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Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for April, 2014

LaBarbera detained in Canada (Updated)

Timothy Kincaid

April 11th, 2014

Peter LaBarbera of the ironically named Americans for Truth about Homosexuality was scheduled to participate in the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association this weekend. I’m not sure what Canadian pro-life has to do with American homosexual truth, but this event appears to be a gathering of the religiously disgruntled and The Peter definitely fits in that crowd.

However, something called Intolerance Free Weyburn initiated a complaint to have him barred from entry to Canada. And The Peter is reporting that it worked. (AFTAH)

After questioning me about the purpose of my scheduled presentation at the SPLA event; rifling through my luggage, which contained numerous books and literature related to homosexuality (pro and con); examining the contents of my laptop and my cell phone; playing a DVD of my speech Wednesday at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio; and critically viewing AFTAH’s website–a preliminary decision was made to deny my entrance into Canada on the basis that my speech at the SPLA would violate Canada’s “Hate Propaganda” law (essentially the potential for “public incitement of hatred” against a group of people based on their “sexual orientation”). The Orwellian experience at Customs dragged on for more than three hours as a formal document was issued outlining my denial of entry under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (citing the Hate Propaganda code). Finally, after 1:00 A.M., I was released pending my appeal of the decision today (Friday). My passport was seized until I arrive back at Customs today at noon for my appeal before a “Minister’s Delegate Review.”

I favor freedom of speech. And while I have no say in how Canadians choose to structure their society, I do hope that the US does not go down the road of silencing the voices of those who do not fit current social or political norms.

But irrespective of Canada’s laws, this was not a wise choice.

Peter LaBarbera was scheduled to go talk to people who already agree with him. And should his presentation ever reach those who were not already convinced of the evils of Teh Ghey, that can be a good thing. After a few minutes of The Peter, most decent souls feel a compulsion to wrap themselves in a rainbow flag and march for marriage equality.

This move accomplishes no real tangible advance for our community. It merely feeds the narrative that anti-gay activists are weaving about how homofascists are trying to shut them up and how True Christians are under attack. It gives a physical example to rally around. And for someone who knows nothing about the Peter, he does come across as the sympathetic character in the situation.

Already fellow travelers have taken up the cause of portraying The Peter as a victim of oppression. Over at Matt Barber’s BarbWire, Laurie Higgins is wailing about how he was “detained by the Canadian thought police who searched his luggage, computer, and phone” (though I’ll give her credit for spelling my name correctly).

And though LaBarbera’s undoubtedly elated about his ability to now wear the marty’s suit, it must have been a harrowing experience. And since then, I’m sure that he’s been bored, stuck waiting for a response to his appeal.

But fortunately The Peter brought “literature related to homosexuality” and if he’s been afforded any privacy, I’m sure that the selections from his vast collection of gay porn have been put to good use.

In his ongoing efforts to document the seedier side of gay life.

Update by Jim B: LaBarbera says they’re letting him in after all.

Michigan GOP leadership rebuffs Agema

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2013

Two years ago, Michigan Representative Dave Agema (R – Grandville) sponsored a bill called the Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act (real name) which was designed to do exactly that: probit the government closest to the people (cities, counties, library commissions) from enacting protections for the people (firemen, assessors, librarians). Specifically, it provided that “a public employer shall not provide medical benefits or other fringe benefits for an individual currently residing in the same residence as an employee of the public employer” unless they were the opposite sex.

And being a pretty despicable bunch, the Michigan GOP representatives passed it with a party-line vote (plus one Democrat) and Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill into law.

As the bill was an obvious violation of the US Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans, this June a judge issued an injunction against its implementation. It is assumed that the bill is dead.

Well now Dave Agema is not longer in the state legislature. But at last year’s GOP state convention, the party decided that he was an ideal representative to send to the Republican National Central Committee, ousting their former party chair who had been a national RNC candidate but, apparently, just wasn’t batpoop nuts enough.

