An Online Magazine in the Reality-Based Community.

Letter from Peter LaBarbera

Friday, December 09, 2005

Peter LaBarbera of the Illinois Family Institute, one of the "pro-family" organizations that has been a thorn in the side of reality-based people that believe in the civil equality of gays and lesbians, has been featured in several posts on the Blend.

LaBarbera actually emailed me the other day (he reads the Blend?!), and dared me to post his letter. Why would I deny my readers this? So here it is.

From: Peter L.
Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2005 8:28 AM
To: Pam S.
Subject: Pam, question for you....

I have to chuckle at your description of me as "leather loving," but it's par for the course for homosexual activists who use smear tactics rather than facts to discredit their opponents. Often they turn the extremes of the "gay" movement (e.g., sadism/masochism) against their foes-sophomoric as that tactic is.

Let me ask you a question: If you were to discover a local KKK group, which you consider deviant and threatening activity-as I would-so you set out to expose it, even by going undercover, would it be fair to call you the "Klan loving Pam Spaulding"?

Yes, the IML was and is, in my view, a grotesque event worthy of being exposed. Dare I say that you, too, would be highly offended at some of the activities that are "tolerated" there-such as a booth for the "Waterboys"-men who urinate on and in one another for sexual pleasure? (I'm presuming you find that heinous and deeply disturbing-please correct me if I'm wrong.) So, yes, we walked through the IML vendors' room, and wrote about it. This sort of muckraking journalism-although ours was just a web article--has been going on for years in America.

You may disagree with me about the "leather" movement, but surely you would not argue that the subject is not controversial. If you disagree with me, why don't you defend the IML activities (warning: the fact that they are "consensual" is hardly a persuasive argument), rather than making puerile attacks against people like me who oppose and expose them?

How silly: Peter LaBarbera criticizes the homosexual and leather movements, therefore he secretly yearns to be a homosexual leatherman. Let's follow the (il)logic: NOW staffers secretly yearn to work at pro-life crisis pregnancy centers; conservative Republicans secretly pine for higher taxes; NRA activists sneakily crusade to pass the Brady Bill in their off hours: and Human Rights Campaign employees desperately want to work for the Family Research Council (don't tell their bosses!).

Oh, and I almost forgot: the "conservative Christian-loving Pam Spaulding" just criticizes the "religious right" for cover. :)

Please publish this on your site unless you lack the guts to do so.


Peter LaBarbera
Illinois Family Institute
Before I fisk Mr. LaBarbera's email, I just want to say a couple of things about this blog...

It is my outlet for rambling, ranting, humor and serious thinking aloud about the world I live in. Therefore, you will read posts here are flip, profane and possibly offensive to someone out there, but you'll also find posts that analyze and discuss issues of the day in a serious manner and encourage open discussion with those that take time out of their day to stop by.

If you're offended, why are you reading? This little coffeehouse is not exactly a master of the universe blog with its roughly 2000 or so visits a day, so for those put-upon by my commentary -- like Peter LaBarbera -- this seems kind of funny. It's not as if the Blend has enough influence to quash the well-funded work of the Illinois Family Institute, or bigger fish like James Dobson. I wish.

OK. On to the letter.


it's par for the course for homosexual activists who use smear tactics rather than facts to discredit their opponents.

Interesting. This goes on by those on the Right all the time. The Ann Coulters, Michelle Malkins, Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world - they certainly don't have a problem doing this. It's their First Amendment right to say that BS, but it's my First Amendment right to call things as they see them in my space here. After all, how can I let a statement like this go unanswered...
"I have monitored the homosexual movement for 15 years, with special focus on its campaign to penetrate schools...Most parents, especially those living near big cities, simply have no clue as to the many ways that the 'sexual orientation' agenda works its way into their children's education."
(backing the Southern Baptist's call to investigate the influence of the homo agenda in public schools)
-- Peter LaBarbera
Come on, Peter. There is no Homosexual AgendaTM, any more than there is a "black agenda" or a "feminist agenda" to help children (and educable grownups) understand the changing world in which we live in and to tolerate and accept difference. Then, again, maybe you do believe there is a organized left-wing conspiracy to destroy our culture that includes gays, women and minorities. I just know that I have not received a special decoder ring, password or special orders telling me how to accomplish this goal of world domination/destruction. Yet.

