VIDEO: An Unexpected Voice for Gender Justice at Kenyan WCF Meeting

Poster for the African Regional Conference on Families, which took place on September 23-25th.

Poster for the African Regional Conference on Families, which took place on September 23-25th.

Last week, about a hundred people gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, for the African Regional Conference of Families, a regional conference for the World Congress of Families (WCF). The WCF, a U.S.-based international coalition of Religious Right groups dedicated to a very limited notion of “the natural family,” uses its frequent international convenings to develop and disseminate right-wing strategy. WCF uses deceptive “pro-family” rhetoric to promote conservative ideologies, which are then codified into regressive laws and policies that criminalize LGBTQ people and abortion.

Anti-gay and anti-abortion activist Don Feder, WCF’s Coalitions Director and Coordinator of Regional Conferences, opened the gathering with a speech in which he acknowledged WCF as the official sponsor of the Nairobi conference. Aside from presenting the sexual rights movement as a new form of slavery, Feder called on participants to work together to defend the natural family, which he described as “the institution on which the fate of humanity hinges.” But he also denied climate change as a hoax of the sexual revolution—a claim Michael Hichborn of the U.S. anti-abortion Lepanto Institute made the center of his presentation. Sharon Slater of the U.S.-based Family Watch International called on participants to oppose Comprehensive Sexual Education, denouncing the use of condoms and calling for abstinence only sex ed instead.

Other speakers included Alfred Rotich, a Catholic bishop from the Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops, who linked abortion to “accompanying vices such as necrophilia, bestiality, pedophilia, same-sex relationships as well as calls for free sex and reproductive health services for children!” Various speakers followed Rotich’s lead in linking LGBTQ issues and calls for greater reproductive rights in Africa with foreign interests and funders.

All of this was a familiar WCF script, but this time things didn’t go as planned. Just after WCF African representative Theresa‎ Okafor repeated the Christian Right claim that trans people are mentally ill—and blamed their identity on contraceptives—Gathoni Muchomba, a renowned Kenyan radio host, took the stage. In addition to being a famous media personality, Muchomba is the director of Gamafrica, a Kenyan NGO that recently launched a new initiative dedicated to supporting children with intersex conditions and their families. Although she was not included on the original list of speakers announced a day before the conference, from the podium, Muchomba issued a surprising call for the inclusion of intersex people in the new National Family Promotion and Protection Policy that was recently proposed by Kenya’s Ministry of Labor, a co-sponsor of the WCF Nairobi meeting.

Muchomba is hardly a traditional LGBTQI ally: she conflates gender identity and sexual orientation; didn’t know the meaning of the LGBTQI acronym; and warned that if Kenya doesn’t address intersex and trans issues, it won’t be able to fight “lesbianism.” And yet she nonetheless used her platform at WCF to bring attention to the suffering of intersex children, and unwittingly advanced the cause of sexual minorities.

Among the people who have motivated Muchomba’s advocacy is James Karanja, an intersex man who was raised as a girl. After declaring his gender identity as an adult, Karanja was treated as an outcast, but he has persisted in fighting for legal recognition as a man so that he can pursue a college education.

During her speech, Muchomba invited Karanja to address the WCF audience directly. Karanja (who does not identify as gay or transgender), told the right-wing gathering about the shame he experienced at his all-girls school, where he woke up at 3am to shower before his classmates arose; how he was later suspended because he was attracted to other girls; and how his mother suffered a mental breakdown after he came out as a man and said he was changing his name.

“I don’t want to see another child go through what I went through,” Karanja told the crowd.

James Karanja tells his story at the World Congress of Families-sponsored African Regional Conference of Families. See video below. (Photo: Political Research Associates)

James Karanja tells his story at the World Congress of Families-sponsored African Regional Conference of Families. See video below. (Photo: Political Research Associates)

WCF delegates heard a number of alarming stories about sexual minorities who are forced to live as outcasts, including a child who was raised as a boy but later came out as a girl, and who, like James, was subsequently forced to leave school. The public sharing of these stories comes just weeks after Kenyan parliamentarian Isaac Mwaura ‎asked lawmakers to consider a bill recognizing and accepting intersex people—a proposal that resulted from Muchomba and Karanja’s activism.

Although Mwaura’s proposed bill and Muchomba’s advocacy suggest advances in intersex and gender rights activism, the WCF poses a dangerous threat to this fragile progress, casting gender and sexual minorities as mentally ill. But amid their forum, Karanja delivered a message they won’t soon forget: that Africa has sexual minorities, and they are not a curse.

Karanja’s speech shocked the audience and was the talk of the conference during lunch and tea breaks. In response to Muchomba’s and Karanja’s unexpected departure from WCF positions, the conference speakers who followed them worked hard to dismiss Karanja’s story. Some blamed his experiences on his failure to obtain hormonal therapy as a child. (Many United Nations human rights bodies have recognized that medically unnecessary, non-consensual surgeries and other interventions on intersex children amount to human rights violations.) In an interview with me, Joshua Nwachukwu, the Nigerian co-founder of the African Organization for Families, a WCF affiliate and co-host of the conference, indicated that Karanja chose to be male. Had he sought medical care, Nwachukwu argued, Karanja “would have remained a girl.”

But some attendees seemed moved to at least reconsider their previous positions. Bishop Rotich told me that Karanja’s story illustrated the need for pastoral resources for caring for intersex people. That suggests the possibility that while African conference-goers may forget the abstract speeches of U.S. culture warriors like Sharon Slater, Don Feder, and Michael Hichborn, Karanja’s strong testimony on the need for dignity, respect, and rights may have a more lasting impact.

On September 23, Kenyan media personality Gathoni Muchomba and James Karanja speak on intersex rights in Nairobi, Kenya, at the World Congress of Families-sponsored African Regional Conference of Families. Karanja’s speech begins at 9:30. (Video filmed by Political Research Associates).

World Congress of Families Descends on Africa

Poster for next week's African Regional Conference on Families.

Poster for the African Regional Conference on Families scheduled to take place in Nairobi next week.

Next week, the World Congress of Families (WCF) will host a regional conference in Nairobi, Kenya. For several years, PRA has tracked and reported on the WCF’s role in the U.S. Religious Right’s global export of homophobia and sexism, and the organization’s increasing focus on Africa is of grave concern.

WCF’s international convenings function as key sites of right-wing strategy development and dissemination. From its headquarters in Rockford, Illinois, WCF and its member organizations use deceptive “pro-family” rhetoric to promote conservative ideologies that dictate who counts as “family,” and who doesn’t (that is, any and all “nontraditional” families such as those constructed by single parents, same-sex couples, grandparents, non-biological guardians, etc.). These ideologies are then codified into regressive laws and policies that criminalize LGBTQ people and abortion, condoning and promoting the ongoing persecution, oppression, and violence experienced by women and LGBTQ people around the world.

WCF’s presence in Kenya has the potential to do real damage in a country that has been in the crosshairs of the U.S. Christian Right for many years. In 2010, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) opened an office in Nairobi, just as Kenya was debating a new constitution that included controversial addendums to its penal code regarding abortion. As Mother Jones reported, the ACLJ, founded by American televangelist Pat Robertson, “was among the most vocal opponents of the new constitution,” pledging to spend “tens of thousands of dollars” on the effort to defeat the constitution. Speaking to Christianity Today about the establishment of the “East African Center for Law and Justice” (ACLJ’s Nairobi branch), the group’s then-director of international operations, Jordan Sekulow, explained, “We’re looking long-term in Kenya because it’s such an influential country throughout Africa.”

Though abortion remains illegal, the new constitution—which was approved by a 67 percent majority—carved out exceptions if “in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.” Despite these allowances, quality maternal health care and safe and legal abortion services remain largely inaccessible in Kenya.

Reporting on the aftermath of Kenya’s constitutional referendum, the progressive group Catholics for Choice warned, “[E]xternal forces, predominantly US evangelists, maintain a disproportionate level of influence in Kenya, beyond the debate on abortion. Ample political and financial resources allowed U.S. fundamentalists and anti-reproductive rights groups to establish offices in Kenya and recruit local staff. This presence might yet prove to be a springboard for more aggressive action in other parts of Africa. The activities of these outside religious groups should be closely watched, as they are placed to continue advancing their agenda to deny access to sexual and reproductive health services needed by many.”

Indeed, the influence of the U.S. Christian Right continues to wreak havoc in Kenya. As PRA’s senior religion and sexuality researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma notes, WCF’s upcoming African Regional Conference on Families “may be called African in name only.” As Kaoma argues, “It is a U.S. conservative conference on African soil.”

The African Regional Conference on Families is scheduled to take place at the Hotel Intercontinental in Naiborbi, Kenya on September 22-24, 2016. (Image: conference promotional video available at https://youtu.be/CCw4Z9KqDdo)

The African Regional Conference on Families is scheduled to take place in Nairobi, Kenya on September 22-24, 2016. (Image: Conference promotional video available at https://youtu.be/CCw4Z9KqDdo)

The headlining speakers at WCF events are typically high-profile leaders of the U.S. Christian Right who are uniformly pursuant of an international anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ agenda. In the case of the upcoming Nairobi conference, Sharon Slater, President of Arizona-based Family Watch International, and Don Feder, WCF’s Director of Coalitions, will both be speaking. Additionally, Michael Hichborn, President of the right-wing Lepanto Institute, will present on behalf of the Population Research Institute. Hichborn, a Catholic anti-abortion activist based in Virginia, has referred to homosexuality as a “disordered condition” comparable to kleptomania and alcoholism and warns, “Western civilisation is on the brink of a moral implosion.”

