At the San Diego offices of Update, a newspaper serving Southern California homosexuals, a royal blue bumper sticker clinging to the lobby wall is both confessional and prophetic: "Having abandoned the search for truth, I'm now looking for a good fantasy."
While the homosexual ethos depends on an abandonment of truth, the search for a good gay fantasy may not last much longer. After a week of demonstrations late last month, the fantasy nation long yearned for by American homosexuals may now be breaching the borders of reality.
With more than 300 pro-homosexual bills romping through state legislatures coast to coast, the potentially precedent-setting judicial assault on traditional marriage in Vermont, the growing fallacy-fueled drive for gay "civil rights," and the tactical defamation of religious opposition, the homosexual offensive is poised to make a forward leap so large it may alter American culture radically-perhaps irrevocably.
"In the culture war ... we are at a crossroads," said Focus on the Family president James Dobson in a March 23 broadcast that examined the forward rumble of America's gay political juggernaut: "We are at a strategic moment in the history of this country."
It is a moment not lost on homosexual activists. "We're on the verge of people understanding us," said Randy Allgaier, coordinator of a California homosexual lobby group: "More than tolerating us-potentially accepting us."
Other gays, while not as effusive, are also optimistic. "There are promising indicators that more and more of the population is sympathetic [toward homosexuals]," said Ryan Hurd, the clean-cut, twenty-something associate editor of Update.
The dim, bohemian office he shares with editor-in-chief Frederic Ball is revealing. The walls are decorated with bodies instead of, say, art. Mr. Ball's side of the room features a four-foot frontal nude poster of an unnamed platinum blond starlet. On Mr. Hurd's side, a black-and-white, 8-by-10 photo series marches across the wall: men, alone and in groups, absurdly muscular, nearly naked, and provocatively entwined. The decor betrays a subculture that, despite its own frantic claims to normality, is actually fixated on the promise of sexual gratification without responsibility.
Still, Mr. Hurd's optimism about the public's view of that subculture is not misplaced. It echoes the findings of a February Gallup poll that showed 50 percent of Americans now feel homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. Just 34 percent felt that way in 1982. "A lot of what we see is very promising," said Mr. Hurd. He added that homosexual activism will be successful only to the extent that it is not seen as gay-and-lesbian-oriented so much as a fight for civil rights.
His statement is in line with the openly propagandistic tactics preached by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen in the activist primer After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's. A chief strategy: Portray homosexuals as victims, an oppressed minority groaning under the yoke of heterosexist tyranny. But the gay quest for "civil rights" bears little resemblance to the struggles of blacks and suffragists, whose eventual liberation benefited society at large. Instead, it calls up the American communists of the '50s and '60s who, in order to advance the radical interests of a narrow group, created a spurious "victim class," then convinced America that theirs was the side of justice.
Following the October 1998 slaying of Matthew Shepard, the slight, effeminate college student who was brutally murdered by two Laramie thugs, gay activists deftly leveraged the political capital dropped in their laps. They spun the storyline that pro-family ministries had created hate that was bound to generate just such an act. They marshaled thousand-candle vigils for Shepard and quickly canonized him. They stoked a public outrage and organized "Equality Begins at Home (EBAH)," a week-long 50-state campaign "to beat back the right wing and their relentless attacks."
Sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and billed as a populist demand for social justice, more than 250 EBAH events popped off across the nation during the week of March 21. Individual events included marches, rallies, lobby days, and conferences, often at state capitols. Homosexuals and their advocates demonstrated for the right to legally marry, adopt children, and stigmatize as "hate" criminals anyone who would stigmatize them.
Some EBAH events fizzled, like the meager, mostly lesbian klatch that gathered at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., to hear National Organization for Women director Patricia Ireland's predictable rah-rah, we're-with-you rant. But some events were historic: On March 21, at an official state ceremony attended by 250 people, a rainbow flag, the homosexual banner said to symbolize both diversity and unity, was hoisted above the capitol building in Hartford, Conn., where it flew for a week. The event marked the first time the rainbow flag was officially recognized by a state government.
"The fact that Connecticut raised the flag is symbolic of the acknowledgment ... and support of gay rights," said Connecticut homosexual activist Carolyn Gabel.
She may be right. While EBAH was specifically designed to claw up traditional values rooted at the state level, there is already growing support for homosexual "rights" among state officials and politicians. Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, whose brother died of AIDS, is pushing publicly for pro-gay, anti-discrimination laws in his state. Anne Boyle, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, joined EBAH activists in a drive for "fairness" in the workplace. And newly elected California Governor Gray Davis has voiced support for pro-gay measures similar to AB222, a sweeping bill that would, among other things, mandate instruction on tolerance of homosexuality in California's public schools.
While state-level pro-gay legislative battles are nothing new, their sheer numbers have lately scaled alarming heights. By some estimates, pro-gay bills outnumber anti-homosexuality measures 2-to-1. In California, the national proving ground, the legislative assault is particularly dangerous, says Randy Thomason, assistant director of the pro-family Capitol Resource Institute in Sacramento. "Both houses of the California legislature are now controlled by liberal Democrats and Gray Davis is sitting in the governor's mansion sharpening up his ink pen," Mr. Thomason said.