The real problem here is that composition of today's American family has changed, and this fact has sent the Religious Right into a tizzy of denial and desire to wind the cultural clock back. It's the fear of what is now considered NORMAL.

Families have two mommies, two daddies, moms and dads of different races or religions; there are families that choose to be child-free. Families today don't look like the Cleavers any more and the Right cannot grasp this concept. Given that attitude, the kind of organized anti-gay efforts and support of legislation to stifle gay civil rights by organizations such as IFI is understandable.

If you were to discover a local KKK group, which you consider deviant and threatening activity-as I would-so you set out to expose it, even by going undercover, would it be fair to call you the "Klan loving Pam Spaulding"?

This makes no sense, though I'm not surprised that you would compare gay people to the Klan, an organized group with a mission to return the country to a culturally "pure" (read: white Protestant) state that terrorized and killed minorities after the darkest period in our country's history -- slavery.

I'll assume this was hyperbole.

A more apt comparison would be for me to infiltrate an organization like IFI and to report on its agenda to destroy the lives of tax-paying, law-abiding gays and lesbians -- many, incidentally, who belong to faith communities and share more values than not with many of the people you work with.


You've objected to corporate sponsorship of gay themed events, something you didn't mention in your letter. That is an important effort of your organization.
"The Gay Games are about homosexuality, and I think it's wrong for Walgreen's to sponsor it. They've taken the step of becoming an official sponsor, which is putting the Walgreens name to endorsing this event."
-- Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute
IFI and other anti-gay groups are free to boycott, write letters to and speak with elected officials and corporate sponsors of events that you disagree with. Gay rights groups can do the same. What I sense, however, is a massive frustration that progress on this front to turn back time is hit and miss -- that there are companies, like Kraft and Walgreens, that thumb their nose at Right-wing organizations that want to impose their sense of morality onto the entire country and threaten boycotts. Take their response to your objection to sponsorship of the Gay Games, to be held in Chicago:
Walgreens is the latest company to come under fire by a conservative Christian group for its support the 2006 Gay Games to be held in Chicago.

The drug store chain has given games organizers $100,000 and has been named a Platinum-level sponsor of the event. But, the Illinois Family Institute is calling for the company to take back the money.

The institute, which already has begun a campaign against Kraft Foods and Harris Bank which have each contributed $25,000 to the games, says that if Walgreens does not disassociate itself from the games it will encourage its members to stop patronizing the company's stores.

...The company, like Kraft and Harris, shows no sign of caving in to the institute's demands.

Dare I say that you, too, would be highly offended at some of the activities that are "tolerated" there-such as a booth for the "Waterboys"-men who urinate on and in one another for sexual pleasure?

Quite frankly, I don't think much about this stuff unless I read it on bible-beating moralist news sites, why do you? While I personally don't find the idea of this particular practice appealing, I don't have to partake in it, nor do you or your fellow good Christians. This is about adult, consensual behavior (despite your attempt to pre-empt the use of this as a counter-argument). Why is this not a persuasive argument? Are you saying you would like to criminalize golden showers? How, exactly, would that be enforced? Hetero or homo participants or both?

If the issue is about the decline of public morality or that our society has an unusual and unhealthy preoccupation with sex, that's a different matter worthy of debate, but I don't see what this has to do with sexual orientation or private consensual acts.

When you make multiple trips to "uncover" deviant acts by "going undercover" to gay pride events (or International Mr. Leather), this kind of effort doesn't tell your audience anything about the entire gay community, any more than heading to hetero swingers clubs, a frat house or the local meet-market bar tells me about straight sexual culture. Sexual subcultures exist along the entire orientation spectrum. Why are you so fixated on the sex? Is it because it is non-procreative? Explain this need to place yourself in these situations.

Any Pride event I've attended has had booth upon booth of non-sexual-related information and resources. Your skewed "reporting" overlooks all of the aspects of the gay community at an event like this that have nothing to do with sex: health and legal resources, information on gay-friendly churches, local organizations for LGBT youth, information on positions of local politicians, etc. That, I venture, would not be interesting "news" to report to your folks.

