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The fight against LGBT equality in Florida is being spearheaded by John Stemberger, a man who claims homosexuality is a “pathology” and believes marriage equality will indoctrinate “schoolchildren into a gay lifestyle.”

Stemberger, who is president of the Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC), made national headlines this month after he asserted that “inner city” residents “have almost a barbarian society” due to the decline of marriage. During a July 30 interview on 100.7 WFLA, Stemberger suggested that allowing gay people to marry would ultimately destroy the institution of marriage, saying:

STEMBERGER: Marriage is a unique institution that does many, many things that are productive, so you want to encourage marriage. In the inner city right now we see what happens when marriage is gone. You have almost a barbarian society. It’s a very simple society. When marriage is gone, bad things happen in society.

His remarks were condemned as racist, but they’re just the latest in a long line of inflammatory comments from Stemberger. Through his work at the FFPC, frequent media appearances, and his founding of an anti-gay alternative to the Boy Scouts, Stemberger has emerged as one of the most virulently anti-gay social conservatives in the country.

The Florida Family Policy Council

Established in 2004, the FFPC is a state chapter of Focus on the Family, with a self-proclaimed mission ”to strengthen Florida’s families through public policy education, issue research, and grassroots advocacy.” While not formally affiliated with the organization, the FFPC is also closely tied to the Family Research Council (FRC), which has been branded an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

As one of the best-funded social conservative organizations in the state - the FFPC was among the anti-gay groups to receive funding from Chick-fil-A’s charitable division - the FFPC boasts ties to prominent Florida conservatives, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who keynoted the group’s Policy Awards Dinner in 2013. The FFPC focuses its efforts on advocating the teaching of creationism in public schools, abstinence-only sex education, and school vouchers, in addition to its crusades against reproductive rights, stem cell research, and LGBT equality.

The group is also a vehicle for a distinctly theocratic brand of conservatism. Stemberger has said that “no religion can save [America] except for Christians” and declared that public policy should be guided by “scripture.”

Most recently, the FFPC featured prominently in the debate over Florida’s anti-gay marriage amendment, which a federal judge struck down on August 21. Despite having slammed Republican state attorney general Pam Bondi in 2010 for being childless and “liv[ing] with her 60-year-old doctor boyfriend,” the FFPC lauded her defense of the state’s marriage equality ban in court, hailing Bondi as “an example of courage and responsible stewardship of her authority as the highest law enforcement officer in the state.”

The FFPC’s anti-gay agenda extends far beyond opposing marriage equality. The organization opposes gay 
adoption, calling same-sex parents “objectively inferior" to married heterosexual parents, despite study after study demonstrating that children of same-sex parents fare as well or better than those raised by opposite-sex parents. Moreover, the FFPC supports discredited ”ex-gay” therapy programs, with a page on its website listing resources for “leaving [the] gay lifestyle.”

Meanwhile, the FFPC’s “gay rights" page provides links to rabidly anti-gay commentary, featuring articles like "What Homosexuals Want" (courtesy of the anti-LGBT hate group the American Family Association) and “The Gay Agenda and Manipulation.” The page also links to an FRC pamphlet which asserts that homosexuality is linked to higher rates of pedophilia - a claim with no empirical basis.

Stemberger’s Anti-Gay Bigotry

After a decade at the helm of the FFPC, Stemberger has produced a lengthy track record of anti-gay rhetoric, including referring to homosexuality a “pathology.”

Among Stemberger’s most persistent fixations is how gay men express their sexuality. He finds “in-your-face” gay men particularly irksome. Denouncing “the social construct called ‘gay,’” Stemberger once defined that “construct” as “in your face, it’s shoving down your throat, and it’s intimidation.” During the run-up to the Boy Scouts’ 2013 vote on allowing openly gay members, Stemberger, in a Washington Times column, deemed those “who have same-sex attractions” acceptable members of the Scouts, but only if they were “discreet” and not “loud and proud.”

That fear of proud gay men may stem from Stemberger’s fondness for the anti-gay trope that gay men want to “recruit” young boys - an assertion he made during a July 2013 interview with hate group leader Peter LaBarbera:

Similarly, as Florida prepared to vote on its anti-gay marriage amendment in 2008, Stemberger justified the ban by stating that allowing gay marriages in the state “could result in the indoctrination of schoolchildren into a gay lifestyle.” Stemberger also sees a plot against young innocents in Walt Disney World’s Gay Days, which he has assailed as an opportunity for gay men to “flaunt” themselves in front of children while they enjoy “unbridled debauchery.”