In his foreword to Kaoma’s 2012 exposé, “Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa,” PRA’s Executive Director Tarso Luis Ramos wrote:

In Black Skin, White Masks French-Algerian psychiatrist and anti-colonial activist Frantz Fanon famously wrote of the colonized African’s aspiration to imitate the culture and manners of White colonizers. Sixty years later, we find White Christian Right neocolonialists seeking legitimacy through a process of Africanizing the local leadership of their operations and leveling charges of neocolonialism against Western governments and international human rights groups when they advocate for the human rights of women and LGBTQ people. This tactical inversion of the colonial relationships described by Fanon might aptly be characterized as “White skin, Black masks.”

As Kaoma observes, “The upcoming WCF conference confirms PRA’s research on the Christian Right’s attempts to hide behind African faces. By whitewashing its activities with African masks, U.S. conservative organizations are transforming African sexual politics. ”

Ann Kioko is WCF’s newest mask-wearer, joining Theresa Okafor, WCF’s African regional director. Kioko, who describes homosexuality as a “learned behaviour” imported from the West, is president of the African Organization for Families and WCF’s lead conference organizer. She has worked for U.S. Christian Right groups such Culture of Life, Human Life International, and previously worked as the Program Manager for the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, a partner organization of the East African Center for Law and Justice.

Another concerning speaker on the schedule is Stephen Langa, founder and executive director of Family Life Network Uganda. In March 2009, Langa hosted the infamous “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda,” which featured several U.S. Christian Right speakers, including Massachusetts-based American pastor Scott Lively. Lively’s presentation provided the raw material for what would become Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill (commonly referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill due to death penalty clauses in the original draft).

When a draft of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (AHB) initially came before Parliament in April 2009, Langa was among a handful of religious leaders singled out by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to help advance the legislation. Langa was later indicted as one of four Ugandan co-conspirators in an ongoing U.S. federal lawsuit brought by Sexual Minorities Uganda, an LGBTQI advocacy group, against Scott Lively for “crimes against humanity.”

Langa, who hosted a service in 2013 to “celebrate the passing of the AHB into law and for preserving the sovereignty of our Nation,” sees his crusade against LGBTQI people as “a conflict between the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God.” Now he’s helping to stoke the flames of that Western neocolonial crusade to Kenya.

Behind the Black masks of African fronts like Langa and Kioko, American activists like Slater, Feder, Hichborn, and other White, U.S. Christian Right stakeholders can gain access to politicians, religious authorities, and civic leaders. The organizers in Kenya have already indicated that Phyllis Kandie, Cabinet Secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection will be attending, and the agenda includes a closed door meeting exclusively for conference speakers, members of parliament, and dignitaries.

According to Kaoma, “Hiding behind African masks is the most effective route to Africa’s corridors of power.” WCF has observed this neocolonial dynamic, too, and is now positioning itself in Kenya to take full advantage of it, using a strategy that’s eerily similar to the formula documented by PRA in the lead up to Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

Who was behind Michigan GOP’s one-two punch against LGBTQ working families?

As 2015 winds to a close, Michiganders–especially working people and LGBTQ folks–are reeling from right-wing assaults on both their pocketbooks and their civil rights. I am referring to the one-two punch of new laws passed during the summer legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder. These new laws effectively roll back decades of progress made by community and labor organizing in the state; at the same time, they represent dots along a disturbing trend line that people in many other states need to see more clearly in order to avoid the same fate.

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan
(photo via Flickr courtesy of Michigan Municipal League)

First, the one punch: Dubbed the “death star,” HB 4052 is a state preemption, or local interference, law passed by the legislature that bans cities from enacting their own laws governing wages and benefits. (Note: although the original bill would have banned cities from passing LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinances, that provision was stripped out.) Signed in June by Gov. Snyder, the new law blocks cities in Michigan from enacting living wage laws, mandating paid sick days, or passing laws on any other workplace-related issues. Such interference with local control is becoming more common. It may come as a shock to some readers that nearly all states have already done away with cities and towns’ ability to pass local gun control laws; not quite as many states have blocked local control of tobacco, e-cigarettes, and environmental regulations, but this is indeed a trend that organizers can no longer ignore. In these states, an organizing victory in a single city is at risk of being preempted by state law. (A clickable map of such laws is available here, although it may not be completely up to date.)

The second punch to hit Michiganders during this summer’s legislative session was a statewide religious freedom restoration act, or RFRA law, that awards adoption agencies the right to claim a religious exemption from having to serve LGBTQ couples. Though it is narrower in scope than a much broader failed RFRA bill that would have allowed any individual or business to claim the right to discriminate against LGBTQ persons because of a “sincerely held religious belief”, the adoption RFRA will have a chilling effect on LGBTQ families in the state.

With the help of a researcher based in Western Michigan, PRA looked into what groups and funders were behind this one-two punch in the Wolverine State. What we found: Although there are two separate sets of right-wing groups lobbying for the anti-local control law and the RFRA laws, they share an important common funder: the DeVos family, billionaire founders and heirs of the Amway fortune.

Although there are two separate sets of right-wing groups lobbying for the anti-local control law and the RFRA laws, they share an important common funder: the DeVos family, billionaire founders and heirs of the Amway fortune.

Michigan provides us with an instructive lesson in how the Right can deploy a multi-pronged policy strategy. In the case of the local interference “death star” bill, the Corporate Right used its corporate lobbying groups to lobby noisily for the bill. The groups that spoke in favor of the bill and are part of the public record were the National Federation of Independent Business, Associated General Contractors of Michigan, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to research by the Lansing-based Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the National Federation of Independent Business had spent $202,036 on lobbying in Michigan for the first seven months of 2015 while the US Chamber of Commerce spent $64,000 on lobbying during the same time period.

Dick and Betsy DeVos  (Grand Rapids Press File Photo)

Dick and Betsy DeVos
(Grand Rapids Press File Photo)

At the same time, though, the DeVos-funded Michigan Freedom Fund, which is run by DeVos family operative Greg McNeilly (who ran Dick DeVos’ failed 2006 campaign for governor), pushed hard behind the scenes for the local interference bill. The vote for the bill ultimately split along party lines, with a handful of Republican lawmakers opposing it in both the House and Senate. With a GOP majority, this meant the bill passed, and Governor Snyder signed it with gusto.

The newly enacted RFRA legislation would mean that a child placing agency (for adoption or foster care) could not be required to provide any services if those services conflicted with the agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” contained in a written policy, statement of faith, or other document adhered to by the agency. This applies also to referrals made by the Department of Human Services for foster care management or adoption services under a contract with the department. An agency could decline such referrals. Those wanting to limit LGBTQ couples/families from adopting in Michigan have been proposing similar legislation since 2005.

This includes the DeVos family, as well as the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. The Princes, who made their fortune in auto parts manufacturing, are another politically active ultra-wealthy Michigan family. One of their sons is Erik Prince, founder of the defense contractor/security firm Blackwater. And with Betsy DeVos as a daughter, the political alliance between the two families remains strong.

Several members of the two committees that helped write the adoption RFRA laws received contributions from individuals or organizations that are hostile towards LGBTQ rights and equality.

Several members of the two committees that helped write the adoption RFRA laws received contributions from individuals or organizations that are hostile towards LGBTQ rights and equality. Rep. Kathy Crawford and Senator Tom Casperson both received $9,000 in support from the DeVos family, and Rep. Andrea LaFontaine (R), who introduced HB 4188, received $8,100 from the DeVos Family, according to research by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. This may not be a shock to those from Michigan, who know the DeVoses are the most politically active donors in the state in recent years. But the DeVoses also funded some of the groups, such as Michigan’s largest adoption agency Bethany Christian Services, that lobbied hard for the adoption RFRA: the most recent 990 documents (2013) for the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation show that they contributed $250,000 to Bethany Christian Services. The Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation provided $25,000 to Bethany in 2013.

Another group that lobbied for the adoption RFRA was Michigan Family Forum, an affiliate of CitizenLink, the state policy network of the Family Research Council. Michigan Family Forum used its longstanding connections to Christian Right politicians and networks across the state to mobilize voters and lawmakers to support this set of bills. Major donors to the Michigan Family Forum in recent years include the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation, which contributed $15,000 in 2014.

The DeVoses, and to a lesser extent the Princes, have their thumb on the scales of public policy in Michigan. But what does this mean for other states? Where else are these ultra-wealthy political donor families pushing to stop towns and cities from exercising their democratic right to local control? And where else might they be trying to stop LGBTQ people from gaining more human and civil rights? PRA is looking into these and other questions; watch this space for more.

Jeff Smith contributed research and writing to this report.

Top Uganda Politician: Western Gays Adopting Children to Turn Them Gay

As Uganda awaits the passage of the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Speaker of the Parliament Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, one the nation’s biggest political powerhouses, is ramping up her U.S. conservative-fed talking points. Her recent speech resulted in a headline in The Uganda Daily Monitor reading, “Gay groups targeting church leaders, schools – Kadaga.”

Uganda's Speaker of the Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga

Uganda’s Speaker of the Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga

Speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of St. Stephen’s Church in Uganda on November 30, Kadaga repeated the U.S. culture warriors’ claim that “computers and books donated to (underfunded and technology starved) schools are installed with software and literature that promote homosexuality in the institutions.” She went on to say, “Homosexuals are recruiting members of religious institutions,” and homosexuals are now “adopting” vulnerable children and turning them gay. “Be very careful because gays are here to distort our heritage. We have discovered that they adopt our children and confine them in gay communities abroad to train them on gay practices. By the time they come back home, they are already influenced by homosexuality and are used to influence others in the community,” Kadaga told her audience.

As Speaker of the Parliament, Kadaga’s words ought to be taken seriously. Being one of the most powerful people in Uganda, she holds the key to the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill which has potential to destroy countless families if passed into law.

