family values.

Today’s guest post comes from Fannie, a nonprofit
attorney in the Midwest who also heads the blog “Fannie’s Room: Political,
Social, and Homo Writings for Which the First Amendment May or May
Not Have Been Intended
“. The Family Equality Council would like
to thank Fannie for this insightful guest post.

What if 1.1
million Americans
could be mobilized to support initiatives
that actually benefited families? Instead, what we get from groups
who claim to exist to protect families are initiatives that, with
their vague and abstract goal of defending an institution that
heterosexuals have already redefined, do nothing but further divide
our nation and distract from solutions that could help families in
real ways.

The title of this post, at first glance, seems like a no-brainer to
many in the gay rights movement. We have known for a long time that
some groups have co-opted the phrase “family values,” imbued the
phrase with their own conservative and anti-gay values, and
repackaged these values as though they are universal “family
values.” The effect of this repackaging, of course, is that those
who do not agree with these values are, by definition,

But, do family values groups speak on behalf of most families?

families, consisting of a heterosexual married couple and their
biological offspring, at 24% of families
are far from a
universal model of family. In fact, it must be asked how relevant
“family values” groups are who idealize this family model and how
adequate such a universal model of family is in our diverse

In fact, “family values” groups are losing their ability to
monopolize the word “family.” For instance, a recent
headlining poll of over one thousand registered voters in
California found that a slight majority (51%) favored allowing gay
couples to marry.
These numbers are probably quite shocking to
those who get their anti-gay news solely from “family values”
sites. While these numbers may not predict the outcome of a future
contest to amend the constitution, they do indicate that the

recent California ruling
was not the action of “rogue” justices
acting contrary to most people’s current opinions. While anti-gay
forces like to paint an extremely lopsided opposition to marriage
equality, the reality is much different. This so-called culture war
is not a matter of a few “rogue” justices versus millions of
people. It’s millions of people versus millions of people.

For anyone paying attention to the trend in public opinion over the
years, the increasing support for marriage equality is not too
surprising. I find it incredible and encouraging that so many
heterosexuals are willing to support equality, see through the
propaganda that is constantly telling them that gay marriage will
be the downfall of society, and support the rights of a previously
largely-vilified minority group. The only surprising feature about
constitutional amendments banning same-sex couples from marriage is
not that these bans have passed, but that they have not passed by
much greater margins. After all, gay people only
constitute 1-2% of the entire population
, as some “family
values” groups claim!

In this article, I argue that “family values” groups are becoming
increasingly out of touch with what American families are and what
they want for our nation. The ideal of equality is not just some
elitist notion perpetuated by academics and radicals, it is a
concept that speaks to what America strives to be. That “family
values” groups force us as a nation to dedicate time, resources,
and money that could be much better spent addressing actual threats
to families is, perhaps, a testament to how these groups do not
actually benefit families.

Personally, I think many anti-gay “family values” groups are
possible hate groups, although this is not true of all such groups.
When I use the phrase “hate group” I use it in full acknowledgment
that the group in question likely objects to being called a “hate
group.” Not only is there no standard definition of “hate group,”

groups that have been labeled “hate groups” have turned around and
called the labeling group a “hate group.”
Humorously (and
sadly), however, it is interesting to note that
even the KKK objects to being called a hate group.

I like the Southern Poverty Law Center’s definition of “hate group”
because it makes an important distinction. Specifically, hate
groups “have
beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of
And, “anti-gay
groups are organizations that go beyond mere disagreement with
homosexuality by subjecting gays and lesbians to campaigns of
personal vilification.”
This qualifier is important and likely
one that anti-gay groups labeled as hate groups overlook. Anti-gay
groups that “merely” disagree with and object to homosexuality are
not necessarily hate groups. Let’s keep that in mind for the
duration of this article.

1. Most Americans Support Benefits

A particularly virulent anti-gay group that deigns to protect
“family values” is Americans for Truth [sic] About

Rather than merely disagreeing with homosexuality, it misrepresents
gay men, lesbians, our families, and our goals. For instance, a
recent article coming from this group is this inaccurate statement
ironically made in defense of a college baseball player accused of
committing a hate crime against a gay man:
“few on the Left hate like the homosexual activists (with radical
pro-abortion-on-demand feminists a close second).”
statement is part of AFT[sic]AH’s ongoing series documenting
“homosexual hate” a series that paints some gay people as hateful
and encourages the generalization that all gay people are,
therefore, hateful.

In my view, and this is a trait AFT[sic]AH shares with several
“family values” groups, there really seems to be no other purpose
to AFT[sic]AH than trying to ensure that gay people win no battle,
however large or small, in the struggle for equal rights. In doing
so, this group doesn’t merely disagree with homosexuality, it
vilifies gay men and lesbians. AFT[sic]AH founder Peter LaBarbera,
for instance, has written that
“organized homosexuality is a force for evil in our society

and that he “believes
that homosexual practice is always wrong but that people can leave
the homosexual lifestyle.”
Unfortunately, LaBarbera also
hyperbolically characterizes criticism of his articles and thinking
as “fanatical
” and has vilified those who disagree with him, such as
Pam Spaulding, as a
“radical lesbian” and a “vicious anti-Christian lesbian

I would be surprised, in fact, if he did not attempt to discredit
me in the same manner.

Too bad for Peter’s life mission, AFT[sic]AH doesn’t speak to, for,
or on behalf of most Americans. Despite the fact that most
Americans favor granting some sort of legal recognition to same-sex
AFT[sic]AH has opposed legislation that would grant same-sex
couples the dignity of even entering into civil unions.
In the
obsessively anti-gay mindset, civil unions are too close to
marriage, and we simply cannot have that. It’s all a slippery
slope, you know. If one-half of a gay couple can be on his/her
partner’s health insurance plan, marriage will be “deconstructed.”
And we all know where that leads. (Or do we?)