Trail Life USA

Perhaps the seminal moment in Stemberger’s career of anti-gay extremism came during the debate over the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) policy banning gay scouts. Stemberger became one of the most prominent supporters of the BSA’s gay ban, appearing on CNN and Fox News to defend the policy.

Stemberger’s argued that accepting gay scouts would sexualize the organization and cause churches to pull their support for the organization. Speaking to CNN’s Don Lemon, he predicted that allowing for gay scouts would “literally destroy the program.”

Speaking with LaBarbera, Stemberger also predicted that allowing openly gay Scouts would ”increase sexual abuse” between boys:

When the BSA decided to end its ban on gay scouts, Stemberger lamented that it had been “one of the sadest [sic] days of my life”:

Stemberger responded to the vote by founding Trail Life USA, an anti-gay alternative to the BSA. In a September 2013 interview with right-wing radio host Janet Mefferd, Stemberger said that Trail life would not “tolerate activists. We’re not going to tolerate somebody who’s, you know, here and queer, loud and proud, all of that nonsense”:

Trail Life launched to much fanfare, with Fox News host Mike Huckabee delivering the keynote address at the group’s inaugural convention. The group’s membership policy appears to bar not only gay participants, but also gay rights supporters, stating that “[w]e grant membership to adults and youth who do not engage in or promote sexual immorality of any kind.” Although chapters had been established in 40 states by March, an assessment by the Associated Press deemed Trail Life a “tiny movement" overall.

Local media has rightly lambasted Stemberger for his “barbarian” comment, but his record of extreme and offensive rhetoric is far more extensive than is being reported. As the legal battle over Florida’s marriage ban intensifies, outlets are likely to continue turning to Stemberger for a “conservative” voice on LGBT issues. If and when they do, they should be prepared to shine a light on the animus and extremism that motivate his work. 

Previously:

Orlando Sentinel Whitewashes Boy Scout Alternative’s Anti-Gay Bigotry

Trail Life USA’s John Stemberger: Affirming Gay Youth Is “Tantamount To Abuse … Absolutely Nonsense”

Fox’s Huckabee To Keynote Event For Anti-Gay Boy Scouts Alternative

h/t: Luke Brinker and Coleman Lowndes at Equality Matters

Gov. Rick Perry, your endorsement of medically inaccurate and dangerous ex-gay conversion therapy renders you unfit to be a Christian and an upstanding citizen of our Nation. During his tenure as Governor there, he has destroyed the Lone Star State, and if he is elected President in 2016, he’ll wreck our Nation into the ground further than fellow Texas Bush 43 ever did. 

h/t: Zack Ford at Think Progress

h/t: Human Rights Campaign

thepoliticalfreakshow:

DALLAS (AP) — Robert Gates, the new president of the Boy Scouts of America, said Friday that he would have moved last year to allow openly gay adults in the organization but said he opposes any further attempts to address the policy now.

Gates took over an organization this week that serves about 2.5 million youth but faces continued membership declines and fights over its inclusion of openly gay boys, but not adults. Gates, the former secretary of defense who oversaw the end of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, addressed those issues Friday, a day after Scouting’s national leadership elected him president.

"I was prepared to go further than the decision that was made," Gates told The Associated Press in an interview in advance of a speech before the group’s national leaders at its annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. “I would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country.”

The BSA’s National Council voted at last year’s annual meeting to accept openly gay youth, after a monthslong process with protests on both sides. Gates planned to tell Scouting’s leaders Friday that a continued fight over the issue threatens BSA’s future.

"Given the strong feelings — the passion — involved on both sides of this matter, I believe strongly that to re-open the membership issue or try to take last year’s decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement — with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own," Gates said in prepared remarks.

Gates, 70, who also served as director of the CIA, is a visible advocate for Scouting as it faces a storm of bad publicity.

The Scouts reached out to Gates as he was retiring from the Defense Department and asked him to join their leadership, said Wayne Perry, the departing BSA president. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who was expected to become president this year, agreed to wait another two years to allow Gates to serve now, Perry said.

"We need America to know what the Boy Scouts can do for the youth of America," Perry said, adding that Gates "immediately can reach an audience that we wouldn’t otherwise reach."

Gates earned his Eagle Scout award as a 15-year-old growing up in Wichita, Kansas. He has long credited that achievement for giving him the confidence to excel in nearly five decades of public service, and he stayed involved in Scouting during his career. He has recalled skeet-shooting with young Scouts while he was director of the CIA.

Along the way, Gates became known as someone willing to speak frankly about problems in the institutions he led, often at the risk of offending others. Gates warned BSA’s leaders Friday that “maybe it’s time for blunt talk.”