Since coming to power in 2011, Kadaga has become the center of the government’s power structure and a fierce campaigner of anti-gay laws. In 2012, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird confronted Kadaga about Uganda’s record on human and sexual rights during the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Quebec, Canada. Kadaga rebuffed Baird’s pleas for a fair treatment of LGBTQ Ugandans, saying “If homosexuality is a value for the people of Canada they should not seek to force Uganda to embrace it. We are not a colony or a protectorate of Canada.” She went on to promise to pass the infamous Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009.

The original Anti Homosexuality Act (formerly known as the “Kill the Gays” bill) was signed into law in February of 2014, before being struck down by the court for a procedural violation during the Parliament’s vote. Since then, Kadaga has surpassed Uganda president Yoweri Museveni in her zeal to fight homosexuality and “protect” Uganda’s heritage.

But the power of Kadaga stems from her close ties with both the U.S. conservative evangelicals and anti-gay pastors such as Martin Ssempa. Aside from receiving conservative funding from U.S. culture warriors, these vitriolic pastors won’t rest until Kadaga gives them the new anti-gay law, which includes prison sentences up to 15 years for LGBTQ Ugandans, human rights advocates and straight allies.

Kadaga’s claim about computers and books being used to promote homosexuality are direct quotes from claims that have been made by U.S. conservatives such as Scott Lively and Lou Engle during their visits to Uganda.

In fact, Lively used this claim in 2009 to lobby Ugandan parents to reject UNICEF’s books. He later described the effort, saying “On the TV show we exposed a book distributed to schools by UNICEF that normalizes homosexuality to teenagers. (We expect a massive protest by parents, who are mostly not aware that such materials even exist in their country, let alone in their childrens’ classrooms.)”

Likewise, Lou Engle said Uganda must oppose UNICEF “at all costs.” And Sharon Slater, co-founder of Family Watch International, making similar accusations about the United Nations itself.

Moreover, Kadaga’s claim that religious leaders are being recruited by western homosexuals should not be viewed as something new either. The same claims were made during the now-infamous March, 2009, Anti-Gay Strategic Meeting at Triangle Hotel in Kampala. In October 2012, the court convicted six of Speaker Kadaga’s friends—among them were Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male—for character assassination of Ugandan Pastor Kayanja. Each were sentenced to either six months in prison or a fine of Shs1 million (about $400 U.S.) and 100 hours of community service. They all chose the latter.

Reading between the lines, there is another aspect to Kadaga’s claims—the changing religious landscape of Africa’s homophobia. After many unchallenged years of demonizing sexual minorities and human rights activists by U.S. culture warriors and their African allies, pro-human rights clergy are growing slowly on the continent. Many are realizing that the U.S.-born campaigns of demonization and violence against sexual minorities goes against their religious convictions. As the KwaZulu Natal Declaration showed, some African clergy opposed to the violent persecution of sexual minorities are now speaking out. In almost all Sub-Saharan African countries, religious voices against hate are slowly emerging. Since these leaders are preaching love and acceptance of sexual minorities as opposed to hatred, anti-gay pastors’ voices are now being challenged. To dismiss their critical voices, they are being branded as homosexuals themselves. African anti-gay pastors and their U.S. Right allies have entirely branded affirming Religious leaders such as Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo of Uganda, Revds. MacDonald Sembereka of Malawi, Benebo Fubara-Manuel of Nigeria, Michael Kimindu of Kenya, this author, and many others as homosexuals. Regardless, their numbers are growing—forcing anti-gay pastors and their Western allies into social panic.

Kadaga’s claim to have discovered Western homosexuals adopting African children and “confining them in gay communities abroad to train them on gay practices” is certainly a new low in her attempts to vilify LGBTQ people. Kadaga does not, of course, have any evidence for such claims—it is just another way anti-gay groups incite hatred against gay communities. African sexual minorities and their allies are also frequently accused of receiving “millions of dollars” to recruit people into homosexuality. The reality, however, being that the majority of LGBTQ people in Africa live in extreme poverty.

It is interesting that Speaker Kadaga, and not President Museveni, made these claims about LGBTQ Ugandans at this particular religious event—the space Museveni has usually used to demonize gays in the past. Does this suggest that Museveni would veto the new Anti Homosexuality bill?

Museveni may wish to veto the legislation when the Parliament inevitably passes it again—this time without the procedural mistake—in order to save face with the international community and preserve the country’s approximately $118 Million in foreign aid Uganda receives each year. With Kadaga on the helm, however, the Parliament could easily override the veto by simply passing the bill two more times. This backs Museveni into a no-win situation. As for Kadaga, she would emerge as a hero—as she did it in 2012, 2013, and 2014 when she used her position to challenge the West, pass the Bill and force Museveni to sign it into law.

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LGBTQ Rights – African Politicians’ Biggest Scapegoat

President Robert Mugabe (left) and President Yahya Jammeh (right)

President Robert Mugabe (left) and President Yahya Jammeh (right)

On April 18th, as the Christian world gathered to mark Good Friday, Zimbabweans also celebrated the 34th anniversary of their independence from British colonial rule. President Robert Mugabe, the longest serving dictator in Southern Africa, used the opportunity to attack LGBTQ Zimbabweans.

“We did not fight for this Zimbabwe so it can be a homosexual territory,” he exclaimed, building upon the narrative (introduced by U.S. culture warriors in Africa) that LGBTQ Westerners are invading African countries to recruit children. He then threatened to expel foreign diplomats—including, presumably, the U.S. ambassador—who are sympathetic to the plight of sexual minorities: “If there are any diplomats who will talk of any homosexuality, just tell me. We will kick them out of the country without any excuse.”

Mugabe’s words came exactly two months after Gambian President Yahya Jammeh made similar commentsduring his country’s 49th independence anniversary. “We will fight these vermins [sic] called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” Jammeh declared. “We will therefore not accept any friendship, aid or any other gesture that is conditional on accepting homosexuals or LGBT as they are now baptized by the powers that promote them. … As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhea, Bacteria and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence.”

The dangerous rhetoric from Jammeh and Mugabe isn’t new to the continent. Mugabe has previously referred to gay people as “worse than pigs and dogs,” a sentiment echoed by the late president of Malawi, Bingu Wa Mutharika, and many other African political and religious leaders.

Many people ask why these leaders and presidents are making such horrific statements about their own LGBTQ/I populations when many African sexual minorities are already living in hiding and fear for their lives. What needs to be understood is that these words are almost always used in the context of attacking the West or Western culture. By adopting the claim that homosexuality is foreign to Africa and only exists because of the West, their denouncement of homosexuality is seen as fighting back against historic neo-colonialism or imperialism—which, in turn, gains broad praise from their constituents.

It is true that Western nations have not always acted in the interest of Africa (to put it mildly), but to use the West as an excuse to persecute and imprison innocent persons is appalling. Politicians like Mugabe and Jammey, who have robbed their respective nations of billions of dollars, are also responsible for their countries’ dire economic states. These African leaders condemn the West and scapegoat gays to distract from real issues facing their nations and to hide their own incompetence, corruption, and despotism.

But this raises another question: Do we, as Africans, have moral standards for our own speech to which we hold ourselves accountable? Are we so blinded by hate for gays that we don’t see their humanity? Even those who may not agree that LGBTQ/I persons should have full equality under the law should, at the very least, all agree that it is immoral for the head of State to rob citizens of their humanity? Is it not immoral that our religious leaders sit back in silence as politicians compare our fellow human beings to dogs, vermin, leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis?

It is ironic that both Mugabe and Jammeh spoke their words during their countries’ independence celebrations, which recognized that they were once considered less than fully human by colonial governments. These leaders have forgotten that it is not long ago that it was we who were dehumanized—a time when murdering an African was viewed as lesser evil. Do none of my fellow countrymen see anything wrong with using the same words against our own people?

As Africans, we need no reminder that the first step on the path towards genocide is to erase your opponents’ humanity. In Rwanda, the Tutsi were dehumanized as cockroaches—helping thereby to justify their slaughter. Another historical parallel can be made to the Jews (and the gays) in Nazi Germany when their lives were reduced to reviled caricatures.

Of course, the ultimate irony of this sad tale is that it is not LGBTQ people who are foreign to Africa, but rather the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that is being used against them. Jammeh’s and Mugabe’s words were so heavily influenced by U.S.-based conservatives—people like Sharon Slater, Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren, and U.S.-based organizations like the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). They are all among hundreds of other U.S. culture warriors, who deny that LGBTQ rights are human rights, and work to spread their beliefs in Africa where there are already few legal, religious, or police protections for African sexual minorities.

It is time for all nations of the world, alongside religious leaders, churches, and organizations, to defend the humanity of sexual minorities on the African continent. LGBTQ individuals are human beings with human rights to be protected and defended, and to sanction their destruction is a crime against humanity. The global community must openly demand human rights for all humans regardless of their sexual orientation.

If we do not, then leaders like Presidents Jammeh and Mugabe will continue to use American conservatives’ words to incite the slaughter of their own citizens. Africa has entered a phase in which the genocide against sexual minorities is in sight.

ISSUE BRIEF: This Month In LGBTQ Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in LGBTQ Justice.

Ecuador’s “Gay Addiction” Clinics Continue Torturous Practices
On November 7th, the Union and Hope Clinic in Pisuli, Ecuador was raided by police. The clinic is one of many in Ecuador that deals with “gay addiction,” and uses rape and torture as clinical tools to “cure” people of homosexuality. Seven people were arrested after the police found patients in “inhumane conditions.” The seventeen people rescued from the clinic adds to the approximately 500 people who have been freed from such clinics this past year. Carina Vance Mafla, Ecuador’s openly lesbian health minister, has vowed to work with LGBTQ organizations to shut down these clinics. The Health Ministry has already ordered the closure of 30 clinics, although many have already re-opened under different names. An article published recently in the Sunday Times focuses on the practice of kidnapping people, with parental consent, to be sent to these clinics to be “cured” of homosexuality.

