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For a group whose freedom of expression has been oppressed countless times, the LGBT community is not one to oppose the first amendment, or anyone’s right to speak their mind. But when it comes to Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern’s comments that “the homosexual agenda is destroying the nation” and poses a larger threat than terrorism, it’s no surprise that gays, lesbians, allies and anyone with a shred of common sense just think that some opinions are better left to one’s twisted, homophobic mind.
And generally, that’s where they stay.
It’s only when groups such as the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund come and record hateful speech and post it as a YouTube video that these private thoughts become public. Now, Kern has chosen the classic politician’s route: Deny, deny, deny. She claims that she was speaking about specific rich homosexuals who donate money to gay and lesbian political candidates – not individuals – and that her speech was taken out of context.
We at Between The Lines applaud the Victory Fund, which supports gay and lesbian political candidates, for their clever way of fighting anti-gay rights activists at their own game. It’s a tactic the LGBT community has grown accustomed to from the likes of Fred Phelps and Matt Barber: Infiltrate the event and use it to further your own agenda.
In this case, the speech given by Kern to fellow republicans was used to show the nation what politicians are wont to say when there’s not a TV camera or a reporter nearby: Their true thoughts, biases and downright ridiculous beliefs. While homophobic lunatics provide a constant source of disgust, hate speech coming from an elected official is far more disturbing. Kern is a woman who has actually been voted into office and has a say in America’s laws, not just the Westboro Church threatening to crash a high school play. Frightening thought, isn’t it?
When faced with hate speech as radical and offensive as Kern’s, it’s easy to let anger get the best of you. And many people did. Kern claims that she has received over 3,000 e-mails and hundreds of telephone calls since the video was posted, the vast majority of which berate her for her views and hurl insults.
Some, however, go too far, telling Kern that she should be killed. Others even threatened her physically.
While it’s more instantly gratifying to spew some hate speech of one’s own into a letter to Kern, there are more productive ways to fight homophobia and hate that, in the end, are far more gratifying.
A perfect example is the way students in Kalamazoo spoke out against the Westboro Church’s threats to picket their production of “The Laramie Project.” They had a picket of their own, drawing attention and media coverage to their beliefs in a civil way (not to mention the effect the play itself had). Or, those steaming over Kern’s comments can look to the California teens that protested and mourned the killing of Lawrence King for inspiration. Events like these show that it’s possible to be an activist without fighting hate with hate.
Just imagine what it must have been like for the Victory Fund mole who sat through Kern’s entire speech. Imagine the anger they must have felt, and the need to speak out against her attacks. Instead, they sat and recorded silently, knowing that triumph would come with patience.
When the anger becomes unbearable, the LGBT community needs to imagine themselves as those silent warriors and fight the battle against hate with strategy, planning and advocacy. Because now, instead of just stopping Kern’s hate speech in its tracks, instead of shunning and insulting murderous teens like the one who killed Lawrence King, instead of letting Westboro Church say what they will, these peaceful soldiers for the cause have set off a national reaction, the effects of which reach much farther than hate ever will.