Over the last decade, the Scouts have faced small, but consistent declines in membership. Also, high-profile sponsors and corporate donors, including Disney and Lockheed Martin, have cut funding over the exclusion of openly gay adults. Meanwhile, a handful of conservatives who opposed the inclusion of openly gay boys started their own organization, Trail Life USA.

Gates told the AP that he wanted to move the Scouts past that debate and focus on what unites the membership. He said he would push for a heavier focus on local marketing and sharing positive stories about Scouting efforts that are sometimes drowned out by debates over gay rights or child abuse lawsuits filed against the Scouts in several states.

He said he would emphasize to sponsors that “welcoming gay youth is an important step forward.”

Gates led the Defense Department when it phased out the ban on openly gay soldiers known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” something gay-rights groups have cited as a hopeful sign for them. But Gates said Friday that the Scouts were different from the CIA or the military, where “I could give an order and people would follow it, at least most of the time.” In an organization driven almost entirely by volunteers, officials have to respect differences in opinion, he said.

"The key at this point is to keep focus, again, on the top priority, which is, how do we develop the best possible program for kids, and how do we keep their interests at the forefront?" Gates said.

Another reason for the Boy Scouts to lift its ban on openly gay adults serving in their organization. 

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Forty-nine-year-old Geoff McGrath, leader of Troop 98 in Seattle’s Rainier Beach, is reportedly the first gay troop leader to be removed from the Boy Scouts of America.

The Boy Scouts’ National Council voted last year to allow gay youth to participate as of Jan. 1, but not gay adults.

Forty-nine-year-old Geoff McGrath, leader of Troop 98 in Seattle’s Rainier Beach, is reportedly the first gay troop leader to be removed from the Boy Scouts of America.

NBC News had been working on a story about Troop 98 when this statement was released from the BSA yesterday:

NBC News had been working on a story about Troop 98 when this statement was released from the BSA yesterday:

The BSA claimed McGrath “deliberately injected” his sexuality into the organization by speaking to NBC.

The BSA claimed McGrath "deliberately injected" his sexuality into the organization by speaking to NBC.
Staff / Reuters

Sharon Moulds, a member of the Seattle BSA Council, claimed she only was made aware of McGrath’s sexual orientation when NBC News contacted her.


It was then that we became aware of his intentions to make a public statement about his orientation and use our program as a means to further a personal agenda.

McGrath, who has been with his husband for 20 years, claimed he never hid his sexual orientation from Scouting leaders when applying for the leadership position.

Rainier Beach United Methodist Church was the troop’s charter partner and Rev. Monica Corsaro insisted McGrath serve as Scoutmaster for the inclusive troop.

McGrath, who has been with his husband for 20 years, claimed he never hid his sexual orientation from Scouting leaders when applying for the leadership position.

It is BSA policy not to inquire about sexual orientation during the application for a leadership position. Spokesman Deron Smith said in an email to NBC:


Our policy is that we do not ask people about their sexual orientation, and it’s not an issue until they deliberately inject it into Scouting in an inappropriate fashion […] We spoke with Mr. McGrath today and based on the information he provided, the National Council has revoked his registration.

“They are complaining that the problem is a distraction to Scouting and they don’t seem to understand that the distraction is self-inflicted,” McGrath stated.

“It’s extremely disappointing to not be fully supported and defended in my membership.”

"They are complaining that the problem is a distraction to Scouting and they don’t seem to understand that the distraction is self-inflicted," McGrath stated.

McGrath has not yet received official word of his dismissal. “I’ll continue to serve as Scoutmaster of Troop 98 until I’m relieved of my responsibility by the Pastor,” he wrote on his Facebook.

McGrath has not yet received official word of his dismissal. "I'll continue to serve as Scoutmaster of Troop 98 until I'm relieved of my responsibility by the Pastor," he wrote on his Facebook.

Watch his full interview with Seattle’s KING5:

Source: Sarah Karlan for Buzzfeed

crooksandliars:

Ron Orr, whose almost-Eagle Scout son left BSA to join Trail Life, explains that “As Christians from a scriptural basis, we love all folks, but the Scripture is very clear that being homosexual is a sin.”

h/t: Josh Israel at Think Progress LGBT

Starting January 1 of 2014, the Boy Scouts of America will put into practice the inclusive policy that welcomes openly gay youth interested in joining the organization.

After much lobbying from grassroots advocates and Scouting families across the country, BSA approved the policy in May 2013 with support from 60% of the voting committee members. While openly LGBT parents and adults are still banned from being Scout leaders, 2014 will start off with a giant victory towards equality in Scouting.