Suggestive Pants Amount to Homophobic Act In Lithuania
A recent survey shows that Lithuanians have become less tolerant of homosexuals, and more tolerant of their homophobic neighbors in Russia. Recently, Petras Grazulis, a member of the Law and Order Party in Lithuania who is known for his anti-gay views, personally delivered a pair of pants with a zipper on the rear to the Lithuania Gay League (LGL). LGL members had been taking part in a European Union conference on hate crimes in Vilnius, and it appears that Grazulis’s actions were in response to this. Back in May 2012, Gazulis crashed an LGBTQ rights event and declared that all gays should leave the country, asking, “How are homosexuals better than necrophiliacs or pedophiles?” Grazulis’s actions can be seen as part of a greater trend towards homophobia and transphobia in Lithuanian politics. In December the Lithuanina parliament is slated to consider five separate anti-gay and anti-trans bills, including a ban on gender reassignment and a legislation legalizing hate crimes against LGBTQ people.

ENDA Loses Momentum in the U.S. House

John Boehner currently sees “no need or no basis” for ENDA.

While the Senate passed the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) on November 7, progress on the legislation has hit a wall in the House.   LGBTQ rights advocates have been pushing for an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The White House has been withholding with the order, citing the need for Congress to act. While an executive order would not be be as comprehensive as ENDA, it would protect as many as 16 million workers while the legislation stalls in the House. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he sees “no need or basis” for ENDA, and is refusing to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. In response to Boehner’s dismissal of ENDA’s necessity, LGBTQ advocates cite the plurality of states in the U.S. where there is no law in place prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Currently, 22 states have statutes that explicitly prohibit sexual orientation-based employment discrimination. Eighteen states have gender identity and anti-discrimination laws in place. A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that there are relatively few discrimination complaints in states with such laws.

Fenway Institute to Host Webinar on Transgender Health
The National LGBT Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute will host a webinar entitled “Transgender Medical Care: Advanced Case Discussion” on December 10 from 3-4 pm EST. Their website was launched in 2012 as part of LGBT Awareness Month, and provides educational programs, resources, and consultation to health care organizations with the goal of optimizing quality, cost-effective health care for LGBT people. All webinars are available on-demand.

NOM’s 990 Reveals They Finished 2012 $2.7M In the Red
A recently released 990 tax form reveals the the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) finished 2012 $2.7 million in the red (although Maggie Gallagher is still somehow pulling $160K from them). Some people have seen the 990 as an indicator that NOM can no longer profit from their anti-LGBT agenda. NOM and the Far Right may be losing the battle to define marriage in this country, but there are other wells for them to draw from in the LGBT community, and NOM seems to be aware of this. The Supreme Court struck down a key section of DOMA and invalidated California’s Prop 8, but NOM has recently joined the fight against a bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown that allows students to define their gender for themselves, choose which restroom they want to use, and decide whether they wish to play on male- or female-gendered sports teams. NOM may have had a rough year in 2012, but if the fight for transgender rights turns out to be NOM’s newest cash cow, 2014 could see their anti-LGBT agenda become lucrative again.

World Congress of Families Hosts Discussion on Family Policy Abroad
The anti-gay World Congress of Families (WCF) hosted a discussion in Washington, D.C. on “What America Should Learn” from family policy abroad. The meeting was originally intended to be held in a Senate meeting room, but Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) withdrew his sponsorship after an outcry from LGBT activists. House Speaker John Boehner then provided the group with a meeting space. During the discussion, the WCF touched on the subject of encouraging the growth of grassroots conservative movements in France, Spain, and Nigeria. Much of the discussion, however, centered on how the U.S. media has “distorted” the Russian anti-propaganda law. “They are trying to build a pro-family movement in Russia, and we’re working with them,” said Allen Carlson, founder and international secretary of WCF. The World Family of Congress is an organization that has become infamous for both exporting conservative ideologies from the U.S. as well as brining conservative ideals and strategies back into the country. The group will be holding their 2014 summit in Moscow.

Scott Lively Has A “Theory” About the Anti-Gay Violence In Russia
While on “Mission America”, Linda Harvey’s radio show, Scott Lively espoused his theory on the true nature of the anti-gay violence in Russia. Lively is claiming that the widely seen (thanks to YouTube) violence against LGBT people in Russia is actually to “gay-on-gay crime”. Lively alleged, “The guys that are beating up gays in Russia—and it’s not any more prevalent than it ever has been really and it isn’t all that prevalent at all—but the ones that are doing it are butch homosexuals who are beating up effeminate homosexuals.” Lively, known for his work exporting homophobia to Uganda, has recently turned his attention to Russia (perhaps because he is on trial for crimes against humanity in Uganda). In October, he participated in a planning meeting for WCF’s 2014 conference in Moscow.

Harry Reid Says Mormon Views On LGBT Rights “Evolving”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that members of his faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), are evolving their views on LGBT rights, citing recent support of church members for ENDA.  While it may be true that members of the church are evolving their views, recent news of the Church itself, the body that governs LDS members, shows little sign of change. The Church has continually told its members that it is their duty to oppose gay marriage, saying that “unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has declared told to be unchangeable.” One of the Church’s highest leaders, Russell M. Nelson, recently said, “Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood or misconstrued.” While it is encouraging that members of the church may be changing their views on LGBT rights, the Church itself, which yields a great deal of financial and ideological influence in U.S. government, continues to oppose marriage equality. In Hawaii, before marriage equality was passed earlier this month, the Mormon Church lobbied extensively against the law.

Being Gay Now Grounds For Asylum in European Union
The EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, ruled this month that being gay is now grounds for asylum. LGBT people fearing imprisonment in their home countries will now have grounds for seeking asylum in any of the 28 EU member states. The case in question centered on three gay men from Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Senegal who had unsuccessfully fought to be given refugee status in the Netherlands. The Dutch Council of State asked whether homosexuals could be considered a “particular social group”, since under international law a particular social group with a well-founded fear of persecution can claim refugee status if the persecution amounts to a severe violation of human rights. The Court ruled existence of laws imprisoning gay people “may constitute an act of persecution”, although the mere existence of a ban on homosexuality is not grounds in itself for seeking an asylum request.

This Past Month Has Been Big For Marriage Equality

http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/

In slightly less than a month, three states have passed marriage equality. On October 21, LGBT New Jerseyans began to marry at midnight. Just hours later, Gov. Chris Christie announced his plans to drop his appeal of the law. On November 13, in Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a marriage equality law after a Special Session during which legislators discussed why marriage equality matters to same-sex couples and their families. LGBT people in Hawaii will begin to marry on December 2. Finally, on November 20, in Illinois, Gov. Pat McQuin signed the freedom to marry law after it was approved earlier this year by the State House and Senate. LGBT couples will begin marrying there in June, 2014. As of right now, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marriage equality, with over 38% of the U.S. population living in these states. It also seems possible that the high court in New Mexico may rule in favor of marriage equality by the end of the year, although some state Republicans are already creating a plan to strike back by pursuing a statewide constitutional referendum to ban the unions.

ISSUE BRIEF: This Month in LGBTQ Justice

LGBT Flag

Every week, PRA gives you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in LGBTQ Rights.

Providence College Cancels Debate With Prominent LGBTQ Defender
John Corvino, who has made a name for himself debating Maggie Gallagher, was due to give a lecture titled, “The Meaning of (Gay) Marriage” on September 26 at the Catholic-affiliated Providence College. A day before the lecture was scheduled, the provost of Providence College sent a message to the faculty, staff, and students, explaining that he was canceling Corvino’s lecture, citing his concern that “the event had strayed from what had originally been proposed.” The provost went on to say that he did not feel that it was fair to have a theologian staff member debate Corvino, who was to present his argument from a legal-philosophical perspective. Corvino then responded to the cancellation of his lecture, stating his disappointment with the provost.

First Ever Ministerial Meeting on LGBTQ Rights at United Nations, Russia Suspiciously Absent
On September 26, the UN held its first ministerial meeting on LGBTQ rights. According to the official brief, during the meeting the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navi Pallay, highlighted the progress made in securing rights for LGBT people in the past decade, while also citing Eastern Europe and African countries as places where conditions are deteriorating. Free & Equal, an initiative of the United Nations Human Rights Office launched in July as a global public information campaign to promote respect for the human rights of LGBTQ people, released a three-minute highlight video from the meeting.

Pro-LGBTQ Christian Website Launches
On September 4, the NALT Christian Project launched. NALT stands for Not All Like That, and the website is a joint venture of Truth Wins Out and John Shore. The website allows Christians to upload videos in support of LGBTQ rights. Dan Savage, whose It Gets Better Campaign website inspired the format of the NALT website, came out as a supporter for the project. Peter Labarbera and Matt Barber lambasted NALT and Savage on a Liberty Counsel televised program, Faith & Freedom.

NOM Wants To Know Where You Are Going to the Bathroom
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has expanded its scope beyond the marriage debate and is looking into school bathrooms. In a blog post titled “We Can Help Stop the Madness In California”, Brian Brown put NOM’s support behind an effort to repeal a law in California that allows transgender students to use the bathrooms that conform to their gender identity while in school. Brown chastises the state’s residents, stating “We warned Californians during the Proposition 8 campaign that once marriage was redefined, it would open the floodgates to more proposals to use the public schools to push our opponents’ activist agenda.” NOM is currently working with the Privacy for All Students Coalition towards gathering the necessary amount of signatures to get the repeal on the ballot.

