Here in Rhode Island, even the state’s most liberal critics of the Republican Party were a bit surprised yesterday when the state’s Republican governor, Donald Carcieri, vetoed legislation allowing LGBT couples to make funeral arrangements for loved ones.
Despite being the leader of a fairly liberal state, Carcieri pandered to the most extreme of conservative Catholic donors and went out of his way to accuse gay couples of destroying traditional marriage.
“This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.
“If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnerships, it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of the State of Rhode Island decide,” he wrote in a letter to lawmakers that was quoted by The Providence Journal.
Carcieri’s attitude has long been echoed by Christian Right organizations such as Exodus International, which strives to undermine the constitutional rights of LGBT couples by any means necessary: Opposition to marriage equality, opposition to civil unions, opposition to equal protection under existing hate-crime and discrimination laws, and opposition to equal protection under anti-bullying programs. Like Carcieri, Exodus boasts of having gay family members and friends, as if that (illogically) excuses the indecency and brutality of their antigay policies.
Carcieri was already unpopular even among some Republicans due to his pandering to Rhode Island’s non-existent antigay evangelicals and his inept destruction of the state’s finances. Carcieri fled this predominantly Catholic state briefly last month to seek support from a Massachusetts affiliate of Focus on the Family. Yesterday, Carcieri reinforced widespread disenchantment with his gubernatorial incompetence when he also vetoed a bill that would have prevented the governor from selling U.S. senate seats to the highest bidder, another bill that would promote green jobs in a state facing 14 percent unemployment, and yet another bill that would (gasp!) require lenders to give borrowers advance notice that they’ve been foreclosed.
Carcieri sees his future happening outside Rhode Island, somewhere in the vicinity of the Know-Nothing Sarah Palin-Rush Limbaugh-Tony Perkins celebrity circuit. But if he thinks that crowd has room for yet another sixtyish white male budget-busting talking head, he may wish to rethink.
Exodus International already is struggling with the same problem: How to become ever-more famous by becoming increasingly extreme in a crowd of fame-seekers.
Exodus has been playing that political game with the Christian Right a bit longer than Gov. Carcieri.
In 2003, Exodus spokesman Randy Thomas cozied up with his backers among the Christian Right when he condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of sodomy, telling Christianity Today:
“This ruling gives validity to the gay community,” Thomas said. In addition to potentially redefining the family, it further solidifies their position as a political and social force.”
In 2005, Exodus involuntarily detained two gay youths — Zach Stark and Lance Carroll — in its Tennessee ex-gay boot camp. That made great headlines, telegraphing to the Christian Right that Exodus could be as brutal and righteous as anyone. Randy Thomas later borrowed a tactic from the same Christian Right by telling a Big Lie while counting upon public amnesia: “I and everyone I know, have no desire to force others into our line of thinking.” Exodus continues to detain youths and young adults like Bryce Thompson to this day, incommunicado and without legal aid or a patient’s bill of rights.
In 2006, Randy Thomas and Exodus friend Dawn Vedeto condemned a New Hampshire measure to afford that state’s LGBT couples some basic medical and financial options, saying that they were “saddened” because “as same sex marriage or any other sin becomes more widely accepted, those that are truly looking for healing and wholeness can become more discouraged than ever. Healing is possible, I am a living example of that, but I am sure most of those who live in New England and struggle with same sex attraction don’t know that.”
In other words, it seems, LGBT couples who wish to make medical or financial arrangements should be treated by courts and government offices like sinners, not citizens of the United States — and furthermore, apparently, New England should be treated like a foreign country to be ethnically cleansed by righteous conquistadors from the south.
Also in 2006, Exodus affirmed a court ruling that it is not the role of courts to uphold constitutional rights, but merely to interpret laws — no matter how unconstitutional those laws are. Randy Thomas — who spent much of that election year cheerleading for the GOP — described the constitutional rights of LGBT persons as “obvious degradation of our society.”
Since 2007, Exodus has gradually assumed control of the Christian Right’s “Day of Truth,” a campaign Exodus and preacher Ken Hutcherson to shout down and silence opponents of antigay bullying in public schools.
This year, Exodus board member Don Schmierer co-keynoted the launch conference for a campaign of antigay vigilantism and execution in Uganda. He told Ugandan parents that they were to blame for their adult children’s homosexuality. He also stood alongside one U.S. ex-gay activist who accused the world’s homosexuals of being responsible for the Jewish Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, another U.S. ex-gay activist who uses magic to cure homosexuality, and a Ugandan ex-gay activist who declared that his country’s LGBT citizens were all pedophiles for whom life imprisonment was much too lenient.
In the race toward hatred, what lies next for people like Carcieri and his friends at Exodus and across the Christian Right?