So now they have Dave Agema making news by trotting off to the Berrien County Republican Party Holiday Reception this week, and saying the following:

… I stand for traditional marriage, not homosexual ones. (audience applause) … the basic unit of government in society.

“When you tear the family apart, you tear the country apart. I worked with these individuals for almost 30 years with American (Airlines). I know what they do. I know what happened to American Airlines when San Francisco said we could not land in San Francisco and do business with American Airlines unless we paid same sex unmarried benefits.

“The pilots said, ‘Bologna. Don’t go there anymore.’

“Can’t do it. Too big a market. Can’t do it. Well, what happened? Say me and, what’s your name again, first name? Martha. I’m a flight attendant. You have AIDS. You come to me and say, ‘hey, tell them I’m your lover for the last six months.’ You get on our health care. American Airlines spends $400,000 before you die of AIDS. And he goes on to the next, and the next, and that’s what was happening.

“Folks, they want free medical because they’re dying between 38 and 44 years old. It’s a biggie. So, to me it’s a moral issue. It’s a Biblical issue. Traditional marriage is where it should be and that is in our platform, so people that are opposed on that issue within our party are wrong. It’s in our platform. (audience applause)”

Well that there’s a whole lot of crazy. Not a word of fact, but a great big serving of hot juicy crazy hate ladled over a holiday pastry. And the Berrien County GOP biddies just lapped it right up, burped, and asked for more.

But outside the context of hardcore party extremists in county committees, crazy hate just doesn’t sell very well anymore. And as his statements started hitting the blogs, normal folk were a bit shocked.

And though the party joyfully voted for the bill generated by Agema’s radical hatred, now the Michigan GOP politicians have began backpedaling. (MLive)

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said Wednesday that he respects religious beliefs that may not make room for gay marriage. “But I do not respect, and frankly am disgusted by, anyone who demonizes someone because of their sexual orientation,” he continued.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said he had not heard Agema’s comments directly but had picked up on the basic tenor.

“He’s not speaking on behalf of me, or I think most of the people who call themselves Republicans, when he says stuff like this,” said Richardville. “It’s not the first time. Hate isn’t one of my values.”

Naturally, Log Cabin called for his resignation. Jason Watts, secretary of Allegan County’s Republican Party, has drafted a resolution that the state party (which meets this weekend) disavow those who “espouse demagogic rhetoric that is incendiary and unbecoming of civil discourse.”

And the Governor, who signed the anti-gay bill two years ago, now rebuffs Agema’s agenda. (MLive)

Snyder, the state’s top ranking elected Republican, “feels comments like that are unfortunate, discriminatory and that we can and must do better and make sure everyone is treated with respect and dignity,” spokesman Sara Wurfel told MLive.

Wurfel was even more direct with the MIRS subscription news service, calling Agema’s remarks “extreme” and saying that there “shouldn’t be room for that in any political party, period.”

Just a week ago I discussed how the extra-special brand of crazy right-wing nutcases can be useful. And Agema is proving to be particularly so.

Michigan Republicans are seriously considering updating Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. And Agema’s outburst couldn’t come at a better time.

This gives GOP members on the fence a clear choice, do they want to move along with the rest of the country in the direction of inclusion, respect, and equality, or do they want, like Dave Agema, to stay a pretty despicable bunch? Do they think that protecting gay employees in Michigan would result in Agema’s bizarre pipe-dream or to they reject his blatant bigotry?

Thanks to Dave Agema, they know that their constituents will be paying close attention.

A Thanksgiving time memory

Timothy Kincaid

November 27th, 2013

When I was in my teens, Thanksgiving time meant anticipation mixed with dread.

On the one hand, there was my late-November birthday and the big turkey feast to look forward to. But on the other, Thanksgiving was when Harold Colbert came to town for a four day revival.

Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, and twice on Sunday, Brother Colbert preached fire and brimstone, railing against the evils of Coors Beer and White Owl Cigars (neither of which seemed to me to be the chief temptations of the congregation).