Brad Haddock, a BSA national executive board member, said he anticipates the implementation to a be a non-issue within the troops, according to the Associated Press. “My hope is there will be the same effect this Jan. 1 as the Y2K scare.” He continued, “it’s business as usual, nothing happens, and we move forward.”

The AP further reported that the Roman Catholic and Mormon Churches, major donors to BSA, plan to continue supporting the organization. On its website, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting spoke on the issue, and stated, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that individuals who disclose a same-sex attraction are to be treated with the same dignity due all human beings.”

While some individual parishes and community members may be cautious of what the lifted ban will bring, GLAAD is confident that equal treatment for all kids and teens, ultimately, can only enhance the Boy Scouts’ values of service and participating citizenship.

H/T: GLAAD

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a Scottsdale, AZ-based legal group committed to rolling back the rights of women and LGBT people on the grounds of “religious liberty.” The organization has played a leading role in combatting marriage equality and non-discrimination policies in the U.S. while working internationally to criminalize homosexuality. Despite its rabid anti-LGBT extremism, ADF receives reliably friendly treatment from Fox News.

Established as the Alliance Defense Fund in 1994, ADF’s founders include such religious right leaders as Focus on the Family’s James C. Dobson and Campus Crusade for Christ’s Bill Bright. According to ADF’s website, the organization changed its name to Alliance Defending Freedom in 2012 to highlight its “enduring mission to gain justice for those whose faith has been unconstitutionally denied in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.”

Headed by President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears, staffed by more than 40 attorneys, and boasting an annual budget in excess of $30 million, ADF bills itself as “a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system.” As part of its effort to remake the American legal system along quasi-theocratic lines, ADF has:

  • Partnered with more than 300 like-minded institutions, including the Federalist Society, the Home School Legal Defense Association, the rabidly anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute, the Thomas More Law Center, anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, and the now-defunct “ex-gay” organization Exodus International.
  • Filed a brief supporting statutory bans on gay sex in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case in which the Supreme Court ultimately found state anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional.
  • Opposed anti-bullying efforts in public schools, calling for exceptions for speech or actions based on religious views and decrying “tolerance training” and “special protection” for LGBT students.
  • Created its own "Day of Truth" to combat the Day of Silence, which commemorates LGBT victims of bullying, harassment, and violence.
  • Crusaded against a gay-inclusive Boy Scouts of America, calling the BSA’s decision to allow gay scouts an assault on “freedom” and working with churches that sponsor scout troops to work around the new membership policy.
  • Defended California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, in Hollingsworth v. Perry.
  • Offered free representation to Iowa county recorders who refused to provide same-sex couples with marriage licenses.
  • Dispatched chief counsel Benjamin Bull to Russia to meet with Yelena Mizulina, the legislative leader of that country’s crackdown on LGBT people.
  • Represented 18 plaintiffs challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that for-profit employers cover contraception at no additional cost to employees.

ADF’s relentless legal campaign against LGBT equality led the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to describe the organization as "virulently anti-gay." SPLC proved instrumental in exposing an aspect of ADF’s work that the organization chooses not to tout on its website - its international work to criminalize homosexuality.

Drafted in accordance with other 19th-century British colonial laws, Section 53 of Belize’s criminal code bans “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal.” Violation of the code is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In May 2013, gay rights activist Caleb Orozco launched a legal challenge to Section 53, enduring homophobic death threats as a result.

Section 53 is no mere anachronism in Belize. The SPLC highlighted a March report by the Heartland Alliance, which documented Belize’s climate of anti-LGBT violence and discrimination, stoked by laws like Section 53. The Heartland Alliance cited the brutal murder of an openly gay doctor and the slaying of a lawmaker’s gay brother, in addition to anti-LGBT harassment by law enforcement officers in the country. Media have further fanned homophobic sentiment in the country, particularly in light of the Section 53 challenge. Amandala - Belize’s top newspaper - has compared homosexuality to pedophilia, while online comment sections on the case are rife with anti-gay vitriol.

SPLC reported in July that ADF has rushed to the defense of Section 53, offering legal help to the right-wing group Belize Action. As SPLC notes, ADF has touted Belize Action’s defense of Section 53 without mentioning that it has supplied lawyers in the case.

Wholly unbothered by ADF’s anti-LGBT extremism, Fox News has repeatedly sought to elevate the organization to a position of respectability. Fox personalities have hosted ADF attorneys for softball interviews and openly celebrated the organization’s work - even going so far as to solicit donations for the organization.

