Montana Tea Party Removes President Over Anti-Gay “Joke,” Group’s Secretary Resigns In Protest
September 7th, 2010
There has been a lot of talk about the Tea Party’s insurgence being a benign development as far as LGBT rights are concerned. When journalists ask national Tea Party officials what the movement’s position is concerning LGBT equality, they reliably demur, saying that the only thing they care about is the deficit — and lately, newer wedge issues like immigration and Muslim-Americans. Gays? No problem.
The problem I have with that is that everyone wants to tell you that the Tea Party is not a top-down movement, but a spontaneous uprising from among people who are disturbed that our president is an immigrant Muslim who plunged our nation into debt. Or something like that. So, if it’s really a spontaneous grass-roots movement, why is anyone bothering to ask Tea Party leaders? Shouldn’t they be talking to the grass roots? Like, say, the Plymouth Rock and South Boston Tea Parties?
Montana’s Tea Party, on the other hand, is trying to tilt the lever back away from social issues, but not generating quite a bit of controversey within its own ranks. In a July facebook posting, Tim Ravndal, the President of Montana’s Big Sky Tea Party Association, responded to an ACLU lawsuit over domestic partnerships by writing that he thought marriage should be between a man and a woman. Unfortunately, his comments didn’t end there:
Then Ravndal expressed support for a commenter who (in apparent reference to the Matthew Shepard murder) said, “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.”
Answered Ravndal: “Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?”
To Montana’s Big Sky Tea Party’s credit, they booted Ravndal from the party following an emergency meeting.
We are extremely disappointed by Mr. Ravndal’s commentary,” wrote Walker, who could not be reached for this story. “The discussion in that Facebook conversation is entirely outside the position of the Big Sky Tea Party. Even though Mr. Ravndal was having a personal conversation and made no reference to our group, we felt strongly that swift and decisive action was required as we cannot accept that sort of behavior from within our membership, let alone from an officer of the corporation.
“We continually make it known that we will not tolerate bigoted dialog, behavior or messages at our functions, our meetings or within our ranks,” Walker continued. “If a person demonstrates bigotry relative to race, sex, ethnicity, etc. they are not welcome in our organization. The Tea Party movement is about standing up for individual freedom for everyone.”
In case you were wondering, I think we’re supposed to assume that sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are meant to fall under “etc.”
Not all Tea Partiers in Montana are on board with that decision. Kristi Allen-Gailushas, secretary of the Big Sky Tea Party Association and Republican nominee for a state legislative seat, announced that she is quitting the group over Ravndal’s removal. The Helena Independent Record reports that Allen-GAilushas may have facebook problems of her own. Following Ravandal’s removal, Allen-Gailushas posted to her facebook page, “The Gay community wants a war…they’ve got one!!”