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Homophobia Starts at Home

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Dispatch from the Culture War Front: Washington, D.C.

Last week's horrific murder of Ugandan gay activist David Kato sparked outrage and a series of protests against the U.S.-based religious groups responsible for exporting American-style bigotry and homophobia to Africa, resulting most infamously in Uganda's pending "kill-the-gays" bill.

While such activism is sorely needed, the focus on foreign countries prompts the question: Why are we not equally outraged and rising up against the massive damage these same conservative religious groups cause right here at home?

Organizations such as the American Family Association, for example, are too clever to propose a law that would impose the death penalty on homosexuality in the U.S. -- that would be a bit obvious -- but they continue to use their well-funded propaganda machine to spew anti-LGBT lies and distortions that have a similar effect, creating an atmosphere so poisoned and repressive that many LGBT people, particularly in small towns and rural communities, live their entire life in the closet or possibly even take the ultimate step of suicide.

This video of small town "family values" mom Meribeth Glenn sadly demonstrates how these tactics play out. Many of her statements, including the presumed connection between marriage equality and bestiality, are taken straight from the AFA, which broadcasts a regular program on her local Christian radio station. In fact, Glenn consented to speak on camera only after consulting with her AFA chapter head, Diane Gramley.

When anti-gay bigotry and hatred is a commonplace and accepted feature of conservative and religious broadcasting -- as it is today in the U.S. -- and when its adherents incorporate these messages into the lexicon of their own daily lives -- as Glenn and millions of other people do -- is it any wonder that we continue to see LGBT lives ruined, families and communities in distress and a rash of gay teen suicides?

And when the President of the United States feels comfortable attending a National Prayer Breakfast event supported and attended by the AFA and other conservative religious groups -- including "The Family," the very group pushing for the anti-gay legislation in Uganda -- is it any wonder that the best response we can muster to the recent rash of gay teen bullying and suicides is to promise that "it gets better"?

Recently, Dan Savage -- creator of the 'It Gets Better' video campaign -- declared in a Newsweek interview that "the culture war is over" and later that the homophobes are "losing the battles [that] are taking place in living rooms all over the country." Obviously Savage hasn't spent much time in the living rooms of people like Meribeth Glenn or he would realize that there are still many battles to be fought to ensure that all people -- here in the U.S., as well as in Uganda and other countries around the world -- can live full lives, openly, with dignity, respect and equal treatment under the law.

The late David Kato knew that his activism put him at risk. When asked by a reporter why he gave up the comfortable life of an educated professional in relatively progressive South Africa to return home to Uganda, he said "My role is to fight and liberate."

As residents of the country from which much of the global anti-LGBT crusade emanates, we feel that we all have a similar obligation.