Fox reporter Shannon Bream - among the network’s most consistent purveyors of the Christian persecution narrative so beloved by ADF - has made a name for herself as an cheerleader for anti-LGBT discrimination. On August 23, Bream conducted a one-sided interview with ADF senior counsel Jordan Lorence, who unsuccessfully defended a New Mexico photographer who refused to serve a same-sex couple. Pronouncing herself “confused” by a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling against the photographer, Bream - a trained attorney - suggested that businesses should be able to discriminate against gay customers.

After the photographer appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Fox host Megyn Kelly invited Lorence onto her show, The Kelly File. Kelly - also an attorney - stoked fears about the case, asking Lorence whether a loss for his client could lead to “a lawsuit by a gay couple that won’t, you know, see a wedding service performed in a Catholic Church.”

ADF’s work on the New Mexico case so inspired Fox contributor Erick Erickson that he wrote a post on his RedState.com blog begging readers to send money to the organization, saying that he had already done so himself. Casting ADF as “lone and brave warriors” in a battle against the irredeemably evil left, Erickson wrote: “Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant, then seeks to silence good. We must fund the fight for Truth and Light.”

While it’s hard to top Erickson’s enthusiasm for ADF, Fox host Bill O’Reilly came pretty close on the December 2 edition of The O’Reilly Factor. Hyping his annually-manufactured “War on Christmas” meme, O’Reilly showered ADF with praise for its efforts to fight “Happy Holidays syndrome.”

H/T: MMFA

Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality joined the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios yesterday to discuss a lawsuit in Illinois challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to reaffirm their anti-gay policy. LaBarbera said that gay rights advocates are just like a school bully, and “like the little weakling in school who keeps giving up his lunch, we keep giving up our lunch to the bully and the bully is getting stronger and bolder and more vicious.” He warned that if Americans do not push back against “the homosexual lobby” then “they will run right over the country,” and praised the Boy Scouts of America for refusing to “cave into this latest pressure campaign by the homosexual lobby” and standing “with the silent majority.” 

NOTE: The Boy Scouts have since allowed— on May 23rd, 2013— LGBTQ youth in, but not LGBTQ adult leaders. Also, marriage equality is now the law in Illinois, effective June 1st, 2014 (or sooner). 

h/t: Right Wing Watch

Rafael Cruz, the father of Ted Cruz and the Texas Senator’s number one surrogate, is a favorite among Tea Party and Religious Right activists with his birther, Christian Nationalist and End Times-focused speeches. 

Back in June, he spoke to a Texas men’s prayer breakfast where he denounced the theory of evolution as a lie that, along with gay rights, will bring about communism. “There is nothing scientific about evolution,” Cruz said. “Evolution is one of the strongest tools of Marxism because if they can convince you that you came from a monkey, it’s much easier to convince you that God does not exist.” 

[…]

He also discussed the Supreme Court marriage cases, which at the time of this speech had not been decided, and the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to include openly gay members under the age of eighteen.

Cruz lamented that the Boy Scouts ended the organization’s ban on gay youth, which his PowerPoint presentation said would lead to “Increased risk that our children would be exposed to sexual predators,” and lamented that some churches may continue their ties with the Boy Scouts.

holygoddamnshitballs:

Bigoted Antigay ‘Christian’ Version of Boy Scouts, “Trail Life USA’ Launches

The right-wing, christian extremist, anti-gay version of the Boy Scouts of America called The Hitlerjugend Trail Life USA launched yesterday to much “indifference” with special guest speaker Mike “Go Fuck Yourself”Huckabee!

The Washington Times reports:

At the opening session, John Stemberger, chairman of the board of Trail Life USA, teased the crowd saying he would not be surprised if there were “spies” from Grapevine, Texas — BSA’s home base — in the audience. That would make sense, since everyone from supporters to the curious want to know what’s being planned, he said, adding that Trail Life USA will not be “anti-BSA.” The conference’s theme is “Honoring the Legacy, Raising the Standard.” Trail Life USA’s name, drawn from more than 300 options, was carefully vetted and is intended not to be political or controversial, organizers said. “Trail” refers to a pathway and being outdoors, but also symbolizes the passage of life, where there are moral choices, and right and wrong paths, said Mr. Stemberger.

Trail Life USA’s Membership Standards include that members do not engage in or promote sexual immorality of any kind, or engage in behavior that would become a distraction.  Also  that “scouts” for lack of a better word, must be biologically male children under the age of 18.

Trail Life USA states that the basis for the program’s ethical and moral standards are found in the Bible. and that that any sexual activity outside the context of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful before God and therefore inconsistent with the values and principles of the program.

Gee. I wonder if self-flagellation is a merit-badge?

You can check out their indoctrination video here and be sure to visit Trail Life USA’s Facebook page HERE  and leave a message..