The trend lines point toward full LGBT equality.
This was surprisingly evident last week on the Fox News Channel show Red Eye, which lampooned leading anti-gay organizations for vowing to skip this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) because a gay conservative group was invited. The show’s host ruthlessly mocked The Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and jokingly claimed that Peter LaBarbera’s Americans for Truth About Homosexuality held shirtless meetings.
If you need further evidence the world is rapidly changing, consider what is happening in Utah. The New York Times reports the number of high schools that had active Gay-Straight Alliances increased in the past year from 9 to 32, including one in St. George, a conservative town in southern Utah.
Advances can also be witnessed at the federal level with the signing of a hate crime law in 2009 and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010.
On the international front, there is rapid progress including Ireland’s new same-sex civil-partnership law that was enacted Jan. 1. Barcelona, another Catholic bastion, is erecting a monument with an inscription that will read, “In memory of the gays, lesbians and transsexual people who have suffered persecution and repression throughout history.”
LGBT equality in Europe has been greatly accelerated by the erosion of traditional religious beliefs. The latest British Social Attitudes survey from the National Centre for Social Research has found that 51 percent of respondents have no religion and 42 percent say they are Christian. Just 25 years ago, 63 percent were Christian and only 34 percent had no religion.
Even the Catholic stronghold of Poland is becoming more secular. While the New York Timesreports that 95 percent of Poles identify themselves as Catholic, only 41 percent attend Sunday Mass regularly. In the cases of Spain, Ireland and Poland, the Catholic Church’s pedophile scandal and its meddling in politics has alienated much of these populations.
Such changes in religious orthodoxy are mirrored in the United States. A 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that more than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest “religious group.” While progressive faiths play a key role in supporting LGBT rights, it cannot be denied that the more secular a nation becomes, the more likely it will support equality.
Unfortunately, such obvious trend lines will not stop the battle lines from being drawn by those who are ferociously resisting change. On the national stage, all four candidates campaigning to replace current Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele stated their staunch opposition to marriage equality. To keep his job, Steele has veered right and told the National Organization for Marriage that he would support the Federal Marriage Amendment if the courts decide that prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
The fight for the RNC chairmanship is indicative of what to expect from the newly empowered Republican Party. Now that the GOP has taken over the House of Representatives, the capital is essentially a dead zone for at least two years.
The LGBT movement should allocate resources to assist state organizations until the dire situation in Washington improves. State groups will certainly need assistance as anti-gay activists work to rollback recent gains.
For example, in New Hampshire the GOP takeover of the House and Senate have put the state’s 2009 marriage equality law in jeopardy. Anti-gay bills have already been put forward and all that stands in their way is Democratic Gov. John Lynch — provided the Republicans do not scrounge up veto-proof majorities.
LGBT advocates should highlight that virtually nothing changed in New Hampshire after the marriage law was updated to be more inclusive. The gloom-and-doom scenarios painted by anti-gay advocates never came to pass, proving that same-sex marriage is no threat. So, for the legislature to take up this issue during a recession is nothing more than grandstanding at the expense of fixing the economy.
As LGBT people become more accepted by mainstream society, the rhetoric of hate groups becomes more incendiary. For instance, on his radio show this week, The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer said that homosexuality is “an abomination in the nostrils of God.”
On the international front, gains in Europe are tempered by a near continent-wide psychosis in Africa. The most vivid example of anti-gay hysteria is in Uganda, where the notorious “Kill the Gays” bill is under consideration in parliament.
To be gay in 2011 is to confront a complex and confusing world, while traversing an incoherent patchwork of attitudes and laws. The positive trend lines will continue to improve, even as the ugly battle lines harden. There is little choice but to soldier on and assist in the scrappy process of consigning anti-gay activists to their ignominious place in history.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”