On Wednesday I received an early Christmas present from the Westboro Baptist Church. As you can see below, they tweeted an image of me with a "GODH8SFAGS" tattoo photoshopped on my neck and some mumbo-jumbo about Sodom and Gomorrah.
Westboro and I have a special relationship. They hate that I've dedicated my life to fighting for queer rights, and I hate that they've dedicated their lives to being horrible monsters (and if you needed anymore proof of their unparalleled grossness, look at the font they chose to use in that tweet! Out of all of the fonts in the world, they willingly chose that one?)
But as much as I hate them, I actually respect them. And I kind of love them. Because no matter what you say about Westboro, you can't say that they aren't honest about what they believe. There is no way you can miss their homophobia, and they don't pretend to be anything but homophobic.
It makes my job a lot easier.
You know what doesn't make my job easier? When homophobes like Duck Dynasty star Phil Roberston say gays are sinful and liken who we are and what we do to sex with assorted barnyard animals, and then, when they're called on it, they cloak their hatred in religion. (And it should be noted that Westboro has spent the last two days defending Robertson.)
Since we began reporting on Robertson's homophobia, I have received countless emails and comments and tweets that attempt to explain to me that the reality star is not homophobic but is simply espousing the word of God. And you can't fight with the Bible!
The Duck Dynasty family itself released a statement arguing the same thing:
We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word. While some of Phil's unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.
Suddenly the issue is no longer about the repugnant things Robertson said about queer people; it's about anyone who would dare challenge his "constitutionally protected right" to say those repugnant things. (And before we go any further, once and for all, his rights haven't been trampled: He hasn't been imprisoned or silenced by the government. This is a private matter between him and his employer. Just as Robertson has the right to say whatever he wants, A&E has the right to challenge him and deliver appropriate consequences as it sees fit. Bottom line: If you're going to trot out the First Amendment, at least know how it works.)
The victims in this scenario are suddenly the oppressors. And because religion has entered the picture, we're no longer supposed to call Robertson exactly what he is: a homophobe.
Well, I'm not falling for that bullshit. And neither should you.
The Bible has been used to justify a lot of really disgusting things, and eventually we somehow managed to conveniently ignore the passages that talk about slavery, rape, murder and subjugating women (among other delightful fare). But in 2013 it is still perfectly OK for people to publicly state that queer people are disordered, corrupt, evil beings. And if you call someone a homophobe for being a homophobe, suddenly you're the bigot.
In a piece for Time.com that has over 20,000 Facebook "likes," Ambrosino writes:
For the record, I'm undecided on whether or not I think Phil actually is homophobic, although I certainly think his statement was offensive, and not only to the LGBT community. But I also think that if I were to spend a day calling ducks with Phil, I'd probably end up liking him -- even in spite of his position on gay men. It's quite possible to throw one's political support behind traditional, heterosexual marriage, and yet not be bigoted.
Really? You can't decide? What about after you watch this 2010 video of Robertson saying the following:
Women with women. Men with men. They committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions. They're full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant God haters. They are heartless. They are faithless. They are senseless. They are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil. That's what you have 235 years, roughly, after your forefathers founded the country. So what are you gonna do, Pennsylvania? Just run with them? You're going to die. Don't forget that.
Still unsure, Ambrosino? Tell me: What exactly will it take for him to qualify?
Sure, it would be easier if he proudly wore the blaze-orange vest of bigotry that the Westboro Baptist Church wears, but I don't need him to send me a photoshopped greeting card to know where he stands and what he thinks of me.
Today we learned that in Uganda the punishment for being gay is life in prison. If that isn't a wake-up call to what is going on all across this planet, I don't know what is. And if you think that because you live in America, you're immune to homophobia, you're dead wrong.
So let's stop wasting our time daydreaming of an idyllic afternoon on the duck pond with Phil and start calling out hate for what it is and what it can do.
Because while I love homophobes like Westboro for making my job easy, our real work is uncovering the wicked truth hiding beneath those who claim they love us while they bludgeon us with their Bibles.