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Conservatives tend to object when the gay rights movement is compared to the civil rights movement, often claiming that LGBT activists are trying to “hijack” a unique moment in American history.
It had been our impression here at Hatewatch that this objection was underpinned by an antipathy toward being compared to racist reactionaries who protested desegregation, the end of laws barring mixed-race marriage, and the other triumphs of the civil rights movement.
So it’s a little mystifying that in the last two weeks, two prominent anti-gay activists have compared their crusade to the Civil War – and themselves to the Confederacy.
Last week, in a widely republished op-ed, Pat Buchanan described the battle over marriage equality as “the Antietam of the culture war.”
And earlier this month, Lou Engle, an evangelical pastor who has called homosexuality a “spirit of lawlessness” and suggested that it should be criminalized, exhorted his followers to model their fight against the “homosexual agenda” on Confederate generals’ stand against “Washington, D.C.”
Describing the Civil War as a “storyline that God gave us,” Engle said that General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate army, “had an anointing or something,” and “was able to restrain Washington. He took his stand and held back those forces!”
To the best of our recollection, the South did not emerge victorious from the, ah, War of Northern Aggression.
Antietam, the 1862 battle Buchanan referenced in his essay, ended when Confederate troops withdrew from Maryland, having failed to persuade that slave state to join their cause. The Emancipation Proclamation soon followed, and within three years, General Lee had surrendered.
Comparing the position of LGBT people today to that of blacks under slavery – which is essentially what Buchanan and Engle are doing by casting themselves as the Confederacy (which was, like them, defending an indefensible status quo) – seems a little harsh. But if that’s the analogy they want to go with, hey, they’re welcome to it.
And if this is the vision culture warriors have for their campaign against marriage equality, it looks like things are going even better than we thought.