Only a Handful of People Attend Voice of the Voiceless (VoV) Dinner
VoV president Christopher Doyle, along with Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), finally delivered on his promise for a dinner in honor of the “ex-gay” rights movement. September, Doyle states, is now officially “Ex-Gay Awareness Month.” The reception was a private event, and as indicted by the code of conduct on the invitation, it was also extremely exclusive. The cloak of exclusivity ineffectively disallowed media scrutiny of the event while allowing Doyle to continue to claim he has a sizable number of “ex-gays” rallying around him. According to VoV “former homosexuals are the last invisible minority in American culture”, with Doyle claiming there are tens of thousands of “ex-gays” ready to descend on Washington DC. July’s “ex-gay” pride rally confirmed many people’s suspicions that Doyle may be lying. Attendance of the dinner and reception, held on September 30, was a measly sixty people.

In the Midst of Being Sued for Crimes Against Humanity, Scott Lively Announces Gubernatorial Campaign
Scott Lively, who is currently being sued for Crimes Against Humanity in Uganda by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) over his involvement in the creation of the Anti-Homosexuality “Kill the Gays” legislation in Uganda, announced on September 30, after much speculation, that he plans to run for governor of Massachusetts as an independent. Addressing his chances of winning, Lively states that “it would take a miracle from God for Scott Lively to become Governor of Massachusetts—and I wouldn’t want it any other way.” On September 23, Lively released a statement expressing his disappointment that a federal judge “denied my motion to allow me to appeal his denial of my Motion to Dismiss the outrageous SMUG lawsuit.” Lively claims that he is “just a pawn in this international power play.”

IOC Officially Demurs On Russia’s Anti-“Propaganda” Law
The International Olympic Committee released their official statement on the Games in Sochi after an international outcry over Russia’s anti-gay anti-“propaganda” law. The statement comes out in favor of “human rights”, and goes on to say that “this legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the games in Sochi…To that end, the IOC has received assurance from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.” President Putin has already banned protests at the Games in Sochi and has ordered to strictly restrict access to the city during the Games, suggesting that he believes he can assure conflict-free Games by engineering an environment that makes protest impossible. For more information on the anti-propaganda law, Human Rights First has released this report: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/uploads/pdfs/HRF-russias-anti-gay-ban-SG.pdf

Brian Brown Can’t Speak Russian, But His Anti-Gay Rhetoric Transcends Language
According to a new report by RightWingWatch, in June, days after Russia passed its anti-“propaganda” law, NOM president Brian Brown attended a Duma committee on family, women, and children to discuss, among other things, Russia’s plan for adoption by same-sex couples. Promoting the idea that gay marriage and adoption by gay couples are “indivisible” issues, Brown stated, “Every child should have the right to have normal parents: a father and a mother” (translated from Russian). Five days after Brown’s trip, the Duma passed a bill banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples. Russia is now considering a bill that would deny parents custody of their own biological children if they identify as gay. The law will be under consideration in February, possibly coinciding with the Sochi Olympic Games.

PRA Sponsors Two Screenings of God Loves Uganda
This week PRA sponsored two screenings of Roger Ross Williams’ documentary God Loves Uganda, one in Boston and another in Chicago. In an interview with PRA, Williams explains that he decided to focus on American evangelicalism in Uganda after a bill that would make homosexuality punishable by death was introduced in Parliament there in 2009. His research for the movie began with Globalizing the Culture Wars, a report published by PRA. The film includes interviews with Scott Lively, Lou Engle, Martin Ssempa, and young IHOP missionaries in Uganda. If you would like to find a screening or sponsor one in your area, follow this link: http://www.godlovesuganda.com/.

Political Research Associates Launches New Webpage Exposing Link Between American Conservatives and Anti-Gay Sentiment in Africa
The Boston-based national social justice think tank is pushing to further expose the direct links between American conservatives, especially evangelical ministers, and anti-gay sentiment, legislation, and violence across the continent of Africa. The page includes their full investigative reports, videos, supporting articles, and full profiles of the key players on the right. You can see the page here.

Profiles on the Right: Dr. Richard Land

Dr. Richard Land

Dr. Richard Land

Dubbed by Time Magazine as “God’s Lobbyist,” Dr. Richard Land is the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of Southern Baptist Convention, and serves as the Commissioner on the Unites States Commission on International Religious Affairs.  With 16 million members, the Southern Baptists are second in size only to the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Land speaks to millions of listeners on the radio through Christian broadcasting networks and frequently appears on television and before Congress. He maintains an image of respectability and moderation, although his views are decidedly anti-LGBT when it comes to sexual minority issues

Land has recently been appointed as president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES) in Charlotte, N.C., which offers undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs in evangelism and classic apologetics.

Land advocates for a constitutional amendment to “protect marriage.” He believes gay marriage will “harm families and society” and that “God’s plan for marriage and the family is the only reliable foundation for society, anything else is a dangerous and faulty substitute that will lead to society’s ruin.”  Land was one of many notable right wing evangelicals to sign and endorse the “Manhattan Declaration,” a religious manifesto co-authored by evangelical leader (and Watergate felon) Charles Colson and Catholic intellectual Robert George that, among many things, opposes gay marriage and women’s right to abortion.

Land has said on his radio show, Richard Land Live, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, “Will destroy the American military,” and that “gay service members are twice as likely to sexually harass someone,” and “absent fathers and weak fathers produce gay children.”

In 2011 Land signed a letter urging Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) to defund Planned Parenthood, stating this issue was “non-negotiable.” Part of the letter read, “Planned Parenthood, a scandal-plagued abortion company, no longer deserves hundreds of millions in federal dollars each year while it continues to abuse innocent young victims.”

Next Profile

It’s Their Party

How the Tea Party Sustains the Anti-LGBT Right

Tea Party members and Christian evangelicals at a campaign event for Rick Santorum, February 2012. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Reuters)

 

2011 was a frustrating year for the anti-LGBT Right.

Despite millions of voters and many millions of dollars generated by a loose coalition of conservative forces to oppose LGBT rights, the LGBT rights movement has made tremendous progress. While homophobia remains rampant in the culture, public policy is changing. Consider these recent achievements:

  • In February, the Justice Department announced that it would no longer support the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.
  • In July, President Obama officially certified the repeal of the Defense Department’s 18 year-old “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
  • Same-sex marriage is legal in six states as of 2011, and 40% of Americans now live in states where some form of same-sex marriage or civil union is allowed. For the first time in 2011, a majority of Americans indicated they believed same-sex marriage should be legal. In May, Gallup reported that a strong majority of Americans, 56%, believed that gay or lesbian relations were morally acceptable.1 51% of those polled by ABC News/Washington Post indicated they felt this way, up from 37% in a poll conducted by the same organization in 2003.2 And the rate of increased support for same-sex marriage has doubled in the last fifteen years.3
  • A federal hate crimes law has been in place since 2009.
  • There are now over 5,000 gay-straight alliances in U.S. schools, which are more open to LGBT students than at any time in the past.

Some organizations long opposed to LGBT equality have had to admit that the tide is turning. Jim Daly, the successor to James Dobson as president of the Christian Right organization Focus on the Family, admitted defeat to Right-wing strategist Martin Olasky in a June 2011 interview. Olasky asked what he felt about the campaign for same sex marriage. Daly replied:

We’re losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same sex marriage. I don’t know if that’s going to change with a little more age—demographers would say probably not. We’ve probably lost that. I don’t want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture.4

Some on the anti-LGBT Right may admit to defeat around same-sex marriage, but they are not about to throw in the towel. Social conservatives who are mobilized around religious principles or the fear that LGBT people remain a threat to their way of life are still a major part of the political landscape. In many cases, they have been able to subtly craft the messages they send to a broader public to avoid the appearance of overt bigotry by appealing to fundamental American principles of religious freedom or majority rule, even as they argue for what amounts to discrimination. “Traditional family values,” for instance, have evolved into more specific campaigns that oppose comprehensive sexuality education (a threat to “parental rights” since parents should teach their children their own values about sexuality themselves); welfare rights (shrinking the social safety net through “marriage promotion”); the legalization of same-sex marriage (a threat to “religious freedom” by allegedly “requiring” churches to sanctify same-sex marriage) and the need for “marriage protection” to codify discrimination against LGBT couples who seek to marry. These strategists know that a focus on issues dear to social conservatives brings voters to the polls. Once at the voting booth, they can be encouraged to support candidates with broader platforms than mere opposition to LGBT rights.

 Some on the anti-LGBT Right may admit to defeat around same sex marriage, but they are not about to throw in the towel.

The Christian Right, including both the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and conservative evangelical Protestants, has been the driving force in opposing LGBT rights in the U.S. An effective infrastructure of grassroots organizations, charismatic leaders, media networks, and consistent funding provided the scaffolding for this Christian constituency to join with other burgeoning social movements in a powerful political force.

The rise of the Tea Party has reinforced the visibility and ultimately the electoral focus of the Christian Right. While initially galvanized around issues such as lower taxes, smaller government and national security concerns, about half of the Tea Party identifies with the Christian Right. This overlap has helped reinforce a political “litmus test” for candidates on so-called social issues like abortion, sexuality education, and the place of religion in public life. Right-wing strategists, and the candidates who follow their counsel, have targeted various groups such as immigrants, African-Americans, and Muslims as opportunities arose.  The ideas that LGBT and homosexuality are threats to society were constructed as part of its overall strategy to mobilize support based on scapegoating and fear.5 Ample historic precedence exists for blaming immigrant communities of color for economic and social problems.  LGBT people have been singled out both because they are easy targets based on fear of the “other” and that they represent departure from the idealized sexual norm.6

While anti-LGBT signs have been commonplace at Tea Party rallies, evidence of the apparently sanctioned homophobia within its ranks, the greater political danger to LGBT people lies with the leaders and Tea Party-supported candidates. These men and women craft positions and platforms to attract the broadest range of conservatives.

