It speaks volumes about the state of this country’s politics and the polarization of LGBTQ rights specifically that the conversation about Wednesday’s shooting in Washington D.C. at the Family Research Council has already (barely 24 hours after the fact) devolved into a spat about blame and cause.
Perhaps the speed with which dialogue collapsed is related to the fact that (thankfully), nobody was seriously harmed. A security guard managed to stop the shooter after taking a bullet to the arm. Few details have been released, and an FBI investigation is underway.
The response by LGBTQ advocacy groups was swift. Truth Wins Out released a statement describing the shooting as, “a detestable act of cruelty and cowardice and the perpetrator should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” going on to say that they “stand squarely with the Family Research Council today and offer them our full support and prayers.” TWO and single-A GLAD were joined by dozens of national and state groups.
But some opinion makers have looked on to the LGBTQ community’s response with disdain. Michelle Malkin called it “fake sympathy,” pointing to the fact that the FRC was labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group.” SPLC is a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting bigotry.
Conservative pundits are trying to say that this “hate group” label is responsible for the violence.
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association even says SPLC “should be held to account” for the shooting. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Thursday that SPLC gave the shooting suspect “a license” to fire at the security guard.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled FRC a “hate group,” in 2010 for the, “dissemination of false and demonizing propaganda about gays and lesbians.”
According to SPLC, these “propaganda” claims include:
- “People become homosexual because they were sexually abused as children or there was a deficiency in sex-role modeling by their parents.”
- “Hate crime laws will lead to the jailing of pastors who criticize homosexuality.”
- “Same-sex parents harm children.”
The reasons for designation as a hate group did not include FRC’s opposition same-sex marriage, explicitly explained in a blog post by SPLC’s President, Richard Cohen, even though anti-gay groups and commentators are already trying to frame it as such.
To be clear, despite my strong support for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights, I also believe that defining marriage as one man and one woman is no more radical or extreme than defining marriage as between two consenting adults.
Supporting “traditional” marriage and being anti-gay are two entirely separate things. Advocating for marriage as between one man and one woman is not a hateful act.
Should FRC be labeled a hate group for expressing religious beliefs?
But here’s another scenario.
Earlier this year, the Family Research Council distributed its highest honor, the “Watchman Award,” to North Carolina pastor Ron Baity. You may have heard of Pastor Baity. Baity has described gays as “worse than maggots,” preached that they are spreading a “learned lifestyle,” and that by embracing fundamental rights for LGBTQ people, we are collectively signing “America’s death warrant.”
I’m not sure if he’s more or less worse than Fred “God-Hates-Fags” Phelps.
Is Mr. Baity a hateful person for believing that marriage is between a man and a woman? No. Is he a hateful person for expressing his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman? No.
He is a hateful person because he dehumanizes, delegitimizes and cheerfully discards the inherent worth and dignity of his fellow human beings.
I find it hard to believe that a group which celebrates and triumphs family values could hold such a person in high esteem. But they do. That FRC bestowed their highest honor not on any of the thousands of Christian ministers, priests and pastors who respectfully and kindly stand up for their beliefs about marriage but instead turned to a man who actively—and gleefully—describes gay people as “worse than maggots,” is edifying.
Zach Wahls is a sixth-generation Iowan, author of My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family, Green Bay Packers fan and a commentator on LGBT and youth issues. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.