These were services in the true Pentecostal tradition: lots of singing, even more preaching, and ending with a prayer line in which those who felt the need for prayer for healing or blessing or reconsecration (which surely meant virtually every person in church) stood in line so that they could receive prayer with the laying on of hands.

Colbert would put olive oil on the index, middle, and ring finger of his right hand and touch it to the forehead of the one seeking prayer and call on the Almighty for blessing, deliverance or healing, whatever was needed.

Often the supplicants would be overcome by the power of the Holy Ghost, grow week in the knees and become slain in the spirit and, after being caught by those so assigned, would lie on the floor speaking in tongues. More often, should the supplicant not sufficiently feel the Holy Ghost, the power of Colbert’s right arm was there to assist.

While my father looked forward to Colbert’s revivals with excitement, I was decided less enthusiastic. As a pastor’s son, there was no chance of my skipping services, and as I didn’t find his sermons much instructive or uplifting, I had only hours of boredom to anticipate. But I did learn the art of stepping into a prayer line and mingling with the post-prayer parishioners returning to their seats, thus appearing to participate while avoiding strain on my neck.

And while I didn’t enjoy his sermons, I found the man charming and enjoyed the time he spent with our family. His stories took me outside of the small homogenous town and gave me a taste of something else, something bigger.

Colbert was one of the few African-Americans that we knew. Another was a church member and, filling out the roster, my sister-in-law’s nephew, whose father lived in Belize.

And based on this limited sample, we made our assumptions about black people.

You would think that this would result in universal adoration and a desire to rally against injustice. These were three people who we liked and about whom the only differences we could find was the hue of their skin. And certainly no one in our social circle would actively and intentionally discriminate or say hateful words or treat any of these people as inferior. That was un-Christian.

But quiet bigotry and long-standing prejudice are powerful things. Rather than see the physical examples of people in front of us and change the unspoken presumptions about what black people “are like”, our community subconsciously decided that there were two types of African Americans, our blacks, and those radicals down there in Oakland who were doing sit-ins and demanding bussing and protesting and causing all sorts of problems.

We didn’t actually know anything about the blacks in Oakland – other than what we read in the paper that scared and troubled us – but we liked our blacks. Probably more so because they weren’t the Oakland type.

It never occurred to us that the black people we knew and liked were just exactly like the ones who lived in Oakland, with the same opinions and the same anger about unfairness and indignity, and that the only difference was that they didn’t have the luxury of living somewhere that they could protest. It somehow even slipped our attention that Brother Colbert lived in Hayward, a stone’s throw from Oakland.

It was easier to just divide “them” into two groups. And though we didn’t use these terms, we did think in terms of the ‘good blacks’ – the few ones we knew and probably what ‘most real ones are like’ – and the ‘bad blacks’ who we read about in the paper.

I think that this is a common reaction when reality comes into contact with prejudice. Survival instinct has ingrained in our psyche a fear of the other people, the other tribe, the other cave. And letting go of the fear of the unknown is unsettling.

But we’re also geared to learn from experience. Which can set up a conflict.

Our solution is often to assign two entirely contradictory assumptions to the now-less-unknown group and arbitrarily assign its members according to how we perceive them to fit. That way we react from our experience – for some – but still cling to what we’ve read about or heard about or fear.

Even the gay community is not immune.

With regularity I hear about, how rural people “think”, what Republicans “are like”, what conservatives “want to do to us”, how Christians “really believe”. Sure we all know instances of rural Americans, Republicans, conservatives, and Christians (and even rural conservative Republican Christians) who don’t fit those presumptions, but seldom does that change our presumptions. Rather, we go by what we read about on the internet, what we fear.

And, to an even greater extent, we are the subject of this odd double-classification. Those who fight against the rights and equalities of gay people frequently do so while genuinely believing that they like gay people… just not the ones who are causing trouble.

Sarah Palin assures us that she has gay friends. Ex-gay groups for decades felt concern and pain for the poor person trapped in the homosexual lifestyle and railed against the militant activists who were forcing them to stay gay.

