It’s a common saying among pro-LGBTQ folks, “We just need to wait for some of these old guys to die off.” But based off of my observations so far at the Values Voters Summit, that old saying just isn’t true.
For years, national polling has shown that while voters over the age of 60 remain the largest group opposed to marriage equality, non-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people and other similar issues, voters under the age of 30 are swinging strongly in favor of equality in all of its aspects.
But that doesn’t mean we should kid ourselves into thinking that once “the old generation dies off” anti-LGBTQ sentiments will magically disappear.
Will things be easier once people like Tim Dolan, Bryan Fischer, Boyd K. Packer and others pass away eventually? Sure. But there’s a whole new young crop of arch-conservatives who are being trained to take their place.
“I don’t think homosexuality is natural, one of my best friends is a gay and he says he was abused by his step-dad when he was really little. I think that’s probably the case for most people who think they’re gay,” says Sarah, a 17 year old from Oregon who is attending the Values Voters Summit with her church group.
I also ran into Ian Ferth, a 19 year old who describes himself as a “Warrior for God” from Atlanta. “I just don’t see why someone would want to defy God like that [referring to gay people],” says Ferth. “God created us all equal, and that means we were all born in the natural order of things. It’s sad that some of these guys choose to oppose God and I want to attend theological school so I can preach to the world and show [gays] why they should repent.”
I’ve actually been shocked at the number of young kids attending the summit this year. Easily 30 percent of the audience appears to be younger than 35, and a large portion of that are under 20.
Conservative groups like Summit-organizer Family Research Council have been making concerted efforts recently to expand their base of young people, worrying that their followings will disappear quickly if they don’t. For many groups, that means creating clubs in high schools for kids, while in churches it means missionary work (the Mormon Church just recently lowered their age for missionaries from 19 to 18, hoping to get them into church work for two years before going off to college).
Some may find the dark irony in this conservative push to target kids younger and younger, while at the same time they continually push their talking points that “gays are recruiting your children!”
If there’s one lesson I’ve taken away so far today, it’s that as long as conservatives are training new “Warriors for God,” we’ve still got a long road ahead of us.