Focus on The Hate
Tanya Erzen printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 11:15:45 AM EST
If you live in Iowa, read the Des Moines Register or other state papers, in the past week you have most likely come across this advertisement of an Iraqi woman holding up her ink-stained finger. Upon closer inspection, the ad reads:

"Iraqi's have the right to vote.  Why not Iowans? When it comes to marriage, the people of Iowa should be seen and not heard.  At least that's the way Sen. Michael Gronstal would have it, as he refuses to let the people of Iowa vote on the Iowa Marriage Amendment."

Iowa has not suddenly disenfranchised its citizens.  The ad is sponsored by Focus on the Family, and the issue, as they see it, is the right to bring a state gay marriage amendment to the general polls.  Iowa already has a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) stipulating that the only legally-recognized marriages in Iowa are those between a man and a woman.  However, after Lambda Legal Defense filed a lawsuit to overturn that law, Focus on the Family and its local affiliate, the Iowa Family Policy Council, spearheaded a drive to push through an amendment to the Iowa state constitution, which they argue would prevent "activist judges" from ruling against the state DOMA.

A marriage amendment passed the Iowa House in March, 54-44, but it hasn't received a vote in the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans are split evenly.  The ad claims that Senator Michael Gronstal blocked the issue in the senate, and therefore prevented the people of Iowa from exercising their right to vote, a right the ad claims even Iraqi citizens now possess.

The ad reads "Let the People Vote," implying that the desire for a state amendment is the will of the citizens of Iowa.  Unshackling the marriage amendment from the constraints of the Iowa legislature would thereby give Iowans what they want; the freedom to vote on gay marriage. However, Focus on the Family's urgency is less about the Lambda lawsuit or even protecting marriage than the imminent fall elections.

The Iowa marriage amendment campaign, like similar initiatives in Florida  and California are anything but grassroots.  The campaigns are financed Focus on the Family and supported by state Focus affiliates like the Iowa Family Policy Council. Florida's marriage campaign allegedly received funds from the state GOP.

The Focus on the Family infrastructure ensures that there is a uniformity of message from the national to the local level.  As a result, advocates of anti-gay marriage are careful to characterize themselves as pro-marriage rather than anti-gay.  They are vehement that their campaigns are not anti-gay and certainly not designed to deprive anyone of their civil rights.

What has enabled Focus on the Family to convince supporters throughout the U.S. that an anti-gay marriage movement is not anti-democratic or bigoted?  One key strategy has been Focus on the Family's relationship with the ex-gay movement.

Exodus, the umbrella organization for the Christian part of the ex-gay movement calls itself:

a worldwide interdenominational, Christian organization called to encourage, strengthen, unify and equip Christians to minister the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ to those affected by homosexuality

Exodus International is a global network of religious ministries that attempt to change and convert homosexual men and lesbians to non-homosexual Christian lives through psychological, self-help, therapeutic and biblical approaches.   The ex-gay movement presents testimonies of men and women who have come out of homosexuality through participation in an ex-gay ministry. These ex-gays speak of homosexuality as a condition, a developmental disorder, as a sin,and against God's intention for them.

This advertisement [ picture original source document - pdf document featuring Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus, appeared in 2005 in the Cincinnati Examiner.  Chamber's testimony was supposed to serve as evidence that having gay marriage as a right or political option would have prevented him from realizing he was truly heterosexual.

"I Questioned Homosexuality. By finding my way out of a gay identity, I found the love of my life in the process. Gay marriage would only have blinded me to such an incredible joy."

Ads like this one characterize homosexuality as a condition that can be cured.  To Exodus and Focus on the Family, gay identity is a false lifestyle and identification.  Therefore, gay people do not merit rights or protections like that of the right to marry. With Alan Chamber's testimony as "living proof that change is possible," anti-gay marriage initiatives like that in Iowa can claim that they are not promoting bigotry or discrimination.  How can they deprive someone of a right, they counter, when the very identity that right is protecting is something they believe does not exist?

This enables Focus on the Family to talk of people "struggling with a homosexual orientation" and their belief in "hope for healing" through participation in an ex-gay ministry while denying the existence of a gay identity with full rights to citizenship.

The Iowa ad with the Iraqi woman protests that the rights of Iowans are being taken away, imperiling democracy at home.  Chamber's ad maintains that thousands of gay people will never realize their true heterosexuality if they have a gay marriage option.

Neither of these ads address the contradiction of how Focus on the Family can argue for the rights of anti-gay voters or ex-gays' right to change while the marriage amendment they seek to put in place would deprive gay men and lesbians of their rights throughout the state of Iowa.

Thanks for exposing FOF's new effort and highlighting the antidemocratic agenda of Focus on the Family on this.

FOF, through it's Massachusetts front group, the Massachusetts Family Insitute makes a similar argument, that it is somehow "democratic" to place the constitutional rights of others on the ballot.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 01:39:14 PM EST

Talking Point :

If the central point of Democracy is to enable politically empowered majorities to do what they like to minorities, then how does that not translate into the strong prevailing over, oppressing, subjugating, and even slaughtering the weak ?

If Democracy is synonymous with the political desires of majorities - and not tied to ( as originally conceived ) the inherent rights of individuals -    how can FOF's take on "Democracy" be distinguished - in practice - from atrocities such as occured in the Rwandan genocide ?

Wasn't the Rwandan genocide - by the arguments of FOF - "democratic" ?

One could go on endlessly in this vein :

The "democratic" history of genocide and political violence, "democratic" pogroms........

"Democracy" - it would seem - is as old as human nature and very probably practiced by all the higher primates which - it has been recently discovered - wage wars of genocidal aggression. It may even, arguable by FOF's apparent logic, be practiced by ant colonies.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 05:11:12 PM EST

"it is somehow "democratic" to place the constitutional rights of others on the ballot"

It's the tyranny of the majority again, and again...

So long as we all vote on it, doesn't that make it okay?  We've asked what everyone thinks about it...

What folks are forgetting is what Moms worldwide have been saying for decades:
If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?

Just because a lot of people think it's a good idea doesn't mean that it is.  (Everyone remember slavery and segregation?)


by EmilyWynn8 on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 02:56:33 PM EST

And what about all those bills in Congress that Tom Delay et al refused to bring up for a vote? Such as an extension of the ban on assault weapons? The list can get really long. But I guess voting only matters when gay marriage is the issue.

by Joan Bokaer on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 04:53:34 PM EST

Welcome Dr. Erzen!

Thank you for a very intelligent assessment of FOF.

In the Focus on the Family's online news letter, Citzenlink, emailed daily out to subscribers, head honcho Dr. James Dobson makes the following statement in talking about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers who answered affirmatively a Dallas Gay Political Caucus questionnaire when she ran for the Dallas City Council that homosexuals should not be discriminated against:

"You know what? I do," Dobson said, affirming her response. "I don't believe that homosexuals should be denied a job. I don't believe that they should not be able to buy a house. I don't believe that they should not have the same rights everybody else does. I just don't believe that there should be special rights given to homosexuals that are not given to everybody else."
(Focus on the Family Email Newsletter - Citizenlink - 10 October 2005)

At a Love Won Out conference held in Sacramento I interviewed Exodus ex-president, ex-gay, ex-poster boi, John Paulik. It was all I could do to keep myself from asking him,

"John, if god has healed you of homosexuality, how come he left you with all of the symtoms?"

by JerrySloan on Thu Mar 23, 2006 at 06:06:47 PM EST

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