In anticipation of the January 2012 Iowa caucuses, Tea Party favorites Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry signed a controversial anti-gay marriage pledge promoted by the conservative Iowan group Family Leader. This cemented the candidates’ support of the Defense of Marriage Act and reasserted them as standard bearers for traditional values, a position for them as important as support for smaller government and lower taxes. These latter issues are attractive to voters who see their dream of economic stability destroyed by corporate and government greed. Traditional values are framed as the bulwark against an equal threat: those who live differently will eradicate the familiar, and superior, way of life. Together, these frames use the politics of fear to craft a potent platform.

In an election year that hinges on the state of] the economy, keeping contraception and same-sex marriage in the mix is an indication of the Tea Party’s strength.

There are indeed social libertarians within the Tea Party for whom homosexuality is not a principal political concern. On balance, however, the Tea Party represents a threat to LGBT people, both directly and indirectly.

Spilling Tea: Calling Out the Players

Those who support the Tea Party are almost exclusively White, better educated than the general public, older and more likely male, and more politically conservative than most Republicans. They are middle class, and they uniformly think Obama has done a bad job as president.  Depending on the wording of polls, we can estimate that by the 2010 midterm elections, between 20-28% of all U.S. voters supported Tea Party positions.7

The “Tea Party” is a loose affiliation of multiple organizations. Some are indeed grassroots organizations, emerging from locally organized efforts, and spearheaded by people often with little or no previous political experience. Such Tea Party organizations, as well as some larger national groups, include members and some leaders who openly espouse White supremacy and antisemitism.8

Others are national groups, well financed by corporate backers, like FreedomWorks, which attempts to influence the agenda and strategies of the Tea Parties from a national perch. While FreedomWorks insists it has a membership of over one million, it functions more as a fictional grassroots, or Astroturf, group because the policy decisions, positions on issues, and funding all come from the top. (It is no coincidence that the precursor to FreedomWorks was Citizens for a Sound Economy, founded in the 1980s by prominent right-wing funder David Koch.) FreedomWorks is today headed by Dick Armey, a former Republican member of Congress and one time majority leader. FreedomWorks has pushed its own preferred economic issues, primarily in the area of deregulation of corporations, and it is in the forefront of attempts to repeal The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Steve Forbes, the publisher of Forbes magazine, sits on the FreedomWorks board as well as on the board of the Heritage Foundation, a key framer of conservative ideas.

In February of 2010 a social networking group called Tea Party Nation convened a national convention of Tea Party members in Nashville. Sarah Palin and Tom Tancredo, a conservative Christian and anti-immigrant politician from Colorado, spoke, signaling that at least for this sector of the movement, the Christian Right’s social agenda was an effective draw. Roy Moore, the Alabama judge who refused to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom, got accolades for his speech, which included:

[Obama] has ignored our history and our heritage, arrogantly declaring to the world that we are no longer a Christian nation. He has elevated immorality to a new level, setting aside the entire month of June to celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pride. He now threatens to change our law to allow homosexuality in our military….9

While top-down Tea Party leaders such as Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe’s FreedomWorks still work hard to keep a secular focus on “big government, lower taxes, and more freedom,” conservative Christian leadership within the Tea Party has managed two major coups. It has promoted the vast majority of 2012 Republican candidate hopefuls, from Michele Bachmann to Rick Santorum, and their example pressured their fellow campaigner Mitt Romney to address traditional values questions like LGBT rights more often.  In an election year that hinges on the state of the economy, keeping issues like contraception and same-sex marriage in the mix is an indication of their strength. The alliance is working because the Republicans need social conservatives in order to win in 2012.

Paul Weyrich, the Christian Right leader, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, and master strategist for the New Right for 35 years, recognized the value of bringing various parts of the conservative movement together with a shared project. In describing the 2002 founding of the secretive rightist Arlington Group, he said, “If we could all sing off the same sheet of music, we could be a significant force….”10 That project was a series of state ballot initiatives against same-sex marriage, one that united the Christian Right and showcased its renewed power.  It’s tempting to speculate: what if strong alliances to fight the Right had been in place in those states, as there was in Oregon in its successful 1992 campaign against Measure 9?

Plenty of evidence exists that illustrates how current Republican candidate frontrunners use same sex marriage as a litmus test of conservatism.

The 2010 midterm elections were a major show of that power. It remains to be seen what direction the Tea Parties will take in 2012. Plenty of evidence exists that illustrates how current Republican candidate frontrunners use same-sex marriage as a litmus test of conservatism. A Tea Party favorite, Rick Santorum, has campaigned on a sturdy platform plank of anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage. During the run-up to the New Hampshire primary, Santorum said that marriage was a privilege, not a right. “Not everybody or everything can get married.”11 Mitt Romney’s current anti-same-sex marriage stance is consistent with his opposition to a court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2003 when he was governor of that state. He has since courted social conservatives by attending convenings such as the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, where he boasted he was able to block Massachusetts from becoming  “The Las Vegas of gay marriage.” 12

No Republican presidential candidate can win without the combined support of economic conservatives, social conservatives, and independents, and the social conservatives are already organized through the Christian Right and the Tea Parties. Although we cannot see or predict what their staying power will be, there is no question that they bear careful scrutiny and warrant swift strategic responses by the LGBT community and its allies.

Endnotes

1 Linda Saad, “Doctor-Assisted Suicide is Moral Issue Dividing Americans Most,” May 31, 2011, Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/147842/doctor-assisted-suicide-moral-issue-dividing-americans.aspx

2 See Question #33 of the poll: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/postabcpoll_ 071711.html. For a summary of many different polls in LGBT rights, see http://www.pollingreport.com/civil.htm

3 Nate Silver, “Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority,” New York Times, April 20, 2011. http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/ 2011/04/20/gay-marriage-opponents- now-in-minority/

4 Martin Olasky, “Refocused,” World Magazine, June 4, 2011. http://www.worldmag.com/articles/18060

5 Jean Hardisty, “Constructing Homophobia: Colorado’s Right-Wing Attack on Homosexuals,” The Public Eye, March 1993, vol. 7, no.1.

6 For instance see: Joseph Erbentraut,”Is the Tea Party movement really anti-LGBT?” Boston Edge, April 27, 2010, http://www.edgeboston.com /index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc3= &id=105023 

7 Gallup Poll, “Tea-Partiers are Fairly Mainstream in their Demographics,” April 5, 2010, http://www.gallup.com/poll/127181 /tea-partiers-fairly-mainstream-demographics.aspx ;

Kate Zernicke and Megan Thee-Brenan, “ Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated,” New York Times, April 14, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/ politics/15poll.html?_r=1&ref=politics

8 Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind, Tea Party Nationalism, Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (Seattle:IREHR) 2010, http://teapartynationalism.com/

9 Chelsea Schilling, “New ‘Bill of Particulars’ Cites Obama’s Failures,” World Net Daily, February 5, 2010, http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=124292

10 http://www.renewamerica.com/columns
/weyrich/041203

11 John Swain, “U.S. Election 2012:Rick Santorum under pressure in New Hampshire over social stances,” The Daily Telegraph, January 8, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews
/northamerica/usa/9000510/US-election
-2012-Rick-Santorum-under-pressure-
in-New-Hampshire-over-social-
stances.html

12 Igor Volsky, “Romney brags at CPAC: ‘We prevented Massachusetts from Becoming the Las Vegas of Gay Marriage,” Think Progress LGBT: February 10, 2012, http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/02/10/ 423167/romney-brags-at-cpac-we-prevented-massachusetts-from-becoming-the-las-vegas-of-gay-marriage

Scared Chaste, Scared Straight: Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education in U.S. Schools

The welfare reform law of 1996, premised on the unproven claim that poor women’s failure to marry is the cause of high rates of family poverty in the United States, promoted an abstinence-only-until-marriage policy that teaches that sex outside the context of marriage is intrinsically dangerous, both physically and psychologically.1 Relying on scientifically inaccurate information and notions of shame, this policy poses a threat to all youth. But it poses a particular threat to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, who are already subject to widespread harassment and violence in the nation’s schools.

As of 1999 nearly one third of the nation’s high schools were promoting abstinence only, while excluding information about contraception and safer sex education.2 A study of 43 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia found that more than 10 percent of the abstinence- only funds had been granted to “faith-based entities” in 22 states.3 A further 40 percent of the funds were spent through other private, but nonreligious, entities.4 Twenty-eight of the 42 state and territorial jurisdictions sampled prohibited organizations providing abstinence-based education from providing information on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) if asked by a student or other client. A further five jurisdictions provided no guidance one-way or the other.5

Research has shown that sex education that promotes the delay of first intercourse but simultaneously teaches safer sex practices is more effective than abstinence-only education. A World Health Organization review of 35 sex education programs around the world documented the relative ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education in stemming the spread of STDs.6 Youth in the United States have higher rates of unwanted pregnancy and STDs than their counterparts in Europe, where comprehensive sex education is the norm.

A report released by U.S. Surgeon-General David Satcher in early 2001 also questioned the effectiveness of abstinence-only education. Satcher noted that there has been little research to demonstrate the effectiveness of this particular type of instruction.

A report released by U.S. Surgeon- General David Satcher in early 2001 also questioned the effectiveness of abstinence-only education. Satcher noted that there has been little research to demonstrate the effectiveness of this particular type of instruction. More comprehensive education programs that also provide information on condom use have proven effective in stemming disease transmission and pregnancy among already sexually active youth. Yet safer sex education has not been shown to increase or hasten sexual activity among youth. According to Satcher:

To date, there are only a few published evaluations of abstinence-only programs. Due to this limited number of studies it is too early to draw definite conclusions about this approach. Similarly, the value of these programs for adolescents who have initiated sexual activity is not yet understood. More research is clearly needed.