I'm interested in your thoughts on Willie Wilson, who seems quite fixated on sexual acts in his anti-gay rhetoric. Peter, do you agree with a man of the cloth saying things like this in a Sunday sermon:

"But … women falling down on another woman, strapping yourself up with something, it ain't real. That thing ain't got no feeling in it. It ain't natural. Anytime somebody got to slap some grease on your behind and stick something in you, it's something wrong with that. Your butt ain't made for that."

"No wonder your behind is bleeding. You can't make no connection with a screw and another screw. The Bible says God made them male and female."
--The Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast D.C. (and a former mayoral candidate) during a recorded sermon.
This man clearly identifies as a Christian. Are these sentiments something you are on board with?


While I have your attention, Peter, I want to ask you about the unhinged Fred Phelps, a man we talk about from time to time here on the Blend. I see that Fred doesn't seem to like your work and he's really rude to boot.

Why on earth have you suggested that The Rotting CryptkeeperTM could be a plant of the Left?
"Politically and culturally speaking, Phelps and his protesters serve as a crude caricature of pro-family traditionalists who oppose the normalization of homosexuality. Fred makes an easy target for the media and secularists who are tempted (partly by their own prejudices) to paint any opposition to "gay rights" as hateful. For this reason, I have sometimes wondered if Phelps and his lawyerly clan are 'gay plants.' "
-- Peter LaBarbera
Trust me -- we don't want him either. His band of hateful relatives actually came to my town this year.

As far as "puerile attacks" go, it's my pad and welcome to it. I have plenty of posts that are rants, but there are many that are not (as my readers can tell you), but all of them reflect my dissatisfaction with organized efforts of the Right to legislate my rights away, as if I were a monster or predator. Why, pray tell, is it too much to ask from the country I live in to allow gays to:

* serve openly in the military
* adopt and raise children
* have the same partnership and legal benefits as married couples
* not fear losing a job if their orientation becomes known.

What I see over and over by people in "pro-family" organizations is that fear of the normalization of homosexuality in our culture. That's the core issue. It's why you and many in your camp have pressed on with the idea of "ex-gay" facilities to "cure" people of their gayness, and to continue to look at it as a sickness, a pathology. It is an attempt to restore your sense of social order, one that makes life more comfortable, less complex for people like yourself to deal with.

It's why you choose to go undercover to "investigate" unusual sexual practices that you are repulsed by versus looking at the lives of average gays and lesbians who are more concerned about work, life and current events.

NEWSFLASH: most gay people lead pedestrian, unexceptional lives, some are quite fabulous -- it's all over the map, just like the straight world. We have pets, get the flu, we kick back and watch TV (btw, I like Law and Order: SVU and have never seen an episode of Will and Grace -- maybe I just flunked the gay test, Peter).

But that wouldn't be interesting enough to publish in your newsletter.

Exclusion and demonization of gay people has worked in scaring many politicians, particularly moderate Democrats, from taking clear stands in favor of civil equality (something we rail about here), but where you have not succeeded is in corporate America, which operates on dollars and cents and gay dollars are just as green as yours. Granted, it's clear the Right has now caught on -- thus this big dust up with the AFA and Ford -- but I think you all know in the end that this is a losing proposition. You can try to pass legislation and put pressure on institutions, but the society at large has accepted that openly gay people exist and deserve civil rights.

The civil marriage issue has been conflated in the public's mind with religious marriage, and thus it has served the Right well as a diversion from the question of overall civil equality for gays and lesbians. Both sides know that this is a linchpin. It will, eventually, come down to a Supreme Court decision. One day. But by the time that happens, will you have lost the culture war?

Deep down, you know that this "problem" of homosexuality will not go away, so instead we see strident efforts to recriminalize and recloset it. Civil equality for a minority is something that should never be determined by majority vote. We've learned that time and again. Sadly, human nature, by default, never seems to lead on this front.

However, the more people that have the courage to come out, the less power you have -- we are your friends, neighbors, colleagues, service providers, ministers, doctors, and leaders. We want nothing more than to be able to live our lives as full citizens with equal rights.

The only way your side can win is if gays are in the closet.

And that's where I can hope that my minor voice in the blogosphere makes a difference, just a reader at a time.

Thanks for writing.


Related: Peter LaBarbera's trolling for scat talk

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