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What most people aren't getting about the fake non-troversies of the anti-gay right

by Jeremy Hooper

I was just reading a local news report from Houston's KHOU about the non-troversy involving Mayor Annise Parker, subpoenas she never saw before their preparation, and the outrage machine that followed. The first line reads like this:

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The reporter surely thinks this line is benign. As best as I can tell, there is no agenda at work. To most, presumably including this reporter, this sounds like nothing more than an introductory sentence.

In truth, this framing is completely and utterly wrong. What most people do not realize is that this non-troversy, like virtually all of the non-troversies that the anti-LGBT far-right keeps trying to drum up in order to make LGBT people, nondiscrimination ordinances, and same-sex marriage look bad are actually manufactured and messaged out from national organizations and media figures that often have no ties to the area in question. Groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council are working in tandem with media figures like Fox News' Todd Starnes to take half-truths, or sometimes no-truths at all, and drum them up into these big, explosive, supposedly revelatory incidents which they overplay as having national, if not global, implications. Which is easy to do in this polarized day and age, where so many people seem to just lie in wait of the next thing to be angry about and at least one major cable news network is willing to tell them where that anger should be directed. All these groups and media figures have to do is convince their most ardent supporters that their freedoms and/or country are being taken away from them and, within minutes, they'll fill Twitter with armchair activists who are just looking for a reason to #SCREEEEEEEEEAM.

Sure, these national figures involve locals. Usually, however, this comes second. The main enterprise is concocted from on high involving a consortium of activists and biased reporters who are itching to score points against a movement that they cannot defeat any other way. With this Houston situation, the whole thing started when the ADF, the anti-LGBT legal group that would like nothing more than to kill the equal rights ordinance at the heart of this matter, began telling people that the fairly standard (if somewhat broad) legal documents were making some sort of unreasonable request. If you read the angry headlines that the professionally anti-gay began issuing within seconds, you would swear the out lesbian mayor of Houston was going to local churches and interrupting services so that she could snatch printed sermons from innocent ministers' hands.  You would think that because that is exactly what organizations like the Family Research Council and commentators like Fox News' Todd Starnes (who labeled her an "anti-Christian bigot" on day one) have been working overtime to get you to believe.  Armed with many bad twists on the phrase "houston we have a problem," the conservative media gave a full buy-in to the idea that mean ol' Mayor Parker is at war with Christians and that more rights for LGBT people will mean battered and besieged churches. Spin that is 99.9% nonsense.  The .1% that is based in fact is stripped of all rational consideration so that these opportunistic activists can sell the crude narrative.

Even some conservatives who believe this mayor has an "agenda against all morality" fully admit that these subpoenas were "basic court procedure." But that sort of pause-and-breathe rationality, even through sharp disagreement, wouldn't benefit the opportunistic national "culture war" profiteers who need a fight. Have you ever wondered why it's the same people at the heart of every one of these things? Duh! It's because they—Tony Perkins, Todd Starnes, Mike Huckabee, the Benham brothers, ADF, et al.—have become like a traveling circus, or perhaps band of self-victimizing performance artists, who have determined that biblical condemnations against false witness matter not, so long as your lies are knocking LGBT people and servicing your own political agenda. That's why you will find these same people at Sunday's rally in Houston. Mayor Parker has even completely rescinded the subpoenas in order to quell the nonsense (which is the subject of the local news story at the beginning of this post). But the good faith effort from a mayor who has been nothing but attacked—a cruelly so—is not good enough for those who refuse to have a conversation. They want to shout at us. They want to tell us who and what we are. They want to take away our rights. This is their game; it's what they do.

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