COMMENTARY: FRC knows how to say sorry; we're waiting for more

To be fair, he did apologize. Peter Sprigg, I mean. A week after the Family Research Council Senior Policy Fellow said, back in 2008, that he'd "prefer to export homosexuals" from the United States, Peter posted this to his employer's blog:

In response to a question regarding bi-national same-sex couples who are separated by an international border, I used language that trivialized the seriousness of the issue and did not communicate respect for the essential dignity of every human being as a person created in the image of God. I apologize for speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace. [FRC]


To be equally fair, GLAAD has noted this rare apology in Peter's Commentator Accountability Project profile. Even if his words don't seem to understand the gravity of the matter or the chilling sense it sends up the spines of millions of proud LGBT Americans, it is certiainly good that both Sprigg and FRC (or Sprigg at the insistence of FRC) recognized that some offense had been commited. That's a step in the right direction for a movement that is notorious for shirking responsibility.

But at the same time, the fact that Sprigg apologized for this one specific slight raises a lot of other questions about his overall body of work, his employer's generally hostile tone, and the all-too-typical engagement patterns of just about anyone else who is featured on GLAAD CAP. This is especially true now, a time when the national debate about FRC's rhetoric is being discussed far and wide.

Let's explore.
Two years after his "export" comments, this same Peter Sprigg, in an interview wth MSNBC's Chris Matthews, shared the following exchange with the "Hardball" host:

MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking you, should we outlaw gay behavior?

SPRIGG: I think that the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the sodomy laws in this country, was wrongly decided. I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior.

MATTHEWS: So, we should outlaw gay behavior?

SPRIGG: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Peter Sprigg. We know your position. It‘s a clear one.

[MSNBC Transcript]

Matthews said it accurately: Sprigg's position is a clear one. This time, Peter didn't say he wanted to move people like me out of the U.S.—he simply said that my husband and I should be jailed if someone "catches" us being intimate. When Matthews asked him directly, point blank, "Should we outlaw gay behavior," Peter made his view perfectly clear.

Or what about Sprigg's boss, fellow GLAAD CAPper Tony Perkins? Tony has said some of the most personally-targeted things imaginable about LGBT people. Here are just some of the things one can find in Tony's GLAAD CAP profile:

- Says about gay people: “They are intolerant. They are hateful. They are vile. They are spiteful...pawns of the enemy.” (See 0:43 mark.)

- Says many gays have an "emptiness within them" (:55) because they are "operating outside of nature" (1:09)

- Says that gay young people “have a higher propensity to depression or suicide because of that internal conflict; homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal.

- The Family Research Council has distributed a pamphlet that erroneously depicts gay men and lesbians as physically and mentally ill pedophiles who can be cured.

- Compares gay people to terrorists (at 0:31 mark): “[B]ack in the 80s and early 90s, I worked with the State Department in anti-terrorism and we trained about 50 different countries in defending against terrorism, and it’s, at its base, what terrorism is, it's a strike against the general populace simply to spread fear and intimidation so that they can disrupt and destabilize the system of government. That's what the homosexuals are doing here to the legal system.”

- Called the It Gets Better project "disgusting," claiming it tells children "that it's okay to be immoral" and constitutes a "concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle."

- Says "it's a fact" that homosexuality leads to "eternal damnation"

FULL: Tony Perkins [GLAAD CAP]

Tony's body of work is just as clear as Sprigg's. At the end of Perkins' heavily media-booked day (he is all over cable news on a weekly basis), Tony leaves zero room for LGBT people's peaceful placement within society. I've never heard Tony expressly say we should be criminalized or deported, but his oft-stated view certainly does not allow for us to be respected or entitled to our deserved freedoms. Worse than that: he has a clear interest in robbing LGBT people of our very peace of mind.

Then there are other figures like Family Research Council's V.P. of Church Ministries Kenyn Cureton, who says "The Devil" has turned people like me (and presumably you) into pawns:

(*from a strategy speech delivered at a 2012 Concerned Women For America conference)

With Kenyn, LGBT people are not worthy of jail or forced expatriatism as much as they are fit for a forced exorism. The intent is just as clear; the agenda is just as pointed.

So why no apologies? With the now-four-year-old Sprigg mea culpa, the Family Research Council showed that it knows there is a bar that voices are capable of crossing. After the media (the online media, particualry) put a bright focus on Sprigg's "export" comments, FRC saw a need to roll back the harshness. Regardless of Sprigg and his organization's motivations for doing so (i.e. heartfelt retraction vs. because Sprigg apologized because he got caught), they demonstrated some recognition of the responsibility that all public voices have towards serving rather then weakening the national conversation. It was a rare instance of the religious right owning its stones.

But that said, I consider virtually all of the other comments that I showed you above— from Sprigg, Cureton, and their boss Perkins—to be either equally or more offensive than Peter's "export" commentary. Or, if you look at the comments as a collective body of Family Research Council work and couple them with pamphlets that begin by comparing same-sex marriages to man-on-horse unions or aggressive attempts to fight us politically, it's hard not to see the sum of this organization's parts as thousands of times more damaging to the discourse than just Sprigg's one quip. Yet no one who works at FRC in the nearly seven years I've been convering that D.C. special interest group has taken even a shred of public responsbility for even one other comment, much less the collective body of animus that the organization fosters towards LGBT people for connections, votes, and profit. And why is that? Why is one commentary quip that consitutes a infintesimally tiny fraction of FRC's LGBT-focused words and work worthy of a public "sorry" yet the larger, further reaching, looser-lipped body is considered fair game?

A few weeks back, FRC issued a short document purporting to "answer" some of the in-house claims on which we equality voices shine a light. But again, there were no apologies. They did note that one Peter Sprigg apology that we discussed above, but they did not distance themselves from any of the rest of it. They claimed that Peter Sprigg's pro-criminalization interview "left some viewers with the mistaken impression that 're-criminalizing' homosexuality is a policy goal for FRC," placing the burden on the viewer rather than the speaker. They claimed that they never supported the heinous Uganda bill (the one with the death penalty attached) but never acknowledged the commentary that Tony Perkins delivered on behalf of it. And they did what is so de riguer nowadays: they argued against a label (in this case "hate") rather than really address the concrete tangibles that have earned them scrutiny.

For someone like me, this all-too-common dance is nothing short of enraging. I have absolutely no problem acknowledging Peter's apology for his "export" quip. However, those of us who care about the worth and welfare of LGBT people should use it as a springboard, not as a final say—and FRC should be at the forefront in keeping its own rhetoric in check! If FRC and Sprigg recognize that the latter "trivialized the seriousness" and failed to "communicate respect for the essential dignity of every human being as a person" when he said what he said about "exporting" gays, then logic tells us that FRC also recognizes these other, equally- or more-harshly-weighted onslaughts for the disrespectful nonsense that they are.

The fact is, Tony Perkins knows what a person of honor can and must do:

So I ask Tony: When will LGBT Americans get a blanket apology broad enough to cover the past three decades that this organization has been in business?

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