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12/27/2012

'New York Times' quotes one of IL's most overheated; fails to tell readers who she is

by Jeremy Hooper

Laurie Higgins is an extremely vehement opponent of LGBT rights. Laurie is in the vein of Peter LaBarbera and Linda Harvey, with whom she regularly partners on aggressively anti-LGBT projects.

201212271052Laurie's organization, the Illinois Family Institute, is one of the few statewide organizations to make the Southern Poverty Law Center's ignoble hate group list. That's because IFI is not just a run of the mill policy shop. IFI is an organization that proudly embraces its animus in a very real and undeniable way, putting distinction between itself and some of the more pragmatic-minded state orgs.

For background, here are just a few things that Laurie Higgins, in her capacity as IFI Cultural Analyst, has said about LGBT people in recent years:

  • Refers to homosexuality as "a disordering of the sexual impulse"

  • Equates defeating "evil" LGBT rights movement with defeating slavery and Naziism

  • Says people must speak out against "deviant" gays: "volitional homosexual behavior is deviant, immoral behavior regardless of its etiology. That moral claim is not only a legitimate but also a necessary moral claim to make publicly. And we should be making it with at least the same frequency, fervor, clarity, and tenacity with which others are making the claim that volitional homosexual acts are moral and good."

  • Writes of the Christian's supposed call: "When I think about the evil done to children by teachers who tell them that homosexuality is deserving of respect and affirmation, I become angry, and I desperately want others to experience the righteous anger that should well up in decent people who see young children taught that evil is good. We do not embody the love of Christ when we remain silent while body and soul-destroying lies are being affirmed to and in children, teens, and adults." … "Our depraved, carrion-devouring culture swoops down and offers them the bleakly deterministic lie that they were born homosexual. They are told that acting on homosexual impulses is a moral good. They are told that refusal to act on such impulses is an act of futility that will result in utterly unfulfilled, lonely lives. And they are told that anyone who dissents from those claims hates them."

  • Claims: "Incestuous relations between consenting adults is no more depraved and perverse than sexual relations between two men or two women, which we now celebrate in our streets and our public schools."

  • Once compared the silence of church leaders on homosexuality to the silence in the face of Nazism: "What is alarming about the account of the German Evangelical Church's reprehensible failure [in combating Hitler] is its similarity to the ongoing disheartening story of the contemporary American church's failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality. Don't we today see church leaders self-censoring out of fear of losing their positions or their church members? Don't we see churches criticizing those who boldly confront the efforts of homosexual activists to propagandize children and undermine the church's teaching on homosexuality? Aren't the calls of the capitulating German Christians for "a more reasonable tone" and a commitment to "honor different views" exactly like the calls of today's church to be tolerant and honor "diversity"? Don't pastors justify their silence by claiming they fear losing their tax-exempt status (i.e. government assistance)? Don't they rationalize inaction by claiming that speaking out will prevent them from saving souls? What is even more reprehensible in America, however, is that church leaders don't currently face loss of livelihood, imprisonment, exile, or death, as they did in Germany, and yet they remain silent. The church's failure to respond adequately to the relentless and ubiquitous promulgation of profoundly sinful ideas reveals an unbiblical doubt in the sovereignty of God; an unconscionable refusal to protect children; a willful ignorance of history; and a selfish unwillingness to experience the persecution and hatred that God has promised the followers of Christ that we will experience and that we should consider joy."

  • Says of pro-LGBT children's books: "Humans were quite obviously created anatomically and biologically as heterosexual beings. Using any objective criteria, all humans are heterosexual. There exists no argument about the morality of heterosexual acts per se, so the numbers of books in a library that depict heterosexuality positively is irrelevant to any discussion of the appropriateness of including a book that depicts homosexuality positively. Publicly funded schools have no right to make available to young children ideas and images that many believe are profoundly immoral."

