Yesterday, a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush shredded one of longest-held arguments made by anti-gay activists in the United States: gays are bullies and harassers.
The background: The National Organization for Marriage and one of its affiliates wanted to repeal a domestic partnership law two years ago in Washington state. They gathered the requisite number of signatures to put repeal on the ballot, but voters overwhelmingly decided to keep the law in place. During the campaign, the NOM crew demanded that the 138,000 signatures remain under seal. If the names were publicly disclosed, they contended, gay people would threaten, harass and intimidate the signers.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court, including Justice Scalia, soundly rejected the anti-gay groups' broad arguments that Washington referendum signatures should be kept out of public view. And on Monday, Judge Benjamin Settle threw out NOM's case, citing no credible evidence. Of course, we condemn all incidents of harassment or intimidation of any American -- but one of the "victims" put forth by the groups said he had been "mooned" and flipped off by people in passing cars but never provided any evidence that these incidents had anything to do with the referendum. (Perhaps it was his driving?) The court dissected NOM's claims one by one, dismissing them as speculative.
This is not the first time a federal court has scratched its head wondering where the evidence is to support NOM's claims. In California, a federal court debunked NOM's harassment allegations, pointing out that "numerous of the acts about which [NOM] complain[s] are mechanisms relied upon, both historically and lawfully, to voice dissent... This court cannot condemn those who have legally exercised their own constitutional rights in order to display their dissatisfaction with [NOM's] cause."
NOM has been painting the gays-are-bullies mural for a while, which, of course, is a tried and true practice of all anti-gay groups dating back decades. It is their loudest battle cry, and is the reason they give to fight tooth and nail through scores of James-Bopp-led lawsuits to keep their donors secret -- despite popular disclosure laws that promote transparency. Vilifying the LGBT community is part of the group's fake victimization crusade -- which has found its way into the GOP presidential primary.
Each of the leading Republican candidates has signed a so-called marriage pledge to support a constitutional ban on gay marriage -- standard fare for a GOP primary. What was unexpected and unreported about the pledge was a little-known provision calling for "investigations" of gay Americans. Each candidate promised, if elected, to set up a presidential commission to begin McCarthy-style inquiries into those who are threatened and harassed.
The more federal courts debunk and delegitimize phony claims by staunch opponents of equality, the more emboldened and aggressive the thin-skinned zealots become. So look for more claims of gays-gone-wild in the states like North Carolina and Minnesota that have marriage equality on the ballot in 2012. However, the narrative is sure to continue before then. Maggie Gallagher just opened up a new website to serve as the repository for gay harassment claims.
Here's the good news: they're losing. The perception of LGBT people is only improving. Most of the country knows we share the same values of love, commitment and family. Look at the tangible public policy gains the past few years -- most recently the historic New York marriage law and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Support in respected national polls for marriage equality is surging. Let's not kid ourselves. We still have a ways to go, but history shows this country generally moves in only one direction when it comes to equality -- and that's toward it.