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Laurie Higgins: It's time you own your place in unfortunate civil rights history

by Jeremy Hooper

Laurie Higgins first came on this site's radar back in '07 when, while employed as a writing instructor at Illinois' Deerfield High School, she went public with her desires to resistance to what she perceived as the "gay agenda" in public school, and with her desires to have the "ex-gay" perspective taught in the same. This writer, appalled that a public school employee would engage in such public hostility towards the LGBT kids who she comes across, began covering Laurie's various appearances and engaging her in lively email discussions. What I found turned into a fascinating case study.

In public settings, Laurie would condemn with the fiery of a thousand Dobsons. She would directly compare homosexuality to drug abuse, paint positive media portrayals of gays as out-of-step with reality, liken gay sex to adultery, condemn author J.K. Rowling for declaring that her Dumbledore character is gay, and so on and so forth. She seemed to relish in the role she had fallen into and the attention she was receiving from social conservatives like Peter LaBarbera and Matt Barber. She seemed totally fine appearing on talk shows in which the host shrugged off anti-gay harassment by referring to bullying as "a healthy thing." If she had an ounce of LGBT respect of even tolerance within her, I certainly never saw it in her public displays. In the hierarchy of which of the "pro-family" personalities despises us most, she quickly aligned herself with the Linda Harvey/Mike Heath/MassResistance/Labarbera/Barber wing.

But in emails, I experienced (and continue to experience) a completely different Laurie. A Laurie who convincingly claims to not want to be in the spotlight at all. A Laurie who admirably wants to talk about her children and her love for "The Office." A Laurie who, despite her employment with the Illinois Family Institute (an SPLC-labeled hate group) and her constant barrage of attacks against gay lives and loves, seems to feel that she can and should be free to fire off as many condemnatory missives as she likes, then wash her hands clean behind a curtain of total anonymity. A Laurie who seems to think that telling me she cares about gay people in general, and me in particualr, negates the fact that she purposely seeks out public attention for the sake of telling the world that I, and all LGBT people, are somehow wrong, immoral, perverted, disgusting, agenda-laden, child-threatening, unfit for equality, etc.

Well this week, Laurie came back on my radar in a major way. It started when I wrote the current IFI employee on Tuesday, asking about her organization's beyond absurd lie about Carrie Prejean and hate crimes legislation. What followed was yet another typical exchange about Laurie seeing herself as little more than a mother who simply likes to write, about her son's upcoming wedding (which I found an interesting note in light of her objection to my own), and about her general views on the so-called "culture war." The familiar and tiresome through line remained: That even though she is engaged in and employed by the anti-gay establishment, Laurie is, in her view, no way engaging in hateful words or actions. She is, in her view, in no way acting wrong-headed or unfair. She is, in her view, simply stating her personal claims against those who violate "ontological reality" and "God's decree." And of course she thinks she is in no way deserving of what she calls "dramatic intolerance and incivility" from the LGBT community or its allies, since she is simply presenting "dissenting views."

Well, you decide for yourself. The following snippet comes from a new piece that Laurie has posted to the Champion News, as well as printed on Peter LaBarbera's so-called Americans For Truth site. In it, she is talking about closeted gay lawmakers, and why LGBT people don't belong in the Republican party. Enjoy the words of the nice, sweet, Christian mother who simply likes to write:

Homosexuality matters. The public is foolish if it buys the claim that the "sexual orientation" of public servants-whether school administrators, judges, or legislators-doesn't matter. It matters for two reasons. First, 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.

I am not suggesting that men ought not love other men or that women ought not love other women. Men should love men, and women should love women. Rather, I'm making the moderate, historical, ordinary, common sense claim that the love between two (or more) men and the love between two (or more) women is corrupted when they engage in homosexual acts.
Conservatives who have bought the lie that the homosexuality of a candidate is irrelevant have clearly also bought the lie that homosexuality is ontologically equivalent to race or biological sex, both claims of which are increasingly rejected both within and without the homosexual communities.

Rather, same-sex desire and volitional homosexual acts are analogous to polyamorous desire and volitional polyamorous acts, all of which are legitimate conditions for moral assessment and moral disapproval. Most voters would want to know if a candidate embraced polyamory; most voters would reject a candidate for his affirmation of polyamory and his engagement in polyamorous behavior; and those who rejected such a candidate would not be vilified for their political decision or called poly-haters and polyphobes.
Republican skeletons in the closet [Champion News]

Laurie Higgins: You have aligned yourself with the fringe of the far-right, and you have adopted the intensely hurtful, personally disrespectful rhetoric of a frighteningly hostile movement. Such is your right -- one that I would never seek to deny to you. But it is time for you to own your role in this so-called "culture war." For you are not simply an anonymous mother simply working for good -- you are now a willing public figure who is unapologetically working to hurt LGBT lives, loves, and equality. You signed up for this. It is time you own your role! Those of us whose lives you are undermining in such an extreme way will surely respond to the "culture war" antagonism: Either stop throwing the stones, or be strong enough to resist the ones that fly off of our self-protective shields!

**Oh, and by the way, Laurie: Next time we email, you can just come out and tell me if you have BCCed Matt Barber (or whoever else) on our email chain. I don't need to wait for his (seemingly) inadvertent striking of the "reply all" button to learn that he (or anyone else) is listening. I will gladly, proudly, and unabashedly say anything to his face at any time!

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Your thoughts

Is it just a paycheck, just some where to utilize her ability to craft words? Her disconnect is truly mind numbing.

