In the religious right’s effort to put a pretty face on its anti-gay bigotry, it has become standard for opponents of legal equality for LGBT people and their families to declare that they are not motivated by hatred but by love for gay people or for the institution of marriage. Of course, often in the next breath they are denouncing gays as demonic enemies of faith and freedom. One North Carolina pastor even said in April that allowing same-sex couples to marry would be the equivalent of a nuclear holocaust.
Equality advocates in North Carolina — whose energetic campaign has turned next Tuesday’s vote on a brutally broad anti-gay constitutional amendment into a closer-than-many-expected contest — have really been feeling the “love” from their opponents.
Perhaps the star of this sad show is the Rev. Patrick Wooden, whose outrageous diatribes have included reminiscing about times when anti-LGBT violence was considered “normal.” His violent, disturbing rhetoric has not prevented the National Organization for Marriage from embracing Wooden as a spokesperson for the constitutional amendment; in one video he claims “there’s no bigotry in it.”
But you don’t have to look far beyond Wooden’s own words to find just how much bigotry is “in it.”
• This week, the wife of a state senator sponsoring the anti-gay amendment reportedly stated that the amendment was needed because “the Caucasian race is diminishing and we need to uh, reproduce.”
• Pastor Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville encouraged churchgoers to squash “like a cockroach” any signs of effeminate behavior among their young sons and to essentially beat the gay out of them:
So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, “Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,” you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed.
Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.
And when your daughter starts acting to Butch you rein her in. And you say, “Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.”
When his remarks caused widespread outrage, he retracted them and said “these were not be best choice of words” and compared himself to Jesus, who, he said, also “conjures up violent images” when speaking figuratively, such as “If your hand is causing you to sin, cut it off.” But he affirmed his insistence that “gender distinctions matter to God.”
• That followed the posting of a video by a teenager shooting at a vote no sign he says someone put up near his house and concluding, “that’s how we deal with it around here.”