So, how should we react when we hear laws like these being considered and how should we feel about the proliferation of similar laws?
The history of anti-gay laws is long and cruel, and such laws range from the severe to the benign. In the 1930s, Paragraph 175 of the Nazi Criminal Code sent 15,000 gays to die in death camps. In Saudi Arabia, under Sharia law, homosexuality is still punishable by death to this day. Benign anti-gay laws have included those like the New York anti-drinking law that was overturned as a result of the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
To many, Uganda seems far removed from Main Street USA—but the church on the corner is precisely what is funding the hateful efforts in Africa, both spiritually and financially. The Washington D.C.-based organization known as “The Family”, which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast, counts both Bahati and Uganda’s President amongst its most important members. Senator Inhofe has stated that it was The Family that directed him toward political involvement in Uganda. The Family is also thought to have used Senator Brownback and Representative Joe Pitts to funnel millions of dollars into Ugandan abstinence-only programs. These programs have resulted in condom burnings and are faulted for a doubling in the HIV instance rate in Uganda.
Furthermore, inspiration for the newest anti-gay law is credited to American anti-gay activists, Don Schmierer, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Scott Lively, who gave a seminar in Uganda months before Bill 18 was first proposed.
But we cannot point an accusing finger only at extremists. These cruel and murderous laws are the fault of every politician and citizen in America who votes No on gay marriage or gay adoption, who votes No on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, or who decides that No, their gay son or daughter can no longer live in their home.
To the shocked I respond, what did you expect would happen? This is the result of open compliance, partial agreement, and profound indifference to the hateful words being spun by pundits and preachers, both Republicans and Democrats. What did you expect when you looked away or said nothing in the face of the Phelps Family’s “God Hates Fags” signs that are displayed at Iraq War veteran’s funerals, citing homosexuality as the cause of the war? What did you expect when you shrugged and put your donation in the basket the day a guest speaker at your church suggested that AIDS was divine intervention. Make no mistake that groups who make these claims are, at best, hate groups, and at worst, terrorists.
If every one of you who experiences these promoters of hate does not openly condemn them, then you are compliant. A silent voice in the face of hideous spite is a voice of agreement. The silence of faith leaders—who have publicly declined to condemn Bill 18—is a deafening one. Eulogized leaders like Jerry Falwell preached statements saying, “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” Yet, the response by millions of Americans to words like these continues to be “Amen.”
The religious frenzy in the world’s wealthiest nation is being led astray, first by a minority of leaders who let piety usurp righteousness, and second by a majority of them to sit silently compliant. We live in a time and place where countless people actually believe that homosexuality caused 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and that there is an official “Gay Agenda”.
Efforts to escape oppression are not an agenda, they are acts of liberation. It is time that these leaders stop blaming the “gotcha media” for the hateful statements falling from their own mouths. It’s time for us all to take responsibility for the things that we say, the meanings we convey, and the eventuality to which they lead. All contingencies of Moral Majority’s war on the LGBT community lead to one place: that place was Paragraph 175 in the early 20th century; it is Uganda in the early 21st.
So, it is time we all take good notice of the morbid glee with which purveyors of hate pursue homosexuals. We need to ask ourselves why we ignore the utter joy they get from funding cruelty, ask ourselves why anyone should be allowed to feel warm, fuzzy, or holy knowing a portion of their tithe has bought the bullet used to murder a homosexual—whether in Uganda or just down the street. And ultimately, we need to force those people to look at their smiling faces in the mirror and ask themselves: “If this is righteousness, what then is sin?”
This column was originally published in the February 2010 issue of ACCESSline.