Posted by: Bob Miller | Jul 16, 2009 12:21:41 PM

Well the thing is, I fully understand how intimidating this "culture war" thing can be. So I get *why* she might want to dip a toe in and then hop out before getting splashed. But that's just not the way it works. If you are going to step up and condemn millions upon millions of people, writing off their existences as "immoral" and "perverted," then you have to be willing to go full-out.

I've been personally condemned by several of these folks, both privately and publicly, and all I'm seeking is to be left alone in the public, civil sector (not at all caring if they continue to condemn me anywhere else. It's what you get for engaging. Laurie has engaged, and has even referenced her family in some of her appearances. She has to take the scrutiny.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jul 16, 2009 12:32:08 PM

And folks like Ms. Higgins wonder why others dismiss many social cons as fringe extremists, corrupting both religion AND politics with their obvious belief that GOP stands for "God's Own Party"? Sorry, but Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican and would soundly condemn anyone who dares to suggest otherwise.

I truly cannot wait until folks like Ms. Higgins are ignored so we can move beyond this pettiness instead of continuing to cast out one group of our fellow Americans at the insistence of another.

Posted by: John | Jul 16, 2009 12:36:38 PM

If you can't stand the heat ...

... stop stoking the flames.

Have you ever met a single one of our opponents who was honest?


Posted by: Timothy (TRiG) | Jul 16, 2009 1:07:29 PM

I should add that I honestly do believe that Laurie doesn't *want* to hurt anyone. In her heart, I think she wants what she thinks is good. That's the difference I see between her and some of the others. I think she believes that she is simply condemning a "sin" rather than human beings. And that's why I think she's come across as particularly frustrating for me, because I think if she could just learn (or admit) that gay people and gay "acts" are one and the same, she would drop her activism.

I also know that she thinks I am wrong about my perception. We've discussed it. I just think she can't see her public role the way that we can.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jul 16, 2009 1:28:55 PM

I've got to admit that people who say & do horrible things with puppy-dog earnesty REALLY creep me out.

I know that there is no point reasoning or returning hostility to people bereft of empathy - or just the level of imagination required to picture the shoe being on the other foot - but I couldn't physically stand to share their company.

You're a stalwart soul to be bandying words with the Laurie Higginses of this world, G-A-Y.

Posted by: PM | Jul 16, 2009 2:13:59 PM

Conservatives seem to take this tack all the time now and it just floors me: "'dramatic intolerance and incivility' from the LGBT community or its allies..." which translates to, "I get to say any outrageous thing I want, but how dare anyone who disagrees actually respond!" It's as if the mere offering of a counter argument is against the rules or something. Maybe they're arrogant enough to think that it is.

As for Ms. Higgins: Racists are able to say and do the things they say and do because they can see non-whites as something other than (less than) human. Log Cabin Republicans vote for GOP candidates that refuse to accept their donations because all they want is lower taxes and deregulation. People's capacity to compartmentalize aspects of their system of beliefs -- rather than doing the really hard work of evaluating the validity of their beliefs -- is pretty staggering. It means they never have to set a threshold for how low they will go to achieve their goals.

Posted by: Derek in DC | Jul 16, 2009 2:37:35 PM


I have read much of Laurie Higgins writing and I have never, ever known her to be personally disrespectful. To the contrary, she is exceedingly gracious, even to those who are openly hostile.

The excerpt of her commentary that you quote above has nothing personal in it.

Laurie believes that homosexual behavior is objectively destructive and immoral and therefore ought not be promoted to public school students--in any way. Her assumption that homosexual behavior is both immoral and destructive is either true or false. You may believe that those assumptions are false and even feel personally offended and deeply hurt by them, but they are not personal. They are either true or false.

Laurie is not "working to hurt LGBT lives." If what Laurie believes is objectively true, then she is proclaiming truth that can set LGBT people free and help prevent others from becoming addicted to the same self-destructive behavior.

Posted by: teri | Jul 16, 2009 4:04:24 PM

Says "teri," who has never posted here before, and just so happens to have an IP address that is located in the same general vicinity of IL as the high school where Laurie used to teach.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jul 16, 2009 4:25:17 PM

"Log Cabin Republicans vote for GOP candidates that refuse to accept their donations because all they want is lower taxes and deregulation."

Derek in DC beats his mother and kicks his cat.

Well, actually I doubt that is true, but as long as we are maligning others and making up lies then I guess everything is fair.

Log Cabin has had - to date - one politician refuse to accept a donation, Bob Dole. It shamed Dole's campaign and generated a very public debate on whether politicians are hateful and vile towards gay folks. That 22 cent stamp did more for raising the issue of bigotry in the Republican Party than perhaps any other action could have.

And, though you missed that part of the story, Log Cabin did not endorse Dole or encourage its members to vote for him.

Oh, and in case you are unaware, most Log Cabiners have long since done the very hard work of evaluating the validity of their beliefs. And guess what; lower taxes and decentralization are valid.

But i guess its just a whole lot easier just to hate, isn't it.

Posted by: Timothy Kincaid | Jul 16, 2009 4:36:58 PM

Mr. K: I don't have a cat. Pet dander issues.

Mr. G-A-Y: Handy things, those IP addresses.

Posted by: Derek in DC | Jul 16, 2009 6:13:58 PM

If you read Jeremy's responses to others about this article you would Know that he believes that she doesn't believe that she is being personal either. But here's the thing, when you are putting people's lives on the line it is personal, no matter how you argue that it isn't. I understand how many believe it not to be personal, I have many friends who don't get it yet, but it is personal.

Jeremy, congrats on the wedding, I cried a little when I watched the video's, I don't have audio currently, I'll watch some of them again when I do. You both look very happy!!

Posted by: Piper | Jul 16, 2009 10:21:03 PM

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