By Kerry Lobel, NGLTF executive director
We hear their names again and again, like a litany from a relentless bad dream: GOP Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Family Research Council President Gary Bauer, Focus on the Family President Dr. James Dobson, California Republican Congressman Frank Riggs, and Colorado Republican Congressman Joel Hefley. Together, these men and others are controlling the agenda of the Republican Party. Together, they've launched an unprecedented attack on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
With the 1998 Congressional elections only months away, the Presidential primaries will be here in a heartbeat. As expected, the extreme right-wing is literally and figuratively using homosexuals as their favorite poster children in an effort to consolidate their voting base and raise funds from them.
Several extreme right-wing groups including Christian Coalition, Family Research Council, and Concerned Women for America ran ads last month in the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today proclaiming "We're standing for the truth that homosexuals can change." The ads offer a beguiling elixir of "hope and healing." We're not fooled by this kinder, gentler bigotry. These ads are not about religion and healing, they're about politics and intolerance. Homosexuality is not the problem. Homophobia and the hatred and the discrimination it fosters is the problem.
Last month the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Equal Partners in Faith gathered over 30 national religious leaders from many faith traditions. These leaders expressed their support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people in the wake of the recent ad campaign. They also vowed to speak out together from a faith perspective to challenge the religious right's manipulation of religion to promote a political agenda, and to affirm the spirituality and equality of GLBT persons and supporters all across the nation.
Twenty-five years ago NGLTF was also involved in effort to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental disorders. This change removed an important obstacle to our freedom, one that the right-wing hopes to roll back. Year after year, a growing number of Americans have supported equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The extreme right-wing recognizes this and has desperately attempted to solidify their donor and voter base by trying by selling America the lie that gay people need redemption.
Gay, lesbian and bisexual people do not need hope, healing or prayers to change our sexual orientation. We need our adversaries to hope for our equality and to pray for our civil rights. We need them to understand that the only thing that needs to be changed is the bigotry that continues to divide our country across lines of race, class, gender, religion and sexual orientation. We don't need to dignify the statements of our adversaries by claiming that sexual orientation is genetic or that we can't change. This implies that most of us would change if we could. Whether genetic or chosen, sexual orientation is a deep-seated part of our identity.
One day, and I hope it comes soon, we'll live in a world where people are free to explore their sexuality, and free to live without discrimination and violence. Until then, I'll keep my eye on the real prize, freedom, justice, and equality, and not always focus on defending myself from our adversaries.