Anti-gay culture warrior Peter LaBarbera, founder and head of the hate group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, has suffered a series of setbacks in his ongoing quest to portray homosexuality as a “dangerous” practice that is “neither normal nor benign.”
On March 25, he reacted with fury to the announcement by World Vision U.S., an evangelical Christian charity, that it would no longer bar from employment LGBT Christians in legal same-sex marriages. Though World Vision took pains to explain that the new policy was neither an endorsement of same-sex marriage nor a rejection of traditional marriage, LaBarbera denounced the reversal as “a stunning capitulation to a powerful Sin Movement.” He was joined by an angry chorus of Christian Right activists and evangelical leaders who threatened to boycott World Vision.
Under pressure, the charity did reverse its new policy less than 48 hours after its announcement. But while LaBarbera and fellow anti-LGBT activists managed to plug that leak in the anti-gay dike, events on two college campuses would soon make it clear that the tide of pro-gay tolerance is inexorably rising.
A packed lecture hall awaited LaBarbera on his April 9 arrival at Dayton, Ohio’s Sinclair Community College, whose Traditional Values Club had invited him to give a speech on “What ‘Gay’ Activists Don’t Want You To Know.” Moments after he started to speak, the majority of those in attendance walked out en masse, as part of a planned demonstration against his message of hate – but not without recording a portion of the speech for posterity. According to Sinclair student Kate Geiselman, who wrote about the protest for Salon.com, LaBarbera’s shocked response to the walk-out was, “Are you effing kidding me?”
He faced another on-campus defeat less than a week later. On April 14, Canadian police arrested LaBarbera and an associate at Saskatchewan’s University of Regina, charging them with mischief after they ignored university policy and national anti-hate laws by distributing anti-gay propaganda on campus.
LaBarbera and Bill Whatcott, of Saskatchewan, had been explicitly barred from setting up an information table but did so anyway. Sporting a T-shirt with a slogan about “hate crimes against Christians,” a defiant LaBarbera accused university officials of being “intolerant.” He spent a night in jail before being returned to the U.S.
The arrest cut short a planned week-long tour in Canada that nearly didn’t happen. Concerned that LaBarbera would violate Canadian hate speech laws, officials initially refused his request to enter Canada, but reversed their decision after he engaged a lawyer. LaBarbera reacted to the situation with fury, complaining on his blog about being treated as a “common criminal” by the “[p]ro-gay thought police.” At press time, he was raising funds for his and Whatcott’s legal defense.
LaBarbera’s various defeats came as anti-LGBT activists find themselves increasingly irrelevant. In recent months, courts in Arkansas, Oregon and Pennsylvania found unconstitutional those state’s bans on same-sex marriage, bringing to 19 the number of states where such marriage is now legal. Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll showed American support for same-sex marriage has reached an all-time high of 55%, with nearly 8 in 10 of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 having no object to the notion.