It would hardly be surprising to learn teen lesbian couple’s shooting was a hate crime given recent anti-gay rhetoric from preachers, platforms
The more victories the LGBT movement racks up, the more vicious our opponents become. When I look at the anti-gay extremism in 2012, I’m reminded of 1998’s “Summer of Hate,” which began with a national “ex-gay” advertising campaign, escalated with a flurry of anti-gay legislation in Congress, and ended with the horrifying death of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.
“We didn’t know who Matthew would be, but we could have certainly predicted that there would be some very, very tragic violent deaths over the summer,” former Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Elizabeth Birch told The Today Show following Shepard’s murder.
Following an eerily similar outpouring of raw hatred coming from politicians and the pulpit, two teenage girlfriends in a five-month relationship were shot in the head with a large-caliber handgun in Violet Andrews Park in Portland, Texas, this weekend.
Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, died in the attack, while Mary Christine Chapa, 18, was rushed to a hospital where she is now listed in serious but stable condition.
Although it has all the hallmarks of a hate crime, we still don’t know precisely what happened and we should not prematurely jump to conclusions.
“There’s no evidence to suggest that this crime was committed as a bias against the girls or their lifestyle,” said Portland Police Chief Randy Wright. (Although a cop using the odious term “lifestyle” hardly inspires confidence.)
Nonetheless, as Birch previously pointed out, we know that a heightened level of anti-gay vitriol inevitably leads to violence. When you have fanatical enemies dedicated to bullying, berating and belittling, it can come as no surprise when their behavior eventually devolves into brutalizing and bashing.
As if on cue, the Texas Republican Party just released a repulsive platform that went out of its way to demonize the LGBT community: “We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit,” the platform states.
“Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.”
It is folly to separate such vituperative voices from the violence that follows.
A report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center in November 2010, analyzing FBI data from 1995 to 2008, found that LGBT people are 2.6 times more likely to be attacked than blacks; 4.4 times more likely than Muslims; 13.8 times more likely than Latinos; and 41.5 times more likely than whites.
The Anti-Violence Project (AVP) released their national report on hate violence for 2011. Nationwide there were 30 killings of LGBT Americans due to hate which is the highest yearly total ever recorded.
Could these awful numbers surprise anyone, considering the whackos are coming out of the woodwork? Exacerbating matters are the dangerously false and inflammatory claims by anti-gay organizations that Christians must choose between gay rights and religious liberty.
For example, in a May 8 Family Research Council fundraising letter focusing on gays in the military, the group’s President Tony Perkins wrote: “Enemies of Christianity, those who would silence the Gospel and eradicate our faith, are pushing hard, working fast. … Forcing acceptance of open homosexuality in the military was only the beginning. Muzzling those who speak out against this policy goes hand in hand with it.”
Bryan Fischer, a talk radio host for the American Family Association and major player in GOP politics, has a daily show that reaches a million listeners in 35 states. In one broadcast he told his audience, “Homosexuality gave us Adolf Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.”
Here are a few more chilling incidents that recently occurred:
• Indiana pastor Jeff Sangl and his congregation encouraged a 4-year-old to sing a song called, “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven.”
• Kansas pastor Curtis Knapp said in a radio address: “They [gay people] should be put to death. … Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them? No, I’m saying the government should.”
• North Carolina pastor Charles L. Worley called for all LGBT people to be forced into camps with an electrified fence, where food would be dropped until they died off.
While such fiery rhetoric is good for raising money, I suspect it also raises body counts. I’m going to Texas on Friday to mourn the loss of a beautiful young girl at a vigil in the park where she and her girlfriend were shot. But I’m also hoping this tragedy wakes people up to the nightmares on the horizon that are sure to come if our foes don’t halt their rancid and reactionary rhetoric.
Wayne Besen is founding executive director of Truth Wins Out, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism. He can be reached at WBesen@TruthWinsOut.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 29, 2012.