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Wayne Besen

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Whiplash and Backlash

Posted: 05/24/2012 11:33 am

There has been much talk about a potential backlash at the polls against President Barack Obama for his endorsement of same-sex marriage. But we also can't discount the possibility of what I call "whiplash" -- which is the president's support causing many people to fundamentally rethink this issue before Election Day. The president's evolution has created countless educational opportunities that will likely turn foes into friends and encourage those silently in support to finally speak out.

This effect was evident after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) came out in favor of full marriage equality this week. "Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law," NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said in a statement. And as Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson astutely pointed out in an op-ed on Truthout:

Those tempted to see the NAACP's stance as purely symbolic haven't read the fine print. The resolution commits the organization to "oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the constitutional rights of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender] citizens."

The good news for LGBT rights continued with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issuing a strong position statement against so-called "ex-gay" therapy:

"Since homosexuality is not a disorder or a disease, it does not require a cure. There is no medical indication for changing sexual orientation," said PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago. Practices known as "reparative therapy" or "conversion therapy" represent "a serious threat to the health and well-being -- even the lives -- of affected people."

PAHO's powerful denunciation of quackery bolsters California senator Ted Lieu's (D-Torrance) bill to prohibit children under 18 from undergoing "sexual orientation change efforts." His measure would also require adults seeking such treatment to sign informed-consent forms indicating that they comprehend the possible dangers inherent in this kind of therapy, including depression and suicide. This comes on the heels of Dr. Robert Spitzer renouncing his infamous 2001 study that claimed some highly motivated gay people could change their sexual orientation.

Unfortunately, as our opponents lose, they are becoming loose cannons. Pastor Charles L. Worley of the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C. exemplifies this dangerous trend with a May 13 sermon that seemed more like a Nazi-era "Final Solution" for gay people:

The Bible's against it, God's against it, I'm against it, and if you've got any sense, you're against it. I figured a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn't get it passed through Congress: Build a great, big, large fence, 150 or 100 mile long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified till they can't get out. Feed 'em. And you know what? In a few years they'll die out. You know why? They can't reproduce. ... God have mercy! It makes me pukin' sick to think about -- I don't even know whether you ought to say this in the pulpit or not -- could you imagine kissing some man?

Actually, if one looks at the demographics, it is the aging homophobes who will "die out" in a few years. Realizing their fake anti-gay morality will disappear with their mortality, these charlatans are raising their venomous volume. Pastors like Worley believe if they just scream their malicious message loud enough, people will listen. What they don't understand is that people are hearing their sermons loud and clear -- and repudiating them in record numbers.

Still, the residual hate and violence that come from such maniacal musings have a devastating impact on real people. The reason we have "It Gets Better" videos is that for some gay youth, today isn't so rosy. There are still too many young people suffocating in their own shame and ground down by the guilt heaped upon them by authority figures like this North Carolina pastor and his putrid words.

This week former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi received a 30-day sentence for spying on and cyberbullying Tyler Clementi, his gay roommate, who subsequently committed suicide by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge. How many more suicides of promising LGBT youth must we witness while our most vociferous critics fancy themselves "pro-life"?

Finally, as our foes begin to fail at home, they are packing up their hatred and taking it abroad. What we are seeing in some parts of the world is homegrown homophobia supplemented by America's genius for marketing. The result of this unholy alliance is political repression and street violence, which was personified this week by the savage beating by masked thugs of Svyatoslav Sheremet, the head of Gay Forum of Ukraine.

Welcome to our new world: a dizzying time of delight and danger where whiplash competes with backlash.

 

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