Programs that typically emphasize abstinence, but also cover condoms and other methods of contraception, have a larger body of evaluation evidence that indicates either no effect on initiation of sexual activity or, in some cases, a delay in the initiation of sexual activity. This evidence gives strong support to the conclusion that providing information about contraception does not increase adolescent sexual activity, either by hastening the onset of sexual intercourse, increasing the frequency of sexual intercourse, or increasing the number of sexual partners. In addition, some of these evaluated programs increased condom use or contraceptive use more generally for adolescents who were sexually active.7

Abstinence-Only and Prevention Efforts to Stop Sexual Diseases and Teen Pregnancy

Several states and municipalities have rejected or stopped applying for federal disease prevention funds out of a mistaken belief that accepting abstinence-only funds precludes them from accessing federal funds for sex education. Nebraska decided not to reapply for HIV prevention grants from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) because HIV prevention has traditionally combined abstinence promotion with safer sex education. Since 1997 Nebraska has limited all state-sponsored sex education to an abstinence-only-until-marriage message. Following lobbying from the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, Nebraska’s Education Commissioner decided not to reapply for CDC funds.8

In 1998, Ohio state legislators passed a law preventing the state’s Department of Education from spending CDC funds awarded to it until it agreed they would only be used to teach abstinence. More than two years passed and an agreement between the department and the legislature was not worked out. Language that would have required programs to “emphasize” abstinence, but not limit their approach only to abstinence education, was rejected by hardliners. As a result, $1 million was forfeited, although only 10 percent of those CDC funds were earmarked for HIV prevention; the rest were for other health initiatives, including tobacco use prevention, diabetes, and cancer prevention.9

The Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department also voted in 2001 to limit sex education efforts paid for with state dollars to the abstinence-only-until- marriage approach.10 The New Jersey and Maine legislatures considered bills, which would mandate abstinence-only education in those states’ public schools.11 Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced in March 2001 that he wanted to take $1 million in state funds for family planning services at health clinics and redirect the funds into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Florida already has 35 abstinence- only education programs funded by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds and run by private organizations.12 While Arkansas has long limited state-funded “sex education” to an abstinence-only-until-marriage approach, a bill that would further restrict sex education was introduced last year.13

Scared Chaste: Abstinence- Only’s Reliance on Fear, Shame, and Misinformation

Abstinence-only-until-marriageapproaches to sex education are counterproductive, dangerous, and even harmful to the youth who are subject to their messages. Premarital sex is presented as intrinsically harmful. Relying on shame and fear, abstinence-only spreads inaccurate information about STDs and contraceptives; presents rarely occurring, worst-case scenarios as routine and common; stigmatizes and evokes hostility toward people with AIDS; and largely ignores homosexuality except as a context for HIV transmission.14 At least two curricula, however, are explicitly hostile toward lesbians and gay men.15

“[T]here is no such thing as ‘safe’ or ‘safer’ premarital sex,” warns FACTS, one such curriculum. “There are always risks associated with it, even dangerous, life-threatening ones.”16 Echoing Pat Buchanan’s claim that AIDS is “nature’s retribution” on “the poor homosexuals” who “have declared war on nature,”17 Sex Respect, another abstinence-only curriculum, teaches the following:

Is this [AIDS and other STDs] nature’s punishment for sex outside of marriage? No, not at all. These are natural consequences. For example, if you eat spoiled food, you will get sick. If you jump from a tall building, you will be hurt or killed…If you have sex outside of marriage, there are consequences for you, your partner, and society.18

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) documents numerous ways in which the incidence and effects of several STDs are misrepresented in abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula.19 SIECUS warns that these scare tactics can discourage students from seeking treatment for STDs, such as chlamydia, which are easily curable if treated early on.20

Condoms are presented as a dangerous and ineffective form of birth control: “Relying on condoms is like playing Russian roulette,” declares Me, My World, My Future.21 Condom failure rates are overstated; and the failure of users to properly use condoms is inaccurately translated into an intrinsic defect in the product.22 FACTS warns that even if condoms are properly used, they may still allow “the transmission of HIV/AIDS.” This flies in the face of CDC and other scientific research, which finds condoms highly effective in stopping the spread of STDs when used properly.23

Skewed information about HIV/AIDS is common in abstinence- only-until-marriage curricula. Sex Respect devotes three paragraphs to the possibility of contracting HIV through “French kissing.” This is based on a single case investigated by the CDC in 1987, which may have involved transmission due to bleeding, open-mouth sores. However, kissing is generally not a risk factor for HIV transmission. People with AIDS are also stigmatized as dangerous bearers of death. Sex Respect warns, “How can you tell if someone has AIDS? There is no way for you to predict. Anyone can be carrying your death warrant.”24

Scared Straight: Heterosexism, Sexism, and Antigay Bias in Abstinence-Only Curricula

Heterosexist gender stereotypes about boys and girls are widespread in abstinence- only curricula. Boys are presented as sex-crazed, and girls as less interested in sex than they are in finding love. Girls are warned about “the way you dress sending messages.” Sex Respect warns, “Watch what you wear. If you don’t aim to please, don’t aim to tease.” Feminism is blamed for promiscuity: “the liberation movement has produced some aggressive girls today, and one of the tough challenges for guys who say no will be the questioning of their manliness.”25 Girls are portrayed as primarily responsible for rejecting the sexual advances of boys.26

In reaction to a growth in sex education and antihomophobia initiatives in the early 1990s, conservatives pushed “parents’ rights” laws and parental notification laws in states across the United States, requiring teachers to provide advance written warning to parents prior to addressing issues of homosexuality in class.

Programs that focus on abstinence-only-until-marriage are detrimental to LGBT youth, those youth questioning their sexual orientation, the children of LGBT parents, and LGBT teachers and administrators in the nation’s schools. Homosexuality is largely ignored except as a context for HIV transmission. But homosexuality is implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, stigmatized. For example, Sex Respect teaches students that “[R]esearch and common sense tell us the best ways to avoid AIDS are: Remain a virgin until marriage…Avoid homosexual behavior.”27 When homosexual sexual practices are noted in this context, they are portrayed as “unnatural behavior.”28

At least two abstinence-only curricula are overtly hostile toward lesbians and gay men. Clue 2000 engages in the standard right-wing tactic of conflating homosexuality with pedophilia and incest when it notes that “[a]mong Kinsey’s most outrageous and damaging claims are the beliefs that pedophilia, homosexuality, incest, and adult-child sex are normal.”29 Facing Reality assures teachers and parents that presenting homosexuality as intrinsically dangerous is actually in the best interests of students, and is not homophobic. It also repeats the outdated notion of AIDS as a gay disease:

Many homosexual activists are frustrated and desperate over their own situation and those of loved ones. Many are dying, in part, due to ignorance. Educators who struggle to overcome ignorance and instill self-mastery in their students will inevitably lead them to recognize that some people with AIDS are now suffering because of the choices they made…Teachers, in order to preserve an atmosphere of intellectual freedom, should feel confident that when examining health issues and moral implications of homosexual behaviors, they are not engaging in an assault on a particular person or group.30

The irony of that last sentence is particularly rich: Abstinence-only-until-marriage education is by definition a suppression of alternative points of view, and involves the supplanting of a method scientifically proven to be effective in decreasing the spread of STDs with another, unproven method. Yet this approach is constructed as “preserv[ing] an atmosphere of intellectual freedom.”

Studies have shown that LGBT youth who receive gay-sensitive HIV instruction in school tend to engage in risky sexual behavior less frequently than similar youth that do not receive such instruction. In a random sample of high school students and HIV education instructors in Massachusetts, among sexually active heterosexual and homosexual youth, gay youth reported more sexual partners, more frequent use of substances before engaging in sex, and higher rates of pregnancy. However, those gay youth that received gay-sensitive HIV instruction reported fewer sexual partners and less frequent substance use before sex.31

Impact of Abstinence-Only and “Parent’s Rights Laws” on Safe Schools Initiatives

The often explicitly antigay and stigmatizing language of abstinence curricula can have a chilling effect on discussion of homosexuality in the schools, including attempts to deal with incidents of antigay harassment of LGBT students and the children of LGBT parents. In reaction to a growth in sex education and anti-homophobia initiatives in the early 1990s, conservatives pushed “parents’ rights” laws and parental notification laws in states across the United States, requiring teachers to provide advance written warning to parents prior to addressing issues of homosexuality in class. It also followed by a few years the “no promo homo” laws enacted by many states in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which restrict any neutral or positive mention of homosexuality.32 When taken together, these policies create a context that may have a chilling effect on open conversations about issues facing LGBT students and the children of LGBT parents, including issues of verbal and physical harassment.

People continue to get infected with HIV unnecessarily because some public health professionals and many elected officials have abdicated their responsibility to deal with HIV/AIDS as a public health issue. Instead, too many impose their narrow vision of morality on the rest of the population and promote policies which have failed to prevent the continued spread of this disease. Thus abstinence-onlyuntil- marriage education may in fact contribute to the transmission of HIV and other STDs.

The link between sex education, abstinence promotion, and LGBT youth was vividly displayed in recent comments by Boston University president John Silber, who called for the disbanding of a gay-straight alliance at a university-run high school. Boston’s gay newspaper Bay Windows reported September 12, 2002:

Silber ordered academy headmaster James Tracy to disband the school’s two-year old GSA last week, saying it didn’t belong there because it encouraged teen sex. “We’re not running a program in sex education,” Silber told the Sept. 7 Boston Globe. “If they want that kind of program, they can go to Newton High School. They can go to public school and learn how to put a condom over a banana.” According to a Sept. 6 Globe story, Silber threatened to cut funding to the school if the GSA wasn’t shut down.