  • Compares measures designed to prevent LGBT bullying to theoretical proposals that would protect promiscuous girls, incestuous couples, or polyamorists

  • Joins with the equally hostile Linda Harvey in annual protests against the pro-equality/anti-bullying Day of Silence

And so on and so forth. As I said, Illinois Family Institute is not your run of the mill opponent of "traditional marriage." The group is hardcore nasty about LGBT people ourselves, and Laurie Higgins is its chief voice.

But how did The New York Times cite the IFI and Laurie in a Christmas weekend article covering the fight for marriage equality in Illinois? See for yourself:

Laurie Higgins, cultural analyst for the Illinois Family Institute, which opposes same-sex marriage, criticized the branding of the issue as a matter of “equality” and “inclusion.”

“All adults, regardless of their sexual proclivities, are entitled to participate in the sexually complementary institution of marriage,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Those who identify as homosexual choose not to participate in it.”

The [pro–marriage equality] letter, Ms. Higgins said, “is signed quite obviously by faith leaders who have adopted radical, ahistorical, heretical theological views.”

“Their views are informed not by careful exegesis, but by personal desire and political convictions,” she said.

...
Ms. Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute, one of at least nine organizations in the Coalition to Protect Children and Marriage, which was formed to oppose the planned same-sex marriage legislation, also emphasized nonreligious arguments. She said the debate should be about how heterosexual marriage benefited society.

If marriage is “a public institution,” she said, “why is the government involved? The government has no interest in whether two people love each other. The government interest is in what best serves the future of any country — and what’s best for the future of the country is what’s best for children, and what best serves children is to be raised by their biological parents.”
FULL PIECE: Illinois Clergy Members Support Same-Sex Marriage in Letter Signed by 260 [NYT]

Basically, Laurie is portrayed as a mere conservative analyst who is part of a mere political coalition. Sure, the Times, quotes her as saying pro-equality faith voices "have adopted radical, ahistorical, heretical theological views,” which gives some insight into her position. However, this insight is only into her personally-held faith view, which Laurie de-emphasizes in the second snip. The reader comes away without any sort of realization of Ms. Higgins' jaw-dropping body of animus against LGBT people ourselves. Unless he or she is a "culture war" watcher like myself, the reader thinks Laurie is just a mere voice fighting for what she sees as conservative principles.

That second part is particularly dishonest, too, considering Laurie just penned, and the IFI website prominently features, a piece called "Marriage is Not A Civil Right," in which Higgins decries both marriage equality and same-sex adoption with fully religious arguments. Here is just one snip:

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[FULL PDF]

Laurie's arguments against marriage equality are inextricably faith-based, and her animus is as clear as the clearest of days. Laurie-HigginsThis is not someone who bases her opposition in a fair read of the constitution or whose qualms about civil marriage rights for gay couples are rooted in some sort of limited government thinking. This is someone who, by her own admission, believes that gay people are wrong, broken, and in need of "changing." This is someone who—again, by her own admission—believes Christians are called to fight gays the way they once fought Nazis and slavery. LIKE. THEY. ONCE. FOUGHT. NAZIS. AND. SLAVERY!

Don't you think this demonstrated record of undeniable hostility should be at least part of any story that quotes this particular person? I, someone whose marriage to a Jewish man is in fact not like Nazism, certain do believe that a responsible media will step up and tell the public who is really opposing us in the land of Lincoln.

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*NOTE: As Illinois heads into its marriage debate, GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project will be tracking Higgins, the IFI, and all other voices of animus and working to get the word out to all reporters (including this Times reporter on this Times report). Please use this form to report anything you see or hear.

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The reporter, Maggie Astor, has responded on Twitter:

201212271122

Of course all of us understand neutral reporting. But I disagree that she gave people any sense of what Laurie Higgins stands for, nor did she mention the special distinction that the Southern Poverty Law Center places on IFI. While the "pro-family" crowd likes to pretend that the SPLC is going around placing hate group labels on any and every group, the truth is that SPLC is very selective with the distinction. Many national groups (Focus on the Family, Concerned Women For America, National Organization for Marriage, Liberty Counsel, etc) fail to make the list, and almost no state policy group qualifies. The IFI *does* qualify—and Laurie Higgins' work is a major reason why!

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