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05/16/2014

They think this is our first time at the rodeo

by Jeremy Hooper

Whenever someone's anti-LGBT-iness raises his or her national platform, we know it won't be long before they start using the expected talking points. "Traditional values." "Why can't I have my opinion?" "Free speech." "Who's really the intolerant one here?" "Agenda." "I'm not against anyone but..."

What I find funny is how many of these folks seem to think they are original when they attempt to use these lines. It's as if they think they've stumbled on some previously undiscovered escape clause. Like they have come to these original thoughts on their own, and that their employment of them is going to completely change the debate forever.

In recent days, both the Benham brothers and that Dallas morning TV host who walked off her own live set, Amy Kushnir, have operated in this way. The Benhams, while on the shotgun conservative media tour that Sylvester Smith of Little Rock's Legacy Consulting booked for them (both Smith and Legacy Screen Shot 2014-05-16 At 4.48.56 Pmhave worked extensively with Mike Huckabee, pioneer of "we're the real victims"-hood) went around spouting lines that you could tell they thought were fresh and new. They claimed that the messenger was the real enemy and that their verbatim words were somehow "out of context," as if none of us had heard that disingenuous trick before. They used the word "agenda" as if it was some new toy that they had discovered buried in their closet. They would testify to the great love they held for people in one breath and connect Satan to those same people's lives (or "agenda") in the next breath, like the whole "we love you but we hate everything you do" stipulation was a new invention for which they held the patent. Like other short-lived "victims" the conservative media raised up for a time (and there have been soooooooo many), the Benhams said this stuff in such a self-satisfied way that you could just tell they thought they were inaugurating a new phase in this national debate.

Then there's that Dallas TV host, Amy Kushnir. On her own show, she tried to work the idea that her resistance to a newsworthy human being's human expression was simply an opinion that deserved as much respect as acceptance. But Screen Shot 2014-05-16 At 4.49.46 Pmthen, in a Fox News interview that was really more of a celebration of her actions, Kushnir really let it fly. "Traditional values." "Left-wing agenda." "I'm being attacked." And so on and so forth.

These folks don't seem to understand that we LGBT activists have heard all of this many, many times over. More than that, they don't realize that their choice to raise up these same tired lines comes across, to those of us who have covered this sort of thing for any sort of time, as just more proof that the pro-discrimination movement is one that thrives on contrivance.

Before I go on, let me acknowledge that, yes, all movements have some words and phrases that those who advocate within it tend to use. However, there's no comparison between how our side says things like "love is love" or "marriage equality" and the way the other side robotically recites full passages of text whenever called on to make a point. Our activists can talk fluently about any number of concepts pertaining to our human existence, our constitutional rights, and everything related to either (and more). And not only will we answers questions in a direct way, but many of us jump at the chance to do so. You ask us is we support or oppose any number of things, and we'll give you a direct "yes" or "no" before speaking with verbosity about why or why not.

Not so on the other side. Their movement thrives on wiggling out out of really simple questions. Something as simple as, "Do you oppose same-sex marriage?" can turn into a Palin-esque word soup of twist and turns that ends up miles apart from the actual query. And don't even dare asking someone who acts in an egregiously anti-gay way if he or she is, in fact, anti-gay. Many of them become appalled—APPALLED!—that you'd dare suggest such a thing about their work opposing an LGBT person's every last right, protection, or even mere right to exist openly. Some act as if they shouldn't even have to dignify such a question from the likes of you. Because that's how heterosexism often works: not only exclusionary but also high-and-mighty.

And none of it is new to us. You should know that, Amy Kushnir. You should hear what I'm saying, David Benham. You might think you're putting one over on everyone when you shoot the messenger or claim to be the one suffering from rather than cultivating division, but you are not. Under this "culture war" sun, there is nothing new. And when you go out there all cockily, like you're serving up some new gourmet discourse, you should know that you're actually helping us show how regurgitated it all is. Before too long, even those who might've been inclined to agree and who used to lap it all will have to start wondering why a movement as aggressively self-assured as this one presents itself in such a hackneyed way.

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