pat Robertson (above) is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to crazy conspiracy theories. In 2013 he said gay activists spread HIV by wearing special sharpened rings that could cause cuts and therefore exchange of blood during handshakes. Then this year he came up with another vehicle of transmission: towels. A caller to his TV show, The 700 Club, asked if he should worry contracting Ebola during a mission trip to Kenya. “Not in Kenya,” Robertson said. “You might get AIDS in Kenya. The people have AIDS. You gotta be careful. I mean, the towels could have AIDS.”

 

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Our influence on fashion, such as designing tight pants, encourages immorality.
To wrap things up on a perhaps lighter note: Anthony Morris III (above), a leader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, says immodest clothing is all the fault of gay fashion designers. In a November video, he denounced “this skin-tight stuff” that women wear when they exercise and the “metrosexual look” for men (he apparently just discovered that word), consisting of “the tight suit jacket and the tight pants.” He explained, “The homosexuals that are designing these clothes—they like you in tight pants. That’s who likes it — not spiritual people.”

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