THE BLOG
08/21/2013 01:25 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

How Far We Haven't Come: Echoes of Nixon in Councilwoman's Anti-Gay Rant

  • "Aristotle was a homo, we all know that. So was Socrates ... Homosexuality, immorality in general... these are the enemies of strong societies."
  • "Whatever you want to do in your bedroom is none of my business, but do not impose your view on other people, especially becoming policy ... because personally, I think it's just disgusting just to even think about."
  • "I'm telling you, anything that is against nature is not right."
  • "The point that I make is that... I do not think that you glorify, on public television, homosexuality."
  • "How terrible. ... They're going to be confused. You see two men go into a bedroom. You see two women kissing. Is that not confusing? It's confusing."
  • "I'm respectful of their choices, right? Even though I don't believe that, but they're free people, they can do whatever they want to do. But ... don't just come back and say you're being discriminated."
  • "I never bought in that you are born, that you are born gay. I can't imagine it."
  • "I don't even want to shake hands with anybody from San Francisco!"
Take a guess. Which of these things were said by President Richard Nixon on a secret recording sometime four decades ago? And which were said by a current, rising San Antonio city councilwoman on a secret recording just a few months ago? The fact that it's hard to tell tells you all you need to know. The story of San Antonio councilwoman Elisa Chan's secretly recorded homophobic tirade was particularly striking because it coincided with the release of President Nixon's privately recorded homophobic tirade from more than 40 years before. Both felt perfectly comfortable spewing prejudice and misinformation behind what they thought were closed doors. Neither understood, nor seems to care to understand, even the most basic elements of the lives of gay people and their families. Both were convinced of the need to keep homosexuality from the public view and that gay people are responsible for any number of social ills. Somewhere, Richard Nixon must be making his famous "V for victory" sign. We've come so very far in advancing the rights gay people under the law and the dignity and acceptance of gay people in families, churches and the core of our culture (Nixon was particularly upset that Norman Lear, before he went on to found People For the American Way, was "glorifying homosexuality" in "All in the Family"). But this pair of secret recordings is an important reminder of how much farther we have left to go. However far we've moved the public conversation, there's still a lot we can learn when some in power think that no one is listening. In the recording of Chan, the councilwoman laughs along as aides state that "Americans can, with almost a 90 percent success rate, identify gay people by their face alone" and, "The road we're going ... incest and being able to marry animals, that's all going to happen." She herself calls homosexuality "disgusting" and "against nature" and frets for children raised by gay parents who are "going to be confused." It's rare that we get such a clear glimpse into the ignorance and prejudice that drives anti-gay policy behind the scenes. And it's frightening to know that the kind of drivel that we hear every day on right-wing radio is accepted as fact and hard science by at least some policy-makers. As public opinion shifts dramatically toward gay rights, more gays and lesbians secure the right to marry, and anti-gay prejudice stops being a winning issue in elections, we can't become complacent. As long as we still have lawmakers talking about gay people behind closed doors in a way that's barely distinguishable from the likes of Richard Nixon four decades ago, we still have a long way to go. And, for the record, the first, fourth and eighth quotes are from Richard Nixon 40 years ago. The rest are Elisa Chan in 2013.

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