Intelligence Report

Gays Remain Minority Most Targeted by Hate Crimes

The religious anti-gay right has been knocked back on its heels by gay rights advances. But its hardest core angrily presses on

Four teenagers commit suicide in a three-week span after being bullied, taunted or outed as homosexuals. Seven students — at least four of whom had endured anti-gay bullying — kill themselves over the course of a year in a single Minnesota school district. In New York, 10 suspects are arrested for torturing three gay victims. In Covington, Ky., a series of violent anti-gay attacks shock a trendy neighborhood. In Vonore, Tenn., a lesbian couple’s home, its garage spray-painted with “Queers,” is burned to the ground. A rash of attacks hits Washington, D.C. And in Michigan, a prosecutor harasses a local gay rights student leader for months.

All of this is only a sampling of the anti-gay attacks occurring around the nation, most of it drawn from just the last few months. Although the rash of student suicides drew major media attention for a few days, the reality, gay rights advocates say, is that the LGBT world has been plagued by hate violence for years.

But that’s not the way a hard core of the anti-gay religious right sees it.

Responding to the wave of teen suicides — including, most dramatically, that of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who leaped off the George Washington Bridge in New York City in September — anti-gay leaders instead blamed those who sought to protect students from bullying.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said gay rights activists “pressure these students to declare a disordered sexual preference when they’re too young to know better, [so] they share some culpability.” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a key critic of anti-bullying programs, said gay activists were “exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda.” He said that gay kids may know “intuitively” that their desires are “abnormal” and that the claim, pushed by gay activists, that they can’t change “may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.” Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel said those activists want “to use the tragedies to increase pressure on the real victims: Christians.”

Anti-gay ideologues like Tony Perkins (from left to right), Bryan Fischer and Charles Colson were put on the defensive following years of sometimes vicious rhetoric.

Jim Daly of Focus on the Family
When Focus on the Family pastor Jim Daly made conciliatory moves toward gay activists, the hard-line Illinois Family Institute's Laurie Higgins accused him of talking like a "homosexualist."

Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute
Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute has been the source of many of the falsehoods touted by the anti-gay religious right.