Efforts to silence and stigmatize homosexuality can have devastating effects on LGBT youth. A recent NIH-funded study of Latino gay and bisexual men found a correlation between experiences of homophobia and increased likelihood to engage in HIV risk behaviors. It also found that family acceptance and the presence of an openly gay role model while growing up correlated with lower incidence of HIV risk behaviors.33 The promotion of homophobia and ignorance about AIDS and other STDs hurts all students, but especially those who are gay or from gay families.

The Connection with State “No Promo Homo” Laws

South Carolina bans discussion of “alternative sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted disease.”34 Arizona law prohibits “instruction which: 1) Promotes a homosexual life-style. 2) Portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style. 3) Suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”35 Alabama requires that any mention of homosexuality stress “that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”36 And Texas law is almost identical to Alabama’s statute.37

How do these restrictions play out? Kay Coburn, an administrator with the Temple, Texas Independent School District, told Human Rights Watch that there is “no discussion of homosexuality,” nor “any message in the curriculum about how homosexuals might protect themselves from HIV. Abstinence is the only message. The traditional family is where you have sex. The curriculum doesn’t address sex outside this structure.”38

Cheryl Cox, a health teacher and member of her Robinson (TX) High School health education advisory council, noted that coverage of homosexuality and other “lifestyle options” was “not needed or necessary… I can’t see it ever being acceptable to discuss homosexuality, as it’s a very conservative community. It’s a topic that I’m not supposed to be talking about because of the standards set forth by the community and by the health advisory board.”39

Terry Cruz, an abstinence educator in Laredo, TX, told Human Rights Watch that “probably the only time I touch on the subject [of homosexuality] is with HIV, referring to how HIV originally started.”40

Abstinence Efforts Likely to Dominate in Near Future

People continue to get infected with HIV unnecessarily because some public health professionals and many elected officials have abdicated their responsibility to deal with HIV/AIDS as a public health issue. Instead, too many impose their narrow vision of morality on the rest of the population and promote policies which have failed to prevent the continued spread of this disease. Thus abstinence-only-until-marriage education may in fact contribute to the transmission of HIV and other STDs.

Although HIV and AIDS has disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men, increasingly those living with HIV or AIDS are heterosexual, female, and African American and Latina/o women and children. Within the gay and bisexual male community, men of color, particularly younger men of color, are at greater risk for HIV/AIDS. For example, in New York City one recent study found that four percent of White homosexually active 15- to 22- year-old men are HIV-positive, while 10 percent of Latino men and 22 percent of African American men in this age bracket are HIV-positive.41 From 1999 to 2000, 69 percent of new HIV infections were among Black and Latino individuals, most of them men who have sex with men.42

Federal incentives favoring abstinence-only education are likely to become more entrenched under President George W. Bush. As governor, Bush opposed sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. Bush told the Washington Times in July 1999 that he supports abstinence-only education, arguing that teaching safer sex and abstinence together “sends a contradictory message that tends to undermine the message of abstinence.”43 Bush told young people that they should avoid sex until they are in “a biblical marriage relationship.”44 Bush also supports educational grants for churches and faith-based groups to promote abstinence-until-marriage.45

Abstinence-only sex education, while strongly supported by President Bush and a conservative Congress, does not enjoy widespread support among the U.S. public. According to a national study conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, there exists a strong disparity between what is actually taught in sex education programs and what parents actually want.46 One of the strongest disparities exists for homosexuality. Seventy-six percent of parents of 7-12th graders felt that sex education should cover homosexuality, while only 41 percent of students reported the topic was actually covered.

Policy Recommendations

Age-appropriate, publicly funded sex education programs should be offered nation-wide which provide comprehensive, factual information about sexuality. These can promote abstinence but must also provide information on safer-sex techniques that significantly reduce the risk for transmission of STDs and pregnancy. They should avoid gender stereotypes and the stigmatization of homosexuality. They should not be allowed to contribute to the widespread harassment and violence against LGBT youth in the nation’s schools.

Footnotes

1 Each year since 1996, nearly $100 million in government funds have been spent on abstinence-only-until-marriage education, ostensibly aimed at preventing teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births. The Bush Administration has sought a substantial increase in abstinence-only-until- marriage funds during the welfare reauthorization of 2002.
2 Sharon Lerner, “An Orgy of Abstinence: Federal Funding Pushes No-Sex Education Into the Mainstream,” Village Voice, August 1-7, 2001. Available at http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0131/lerner.php. Abstinence activists are so extreme that they advocate against masturbation, a nearly universal human activity. The National Abstinence Clearinghouse’s “Abstinence Survival Kit” warns that “sexual self-stimulation” may “eventually leave the person unable to respond sexually to a real person.” “It’s the first sign of sexual addiction,” warns Leslee Unruh, the Clearinghouse’s president.
3 Adam Sonfield and Rachel B. Gold, “States’ Implementation of the Section 510 Abstinence Education Program, FY 1999,”Family Planning Perspectives, vol. 33, no. 4 (July/August 2001), pp. 166-172. Available at http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/journals/3316601.html.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid, pp. 168-169.
6 Mariella Baldo, et al., “Does Sex Education Lead to Earlier or Increased Sexual Activity in Youth?” Paper presented at the IXth Annual International Conference on AIDS Berlin, (Geneva: World Health Organization), June 6-10, 1993.
7 David Satcher, The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Behavior (Washington, DC: Office of the United States Surgeon General, 2001), p. 11. Available at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/sexualhealth/.
8 Martha Kempner, “Controversy Over CDC’s Research to Classroom Project,” SIECUS Report, vol. 29, no. 6 (2001), pp. 4-5.
9 Ibid., p. 9.
10 Ibid., p. 5.
11 Ibid., pp. 5-6.
12 Martha Kempner, “State-Level Debates Over Abstinence- Only-Until-Marriage,” SIECUS Report, vol. 29, no. 6 (2001), p. 7.
13 Kemper, “Controversy,” p. 13.
14 Ibid., preface.
15 Ibid, pp. 46-47.
16 Ibid., p. 19.
17 Patrick Buchanan, Syndicated column, June 23, 1983, Cited in Sean Cahill and Erik Ludwig, Courting the Vote: The 2000 Presidential Candidates’ Positions on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues (New York: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, 1999), p. 21.
18 Kempner, “State-level,” p. 18.
19 Ibid., pp. 25-28.
20 Ibid., p. 26.
21 Ibid., p. 33.
22 Ibid., p. 32.
23 See Questions and Answers on Condom Effectiveness, CDC Update (Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control, 1997), and Philip Kestelman, and James Trussell, “Efficacy of the Simultaneous Use of Condoms and Spermicide,” Family Planning Perspectives, vol. 23, no. 5 (1991), p. 227, both cited in Kempler, “State-level,” pp. 34-35.
24 Kempler, “State-level,” p. 31.
25 Sex Respect, cited in Kempler, “State-level,” p. 44.
26 Kempler, “State-level,” p. 54.
27 Ibid.
28 Sex Respect describes anal intercourse as “unnatural behavior.” Of course, anal intercourse is a behavior practiced by both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Ibid., p. 29.
29 Ibid., pp. 46-47.
30 Ibid., p. 47.
31 Susan M. Blake, et al., “Preventing Sexual Risk Behaviors Among Gay, Lesbian, And Bisexual Adolescents: The Benefits of Gay-Sensitive HIV Instruction in Schools,” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 91, no. 6 (2001), pp. 940-946.
32 As a result of such a law, teachers in Merrimack, NH, declined to teach Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night because a female character disguises herself as a man, and declined to show a video about Walt Whitman that mentioned that he loved men. See Mary Bonauto, Background Information on “No Promo Homo” Policies (Washington, DC: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educators’ Network, September 16, 2002). Available at http://www.glsen.org/templates/resources/record.html?section=14&record=42
33 Rafael Diaz and George Ayala, Social Discrimination and Health: The Case of Latino Gay Men and HIV Risk (New York: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, 2001). Available at http://www.ngltf.org/library/index.cfm
34 See South Carolina Code Ann. 59-32-30(A)(5). Cited in Human Rights Watch, Ignorance Only: HIV/AIDS, Human Rights and Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Programs in the United States; Texas: A Case Study, vol. 14, no. 5 (September 2002), p. 35.
35 See Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. 15-1716. Cited in Ibid., p. 35.
36 See Ala. Code 16-40A-2. Cited in Ibid., p. 35.
37 See Texas Health and Safety Code 163.002(8). Cited in Ibid., p. 35.
38 Interview cited in Ibid., p. 36.
39 Interview cited in Ibid., pp. 36-37.
40 Interview cited in Ibid., p. 37.
41 Richard Elovich, “Beyond Condoms…How to Create a Gay Men’s Culture of Sexual Health,” POZ (June 1999).
42 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, “With CDC HIV Infection Rates on the Rise, New NGLTF Report Examines Direct Impact of Discrimination on Latino Gay Men,” (Washington, DC: NGLTF, July 12, 2001). Available at http://www.ngltf.org/news/release.cfm?releaseID=404.
43 AIDS Action Council, “Election 2000 Presidential Candidate Report,” (August 1999). Available at http://www.thebody.com/aac/candidates.html; Cynthia Dailard, “Fueled by Campaign Promises, Drive Intensifies to Boost Abstinence-Only Education Funds,” The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, vol. 3, no. 2 (April 2000). Available at http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/journals/gr030201.html.
44 David Broder, “Bush Defends Gun Record, Pushes Teen Abstinence,” Washington Post, June 22, 1999, p. A4.
45 “Bush Promotes Abstinence for Teenagers,” Associated Press, June 22, 1999.
46 Tina Hoff and Liberty Greene, Sex Education in America: A Series of National Surveys of Students, Parents, Teachers, and Principals (Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2000). Available at http://www.kff.org/content/2000/3048/SexED.pdf.