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02/29/2012

Candor is Kryptonite: How the anti-LGBT movement is blackballing its most dedicated

by Jeremy Hooper

Over the past couple of years, I and a few other perceptive "culture war" geeks have noticed the obvious, considerable, and growing fractures that exist within the "pro-family" movement. Despite suspect alliances that dip into extremism still being perceptible to those who know where to look (and/or have the wherewithal to do so), there are clear divides on the other side -- schisms between the more "on-message" politicos and the more shoot-from-the-hip voices of discrimination, which become even more evident whenever a state marriage debate approaches a ballot.

One of the most major recent examples was the Maine Question One campaign. Anybody who knew anything about the state knew that Mike Heath has been the most vocal and visible anti-LGBT activist for years on end. On the same year that marriage ultimately passed and then went to the ballot (2009), Tony Perkins and a host of other folks who would go on to steer the "Yes on One" campaign toasted Heath at a big banquet thingie. But then just a few months later, when the ballot campaign went full steam and the need to seem mainstream earned a newfound premium, something weird happened. All of a sudden, Mike Heath was nowhere to be found. Not in campaign releases. Not speaking for the campaign in the media. Not at official campaign rallies, alongside his longtime colleagues. Nowhere. It was as if Schubert Flint Public Affairs -- the firm that most always drives the look and feel of these kinds of state campaigns -- paid him off or something.

It was patently obvious why Heath disappeared: It was because he is from the Peter LaBarbera, Scott Lively, Matt Barber, et al., school of advocacy. Heath is loose-lipped and known to say nutty, personally hostile things, often referencing Satan, spiritual wars, and the kinds of things that don't make good ad copy. For a campaign that needs the cherished voters in the "movable middle," loosed-lipped and nutty just doesn't work. Personally hostile certainly doesn't work. So bye bye, man who says what's on his mind; hello, team that's willing to stay "on-message."

It's a shift that's mimicked the overall trajectory of the professional anti-LGBT. Even with groups like the Family Research Council, which is still rife with incendiary rhetoric, there's been a noticeable drift. If you search back on the Wayback Machine, you will see that FRC, at the turn of the millennium, was stacked with many voices who are now considered on the extreme end. Peter LaBarbera, Robert Knight, and a number of "ex-gays" were all on staff, and they routinely played host to folks who made no bones about their pure disgust at homosexuality itself. Nowadays, FRC messages it all just a little more carefully -- and makes its outreach efforts to certain voices much less apparent -- which has led to the organization being rewarded with greater GOP prominence.


Okay, so why all of this opining on this subject in the here and now? Well, because MassResistance, an SPLC-designated "hate group" that most anyone would put on the extreme end of the gay debate, has just posted a very interesting article about why they think the "pro-family" side lost in the Maryland legislative debate on marriage. And as is often true in this weird and wacky debate of ours, the more hostile group is proving to be the most honest about what is really going on over on the opposition's side:

Here's our analysis of why our side lost:

1) The pro-family establishment adopted a strategy based on fear. We were told (by multiple sources) that the leaders of Maryland's pro-family establishment were "warned" by legislators that last year a key Senator changed his vote to support gay "marriage" because of the "hateful rhetoric" from our side that he heard. "You need to police your people," pro-family leaders were told. So they aggressively ordered everyone to be polite, reasonable and not "extreme" sounding in any way.

Unfortunately, that's the oldest trick in the book. The homosexual lobby and their allies use that ploy all over the country to get pro-family leaders to soften their message into mush — and we subsequently lose. It certainly worked this time.

2) The pro-family establishment took tight control of the entire lobbying process. They had already established contacts with the churches, major pro-family legislators, and activists. They made it clear that they were running the entire effort. They took control of who
Screen Shot 2012-02-29 At 3.37.30 Pmwould lobby, what the role of churches would be, who would testify and in what order, who would talk to politicians, and most importantly what the message would be. One activist said they were told at a meeting by the leadership, "Put your trust in us. We want to win. Yes, we're trying to muzzle you." Another activist was told, "You need to leave lobbying to the professionals."

3) A weak, compromising message was mandated. Pro-family activists were ordered to be polite, reasonable, and not "extreme" or "anti-gay." No "Bible thumping" either, they were told. The message was to be that the word "marriage" was special and must not be re-defined at any cost. This implied that civil unions and domestic partnerships would be acceptable as long as the word "marriage" was not changed. As a result, many pro-family people — even clergymen — testified that civil unions would be a reasonable compromise. The secondary message was that every child needs a mother and father, but that was undermined by not opposing homosexual civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Aggressive pro-family groups were excluded. Groups like Protect Marriage Maryland which were willing to take the same uncompromising stand that was successful last year were blackballed. The message even got out to the politicians, many of whom shunned and avoided the non-establishment pro-family people. (Very familiar to us at MassResistance!) In addition, the use of ex-gays and others was strongly discouraged.

But what happened in Maryland is unfortunately a the latest instance of what's been going on across the country. This kind of foolish and cowardly strategy has started to dominate the pro-family movement.
FULL: ANALYSIS: The top 10 reasons Maryland lost the "gay marriage" battle — after winning it last year. [MassResistance]

I find this shift fascinating. On the pro-equality side of things, we know that LGBT acceptance is dependent on the number of people who are willing to stand up, be seen, be heard, and be counted, as we know that people who know us are less likely to go against us. But on the other side, candor is becoming Kryptonite. Heck, even admitting you want to ban marriage for same-sex couples is becoming off limits. It's getting to where the only ones allowed to speak against LGBT rights are those who don't have the fortitude to admit that this is what they are actually doing! You can protest -- just don't protest.

It's good, in terms of where we are headed in the world, since it shows the dwindling palatability of overt aggression. But at the same time it's frustrating for those of us who want the other side to admit and take ownership of the undeniable motivations that fuel their movement. These are the voices and sentiments that fueled this debate for decades. That the "mainstream" executives at Discrimination Inc. are now trying so hard to push that foundation aside? It's kinda, sorta bullshit. I'm actually on Team MassResistance on this one, extremely limited point.

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