Gays Remain the Minority Most Targeted by Hate Crimes
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“True conservatives,” Higgins added tartly elsewhere, “need to rethink their cowardly refusal to address the inherent immorality of homosexual practice and their deeply flawed strategy of calling for a moratorium on ‘social issues.’”
A leading criminologist and sociologist of hate crimes, Jack Levin of Northeastern University, sees evidence of the growing radicalization of the fringe in other ways. He says perpetrators of anti-gay hate crimes appear to be getting older. No longer are they dominated by teens engaging in thrill-seeking with predatory gangs of their peers. More and more, he says, lone adults are committing what Levin calls “defensive hate crimes” — crimes carried out in reaction to sweeping social changes that they see as threats to their home, family, religion, culture or country.
The shrinking size of the most virulent parts of the anti-gay religious right was much in evidence at the August “Truth Academy” staged outside Chicago by Peter LaBarbera and his Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. The three-day gathering immediately followed what to many anti-gay activists was a kind of nuclear disaster — the overturning by a federal appeals court judge of Proposition 8, which had temporarily ended gay marriage in California.
And what better motivator than a “homosexual judge” canceling out some 7 million votes against same-sex marriage? But that turned out not to be the case. Subtracting speakers, family members, volunteers and at least four interlopers who attended only to monitor events, the tally of those who paid to hear LaBarbera and the others speak during the first day was almost certainly fewer than 15.
Nevertheless, for many hard-liners, fighting homosexuality is a biblical imperative. They regard being forced to accept uncloseted gays as tantamount to being persecuted as Christians. If same-sex marriage becomes universally legal, the Family Research Council’s Perkins told the “Call to Conscience” rally held in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 4, “In one generation, we will have gone from banning the Bible in public schools to banning religious beliefs in society.”
As a result, the hard core of the anti-gay religious right is digging in. They have gravitated toward three particular tactics: “love the sinner” rhetoric; secular validation; and depicting gays as a global threat.
The Hard-Liners’ New Lines
Not long ago, anti-gay propaganda was remarkable for its vulgar and wild-eyed tone — depicting homosexuals as immoral, feces-eating, disease-ridden pedophiles. And some of that tone, particularly the idea that gays seek to “recruit” children in school, remains in certain quarters. But that kind of approach doesn’t resonate much with younger audiences, who grew up with positive images of openly gay actors, musicians, artists, politicians and business leaders. As gays came out of the closet, others increasingly found they had gay friends and relatives.
Now, more and more groups on the religious right are framing their arguments with words that are meant to show respect for gays and lesbians. There is no better example of that than the Manhattan Declaration, drafted in 2009 by Watergate conspirator-turned-evangelist Charles Colson, Princeton University professor Robert P. George and Beeson Divinity School Dean Rev. Timothy George.
The declaration framed opposition to same-sex marriage as part of seeking an end to the “glamorizing” of promiscuity and infidelity generally. It emphasized that “our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners.” It conceded that “there are sincere people who disagree with us … on questions of sexual morality and the nature of marriage.” “And so,” it concluded, “it is out of love (not ‘animus’) and prudent concern for the common good (not ‘prejudice’), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage.”