At the same time, these man-on-dog-end-of-the-world scare tactics
don’t work on most people anymore. Perhaps Americans find it
difficult to trust the accuracy and objectivity of the articles
written by a man who, for one recent example,
figuratively embraced Sally Kern and called it a “privilege” to
share an anti-gay platform with her.
Most Americans are willing
to concede that gay couples deserve at least some of the
protections, benefits, and rights of marriage even if they aren’t
ready to call same-sex unions “marriage.”

instance, 77% of registered voters in California surveyed support
either civil unions or marriage. A much smaller 19% believe that
same-sex couples deserve no legal recognition.
other polls
indicate that 54-56% of Americans believe that same-sex couples
deserve at least civil unions.

While substantial numbers of Americans still unfortunately want to
deny same-sex couples at least some legal recognition, the trend
leans toward greater tolerance over time. Polls from 8 years ago,
for instance, indicate that only 41-43% of Americans supported
civil unions.
What this trend means is that hate groups,
perhaps because of their amusing exaggerated predictions of future
harm and their unwillingness to concede anything to the other side,
are becoming more out of touch with most Americans. As anti-gay
hate groups grow more desperate, their rhetoric gets more
exaggerated, dishonest, and mean-spirited. Americans know that that
sort of speech isn’t indicative of “family values,” even though
groups are free to utter it. Further, this hyperbolic desperation
fails to speak to the real problems that American families are

2. Most Americans Realize that
Other Issues are More Important

There are several explanations as to why heterosexual Americans are
becoming more tolerant of homosexuality than in the past. For some
straight people, coming to know real life gay people has made them
realize that they had, thanks to anti-gay propaganda, been
seriously misinformed. For others, they became disgusted by the
ferocious anti-gay backlash and apparent obsessive zeal with which
their fellow Americans sought to deny equal rights to others.

Another likely explanation is that people are tiring of the issue.
In light of the very real problems and myriad other social issues
our nation is facing, it is difficult for many Americans to justify
a continued obsession with countering the “gay agenda.” While anti-gay
groups treat opposing the gay agenda as though it is the most
important issue we are facing,
the vast majority of Americans
do not believe that it is.

First off,
the efforts to “defend” marriage in California will cost upwards of
$30 million, according to recent estimates.
Many families,
something that “family values” groups are supposed to be
protecting, could benefit from that money. But are they? Defending
marriage, of course, means changing state constitutions to prohibit
two people of the same-sex from marrying. Okay. But once marriage
has been “saved,” then what? Surely, marriage would have to
perpetually be defended against a gay invasion. At what point would
groups that pride themselves on their family values begin to
address the myriad of other problems affecting American families
with a fraction of as much zeal as they devote to opposing

Why we should be concerned with “family values” groups that
obsessively focus on homosexuality is that they are largely
responsible, via their endless Action Alerts and anti-gay ballot
initiatives, for distracting voters from real issues.

See, Americans are beginning to realize that even if they pass
anti-gay amendments, the problems that actually affect them, their
families, and society are still inconveniently lingering. These
other “family” issues are sort of an 800-pound gorilla, ignored by
“family values” groups, that stubbornly refuses to go away just
because we have “defended marriage.”

What are these other issues that affect families in real ways?
While Peter LaBarbera believes that opposing homosexuality is a

“titanic struggle for the soul of our nation,”
back on Earth
70% of
Americans in a recent open-ended poll
listed either the
economy, jobs, war, health care, terrorism, or ethics in government
as their single most important issue in choosing the next
president. Other polls indicate that much larger percentages of
Americans are more concerned with non-gay-related issues than they
are with opposing everything gay.

In 2004, voters passed 11 of 11 constitutional
amendments banning gay marriage,
with a total of 26 bans in
effect. Now that that’s all settled in
Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Missouri, Arkansas,
Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota,
Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas,
South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Virginia and Kansas,
wonder how the families in these states are faring. Are their lives
better? Are they “safer” now? How are all of those children about
whom we are so concerned?

By many indicators, families in these (mostly) red states are
faring worse than they were since our president, and the anti-gay
“family values” chorus, opportunistically declared war on
non-nucular families. Record
numbers of American families are on food stamps,
47 million
Americans lack health insurance
unemployment continues to hover at around 5%
(compared to 4% 8
years ago), and the percentage of Americans
losing their homes in foreclosures are much higher than they were
last year.
Disturbingly, I see little or
no concern from “family values” groups about these indicators.

The one constant is these groups’ obsessive opposition to same-sex
marriage. Don’t have a job? Lost your house? It’s clear that we
should ban gay marriage!

Give me a break.

If our nation is indeed being ruined, it’s not gay people who are
doing the destroying. It’s anti-gay hate groups and “family values”
are because they insist on making an issue out of what is a
non-issue. By obsessively blaming the gays and proposing
simple-minded solutions to complex problems these groups are
woefully out of touch with the realities most families are facing.
But worse than that, they lack the ability to conceive of real
solutions to real problems. In due time, I predict that these
groups will be as irrelevant as Fred whatshisname’s anti-gay hate

It’s time that we, as Americans, stop falling for the lie that two
legitimate sides to this alleged culture war exist. When it comes
to tolerance versus hate, hate is not a viable alternative. And to
say that opposing gay rights is the most important battle of our
time is a sadly privileged and out-of-touch statement in a world
brimming with very real human suffering.

Fannie is a nonprofit attorney in the Midwest who also heads
the blog “Fannie’s Room:
Political, Social, and Homo Writings for Which the First Amendment
May or May Not Have Been Intended
“. She appreciates the work of
groups like Family Equality Council and would like to thank this
group for the opportunity to write a guest post.