This month, when Rep. Jo Jordan, a Hawaiian legislator who is a lesbian, voted against equality, The Christian Post, Christianity Today, and Deseret News were but a few of those who rushed to tell the story and defend the woman from her homosexual critics, thus propping up their good gay/bad gay dichotomy.

But it is not only our opponents who have difficulty in letting go of presumptions and double-classification. Sometimes even those who have spoken in favor of civil equality can see gay people as either good or bad, depending on the extent to which we challenge their assumptions of superiority.

Take, for example, Alec Baldwin.

Baldwin, certainly no conservative, has long been a supporter of gay causes. If questioned, there is no doubt but that Baldwin would tell you that he believes – and genuinely so – that gay people should have all the same legal rights and privileges as heterosexuals and that those who disagree are biased and bigoted and hateful.

But Baldwin also has the bad habit of using anti-gay slurs or challenges to someone’s masculinity whenever displeased. Most recently he was caught on film by TMZ calling a photographer a “cock-sucking faggot”. He has since insisted that he called him a “cock-sucking fathead” or, alternately, a “cock-sucking maggot”, neither of which seem credible.

Personally, I don’t see this outburst as an indication of “secret homophobia”. I think it’s an example of a man who says things that he himself knows are unacceptable but who is emotionally out-of-control and has issues with masculinity.

But irrespective of whether Baldwin used the word “faggot” (he did), it is Baldwin’s latest assertion that illustrates that he, too, sees gay people not simply as people, but through the eyes of double-classification.

Baldwin, who was in negotiation for a show on MSNBC, has been dropped. And his response is sad, but perhaps to be expected. (Gothamist)

“Martin Bashir’s on the air, and he made his comment on the air! I dispute half the comment I made… if I called him ‘cocksucking maggot’ or a ‘cocksucking motherfucker’… ‘faggot’ is not the word that came out of my mouth. That I know. But you’ve got the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy—Rich Ferraro and Andrew Sullivan—they’re out there, they’ve got you. Rich Ferraro, this is probably one of his greatest triumphs. They killed my show. And I have to take some responsibility for that myself.”

You see, the good gays are okay… but those “fundamentalist gays” are intolerant. They don’t accept it when you accidentally toss out “faggot”. They don’t let you backtrack and claim you used “maggot” instead. They even object to “cocksucking” as an insult.

Baldwin makes the same mistake that my town made about blacks. He assumes that the people who are not directly confronting him must surely agree with him. He fails to see that we all, nearly every gay person, finds his behavior and language choices offensive. Even the hairdresser he pulled out to vouch for his non-homophobia.

This is not to suggest that every gay person should confront or denounce Alec Baldwin. That would accomplish little other than reduce his double-classification to a single classification: his enemy.

Certainly there would have been little accomplished had the few blacks we knew in our small town taken up the role of activist. They would have personally suffered and probably only inflamed racial strife.

But perhaps someone will have the standing and trust to speak to Baldwin about the reality of his offense and let him know that he needs to get off the defensive. Perhaps a ‘good gay’, not one of the ‘fundamentalist wing’, can break through.

I recall Harold Colbert talking to my parents about race issues. And to their credit, they listened. And while they’ve never quite conquered their own racial consciousness (my father recently described his doctor as “an Indian fella from India” but assured me that “he’s the best doctor around”), they’ve come a long way.

The road to equality and decency always requires those who stand firm and lay out their demands and the terms by which they are willing to live. The activists and the militants. The “fundamentalists”. Without Dr. King and the many other civil rights activists, there would have been no change.

But it has also been largely the gentle discussion of the ‘good blacks’ that let their neighbors know that these demands were not unreasonable. That it wasn’t just “some blacks in Oakland” who objected to poor education and discriminatory housing lending and tiny daily demeaning acts. And it was their often overlooked efforts that paved the road for much of America to stop seeing African Americans in terms of ‘what kind of black’ they were but in terms of what kind of person they were.

Much of time, anyway.