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On rhetoric, dials, and distinction

by Jeremy Hooper

Q. What do most all of us who fight for the welfare, protections, and equal citizenship of LGBT people want out of this debate?

A. We want to escape the kind of persecution that seeks criminal sanctions placed on our lives, claims that we are guided by "our malevolent master (the devil)," or pushes the dangerous notion that LGBT kids try suicide because they "know" they are "abnormal."

Q. Why do we want this?

A. Because we deserve this. We shouldn't have to put up with this kind of public flogging. No human being should.

Q. Why can't we have this?

A. Because some insist on saying those very claims and more. They put them out to the public, they suggest them for public policy, and then earn far too much credence and far too many passes from top politicians.

So I can't help but push back a little on journalist E.J. Graff when she writes something like this:

Is there any way for us all to dial down the rhetoric, just a bit—pro-gay and anti-gay, progressive and conservative? FRC isn’t actually killing gay people in the streets. The Republican Party has its point of view, even if you disagree with it. I don't like the National Organization for Marriage’s positions and sneaky tactics, but I’m going to talk with Maggie Gallagher on Monday for bloggingheads.tv. (Tune in!) I know that Dan Savage and NOM’s Brian Brown have been scheduled for a dinner at Dan’s home, followed by a moderated debate that will be videotaped and broadcast. Dan invited Brown so Brown could see the particular humanity of Dan’s own family, and to avoid any pro- or anti-gay heckling or hatred that might be aimed at either or both of them by over-fervent activists.

Can we have more of that—dinners, conversations, discussions? No matter how extremely we disagree, we absolutely have to treat each other as human. [

First off—yes, we can break bread. And I do. I will have a conversation with anyone, anywhere. Gladly, in fact. Civilly, always.

Second—yes, Dan Savage is meeting (or did meet) with Brian. Yet Dan is still being very active in pointing out the truth about FRC's rhetoric—which does not come at the expense of condemning yesterday's frightening act of violence. We can do both. And in fact, our ability to have the conservation actually highlights the way we acceptably engage in this country. We debate with words. We condemn violence.

But more than anything—how can anyone seriously ask that we "all dial down the rhetoric" as if this is an equally-footed ask? I mean, yes, anyone from any view who speaks in an over-the-top way should be called out for doing so, and I certainly am the first to make that call when it comes to my own movement. But I'm sorry, I'm not going to accept the idea that there is some sort of two-sided, agree-to-disagree conversation going on here! Family Research Council representatives spend every single day launching unbelievable missives at LGBT lives, loves, and psyches. I truly believe that the vast majority of Americans would be astounded if they knew how bad it gets. As defenders of LGBT welfare, it is our duty to show the public what they may not know about groups like FRC. It is our duty to push back—firmly, but fairly.

If we had an organization FRC on our side that was saying the sort of things about evangelical Christians that FRC says about LGBT people, then that Screen Shot 2012-08-16 At 1.19.48 Pmwould be a different story. And I would add that I would be the first to condemn such a group! But the fact of that matter is that we don't.have.that.kind.of.group. Human Rights Campaign is not printing brochures that begin by comparing Christian marriages to man-on-horse (complete with horse photo). GLAAD is not launching websites referring to gender-different marriages as "fake" and saying those marriages "destroy lives." PFLAG is not inviting someone like Bryan Fischer to speak at its annual conference. FRC does all of that and more than I could ever put in words!

Look, I HATE having this conversation. My instinct yesterday afternoon was to react with nothing but full-throated support for FRC and its staff and to articulate the concerns that many of us who work in politics feel. These heartfelt concerns should be completely detached from the debate, no matter the things I mentioned above.

But when groups like NOM work overtime politicizing this, I'm not going to play pretend. If HRC were on the receiving end of yesterday's heinous act, the facts pertaining to HRC's decades of work would remain the exact same today as they were yesterday. Same goes with FRC. And while perspective is needed and nothing compares to the brutality that is gun violence, the facts surrounding the Family's Research Councils' nineteen year mission are rhetorically brutal. We LGBT people are undoubtedly less free an less equal because of them. That is their mission. That is not ours.


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