"I wish I could be happy, I try, I try, I try ... I just want to feel special to someone." --Jamie Hubley
On Oct. 14, Jamie Hubley, a gay 15-year-old boy, committed suicide. He struggled with depression and bullying from classmates because he was openly gay. The challenges experienced by this young man are heartbreaking and perhaps better witnessed through his own words or hearing them directly from those who knew him best.
These types of teen suicides painfully remind us that there is an anti-LGBT culture within our societies that isolate many young people from the love they deserve. It's particularly concerning that the urgency this reality warrants is consistently absent from the religious right, which was further evidenced at the Values Voter Summit in Washington this month.
As the day neared for this annual gathering of religious conservatives, my inbox began to fill with press releases, statements and emails from allies across the country. "Boycott Values Voter Summit" and "Anti-LGBT Hate Fest?"
The concern was real.
A common chill rippled through civil rights and progressive religious communities across America. Moderate voices speculated about what type of rhetoric would be cooked up and lobbed at minority communities this year. Like many Americans, I joined those who condemned the event, which was hosted by two nationally recognized hate groups. In 2010 both the Family Research Council and American Family Association joined more than 1,000 active hate groups in America, on a list that includes factions of the Ku Klux Klan, black separatist and Neo-Nazi organizations.
But there was something even more troubling about the summit: Why would Republican Party leadership -- House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Erik Cantor -- appear in such a setting? Why would seven Republican Presidential candidates do the same? The summit promotes hostile anti-LGBT sentiment that in many ways has contributed to a culture of LGBT bullying.
I tuned in to CSPAN's coverage from my office in New York City. I watched speakers offensively degrade the LGBT community and demonize Muslims as a dangerous other; the rhetoric was sorely absent of any hope for moderation.
Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association, declared the American President should be a man, that Muslims are not welcomed and that the LGBTQ community is a threat to American freedom.
Star Parker, a conservative activist, insinuated that the California government was "sick" for trying to combat LGBT teen bullying by helping students learn about the history of gays and lesbians in their state.
The speeches went on. The damage continued. But when all was said and done, an important point was evident: this event wasn't about Christian values -- it was about hate.
The Montgomery Alabama-based civil rights organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, defines these "representatives" of the religious right well: "All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics." These groups who claim to represent the religious right contribute to a deadly anti-LGBT culture.
They circulate pamphlets and propaganda that mischaracterize the LGBT community -- propaganda that has been thoroughly rejected by relevant institutions. They routinely quote junk science sourced from anti-gay "front organizations" like the "American College of Pediatricians" (ACP) to claim LGBT people are a threat. These front organizations are deeply flawed. For example, the ACP is a tiny 200-member anti-gay organization, which broke away from the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). It broke away because it rejected its parent organization's support of LGBT rights. Going rogue, they now produce misleading junk science that is solely aligned with political agendas.
These hate groups also rely on similarly flawed research to claim LGBT people suffer from "mental disorders" and that they should undergo "reparative therapy." Again, relevant scientific institutions, such as the American Psychiatric Association reject such nonsense.
"In the last four decades, 'reparative' therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure," they said. "APA recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation." The American Psychological Association echoes that "the discipline of psychology is concerned with the well-being of people and groups and therefore with threats to that well-being ... Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience."
Because of this scientific reality, many reparative therapists have come out of the closet to reject and repudiate the flawed practice.
Other "science" and "research" they utilize continues to be discredited, and every day its irrelevance is being more widely understood. Those outside of this extreme wing are becoming much more conscious of the damage caused by extreme factions of the religious right. Droves of young people are leaving churches that reject the gay and lesbian community. Two-thirds of Americans say there is a harmful connection between messages coming from America's houses of worship and higher rates of LGBT youth suicides. And most remarkably, Gallup found that a majority of Christians and non-Christians believe that gay and lesbian relations are "morally acceptable."
America's values are clear. Why then does the religious right continue to dominate the national conversation?
It is time for us to put this nonsense to rest.
There is a growing community of LGBT-inclusive Christians and non-Christian allies, working each day to promote welcome in faith settings and put their LGBT inclusive faith into action by taking to the streets, the polling booths and the airwaves. Just this week, more than 900 Methodists in Connecticut and New York vowed to defy their denomination's ban on gay marriage and make weddings available to all.
These inclusive Christian voices are putting the religious right on notice: while their voice of hate may be loud, our voice of love will be louder.
This post originally appeared in The New Civil Rights Movement.
Follow Joseph Ward III on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JosephWardIII