by Jeremy Leaming
For decades, leaders of the nation’s Religious Right have done more than just oppose equality for the LGBT community, they have tarred it as one made of hedonistic, selfish beings bent on harming children, destroying Christianity, and a host of other depraved actions. (For good measure many among the Religious Right have also sought to convince us that science says lesbians and gay men can be “cured” of their alleged afflictions.)
Within the past decade I had the great pleasure of attending numerous Religious Right gatherings in preparing articles for Church & State, a publication of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. At nearly every one of those gatherings lesbians and gay men were a prime topic of conversation. Indeed the leaders of many of the Religious Right groups that appeared at or organized those gatherings, including representatives from James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and Tony Perkin’s (pictured) the Family Research Council (FRC) were obsessed with gay people. It was not enough for these leaders to advance their tired line about the threat same-sex marriages supposedly pose to marriage. They inevitably, whether directly or through insinuation, demonized LGBT people. LGBT persons the Religious Right leaders have long claimed are at the root of everything that is supposedly wrong with this country.
For example at the 2007 “Family Impact Summit” in Tampa, Fla., a string of “workshops” centered squarely on tearing down the LGBT community. Same-sex marriage may have been the hook for some of the discussions, but the conclusions these discussions or lectures advanced were all wildly uniformed, blatantly unfair and bigoted.
A “Homosexuality/Ministry” workshop, as I reported for Church & State, was led by two people who said they had been cured of their homosexuality and featured a talk by Nancy Heche, mother of the actress Anne Heche. Nancy claimed that she had a lot of gay friends, before saying how much she cared for them and how she wished they could have “what I have.” Her condescending talk, given with great earnestness, held that gay people can be made straight and that they’ll be much healthier once they survive the conversion. She urged those in attendance to “eat with the sinners. Go befriend a gay person, build a relationship.” It was a rather nauseating affair.
Unfortunately it did not stop there. A panel discussion called “Defending Marriage: What’s at Stake,” featured FRC’s Peter Sprigg, a longtime and very loud opponent of the LGBT community and Dale O’Leary, who at the time claimed to be a writer for a Catholic-based website, as well as a researcher.