On Thursday, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins recognized the 25th anniversary of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for members of the U.S. military that was adopted by President Bill Clinton. In Perkins’ mind, the summer of 1993, when the policy was enacted, “helped set into motion a quarter-century war on marriage and the family.”
Perkins’ “Washington Update” column made it clear that Perkins has contempt for the lives and rights of LGBTQ Americans.
“Looking back on those days, most Americans are probably nostalgic for the days when sexuality wasn’t something people broadcasted,” said Perkins, complaining that “liberal activists” have gone from wanting government out of the bedroom to forcing government and other Americans to celebrate “what happens in the bedroom.”
“Who knew 25 years ago that Christians would long for the days when everyone just went about their lives,” he asked.
Where to start? Twenty-five years ago, “everyone” couldn’t just go about their lives. Before the Supreme Court invalidated sodomy laws in the 2003 Lawrence decision, there were laws on the books in more than a dozen states that made gay people de facto criminals. These laws were used to justify a range of injustices, including firing people or refusing to hire them in the first place, and even taking children away from their parents.
Perkins knows all that. But in Thursday’s column he complained about the Lawrence decision. Perkins quoted extensively from the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s bitter dissent, saying, “With prophetic insight, [Scalia] explained how six justices had just given the far-Left the only hammer they’d need to destroy thousands of years of human history.”
Really? Even if you aren’t a fan of gay couples getting married, can you say it has destroyed thousands of years of human history?
Perkins was on a roll. Three years after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, he wrote, “the Left is still bulldozing their way through every possible social norm.”
“The country finally realized—too late—that this isn’t about two people who love each other,” Perkins wrote. “It’s about obliterating every moral and cultural boundary humans have ever known.”
The fact that Perkins can write that the marriage equality movement wasn’t about two people who love each other suggests that he doesn’t know or care about the loving same-sex couples whose marriages have finally given legal protection to their children and families, and allowed them to focus on each other rather than frantic legal arrangements during medical emergencies and end-of-life situations.
Perkins went on to complain that marriage equality is leading to the normalization of polygamy and pedophilia. His evidence for the latter claim was a controversial TED Talk recently given in Germany by a medical student who said people with sexual feelings for children should not be ostracized as long as they never act on those feelings. The speech sparked a huge backlash and the organizers of the local TEDx event took down the video. But in Perkins’ imaginings, this one German student’s speech is evidence that “child sex is the next ‘norm’ on the horizon” for equality advocates. It’s a breathtakingly dishonest claim.
“Once you’ve rejected basic biology and 2,000 years of civilization, there are no boundaries,” Perkins wrote.
“The only limits that exist are your own reality—unless you’re a Christian. And then it isn’t ‘live and let live;’ it’s conform or be punished.”
The Family Research Council, the Alliance Defending Freedom (then the Alliance Defense Fund) and other Religious Right groups fought for the right of states to criminalize homosexuality, just as they are fighting now to defend laws in other countries that stigmatize and criminalize gay people and even pro-equality advocacy. Perkins even defended a notorious anti-gay bill in Uganda—which called for life imprisonment or in some cases execution of people who have same-sex liaisons—as an effort to “uphold moral conduct” and protect vulnerable people.
A few years ago Janice Shaw Crouse, then at Concerned Women for America, explicitly criticized conservatives who take a “live and let live” attitude toward homosexuality.
Long before Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin, American Religious Right leaders had rushed to embrace him as the savior of Christian civilization, based largely on his repression of gay Russians and their allies.
So it’s no surprise that Perkins thinks Christians should long for the days when LGBTQ Americans, like those in so many parts of the world today, were treated as criminals.