Seven bills awaiting committee debate in the Golden State legislature would, if passed, virtually detonate the state's civil and educational landscape-and lay the cabling for similar destruction nationwide. In addition to making homosexuals a specially protected class, AB222 would require that children in public schools, kindergarten through 12th grade, be taught that homosexuality is simply one among several equally healthy and valid lifestyles. Another California bill elevates homosexuality to the same level as sex and race. And, should any citizen oppose homosexuality in a privately owned business or residence, another bill provides for tax-funded investigations under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
"[Homosexual activists] are pushing and pushing hard," said Mr. Thomason. "They're not interested in toleration. They're interested in total approval, which means desensitizing, forcing approval, and punishing innocent citizens of conscience," he said, adding: "As California goes, so goes the nation."
The bills provide only murky religious exclusions. It is an indicator not just of political hubris, but of a spreading conviction among liberal lawmakers that religious conservatives are reeling, battered by blows ranging from the bitter vilification of Ken Starr to the mainstream media's trash-and-trivialize policy toward prominent Christian leaders. Homosexual activists, many of whom use the terms "enemy" and "Christian" interchangeably, are natural beneficiaries. But more than chance beneficiaries, they are also engineers.
In 1987 Guide Magazine, a publication for gays, published an oft-reprinted article by Marshall K. Kirk and Erastes Pill. In the piece, Mr. Kirk and Mr. Pill laid out the shining path to homosexual liberation in six sequential steps that have become for some activists a manifesto. Included in those steps are specific strategies for turning the public against the church, and the church against itself.
"When conservative churches condemn gays," wrote Mr. Kirk and Mr. Pill, "... we can use talk to muddy the moral waters. This means publicizing support for gays by more moderate churches.... We can undermine the moral authority of homophobic churches by portraying them as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step with the times and with the latest findings of psychology. Against the mighty pull of institutional Religion one must set the mightier draw of Science and Public Opinion. Such an unholy alliance has worked well against churches before, on such topics as divorce and abortion ... that alliance can work again here."
It's working like a stake in the heart of such major denominations as the Episcopal and United Methodist Churches, where issues like gay clergy and homosexual marriage have rocked church leadership. During EBAH week, organizers planned scores of faith-based events across the country. Officials at University Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, approved and attended a candlelight vigil at its facility for victims of gay "hate crimes." In Memphis, an event at the First Congregational Church featured testimonies by former ex-gays "traumatized" by the efforts of ex-gay ministries.
Indeed, many gays and lesbians now see all who oppose their lifestyle as a single, composite Foe called the "religious right." ("That's not far off the mark," said Update's Frederic Ball. "They're the ones who are attacking us," said Randy Allgaier.) In fairness, though, mainstream Christians haven't done much to combat the ugly image of such anti-gay crusaders as Fred Phelps of "God Hates Fags" fame.
For example, the only Christians in attendance at a March 22 EBAH event in Austin, Texas, were a cluster of grim-faced, middle-aged men bearing signs with biting slogans like "God calls fags dogs" and "Lord Jesus, Save the Children from the Sodomites." By contrast, homosexual marchers and their supporters appeared stunningly normal (another strategy espoused by Mr. Kirk and Mr. Pill). They were an all-American crowd: white, black, Latino, young, old, even toddlers in sunglasses sitting in strollers or on parents' shoulders. Nowhere in sight were the drag queens, dog collars, and other staple depravities of left-coast gay parades.
Seizing on the perfect foil, Chastity Bono, the lesbian activist daughter of entertainer Cher, used her podium time to hammer home the gay line on Christians: "I've always attributed [gay inequality] to the religious right and I still do, with even more conviction now," she said. "The tools they use against us are hate, fear, and the false mythology that somehow gay and lesbian people are a threat to family values.... We're not a threat, and we're not going away."
Miss Bono did not mention that the life spans of homosexual men are, on average, 20 to 30 years shorter than those of heterosexual males; and they are shorter even if the ravages of AIDS are not factored in. Or that the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, while claiming to champion freedom, partners with those who oppress and victimize young boys. Wrote Mr. Kirk and Mr. Madsen: "Our effort is achieved without reference to facts, logic or proof.... The person's beliefs can be altered whether he is conscious of the attack or not."
But some are fully conscious of the attack, and are both battling gay activists and reaching out to homosexuals who want to change. Focus on the Family's John Paulk teaches a day-long seminar for churches called Love Won Out. The program provides attendees with tools for ministering to gays and lesbians. In California, Randy Thomason heads the newly formed Campaign for California Families, a group that is specifically targeting swing votes on the state's pending pro-gay legislation. And pro-family legislators have introduced Defense of Marriage Acts in 21 states.
But organized pro-family activism is only part of the solution to turning back the homosexual offensive. Both Mr. Thomason and Peter LaBarbara, president of Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality, say the involvement of individual Christians is paramount, and express concern over widespread Christian apathy and "war-weariness." Indeed, many Christians, laymen and leaders alike, refuse even to acknowledge that there is a war, said Mr. Dobson in his March 23 broadcast.
Focus commentator Mike Trout agreed: "One day we [Christians] may wake up and find out that not only was there a war, but that we lost it."