My colleague Jeff Krehely is out with a fascinating piece exploring how opponents of gay marriage are responding to the public’s growing support for marriage equality by portraying themselves as “victims of anti-religious (specifically anti-Christian) hate crimes.” And they’re using the courts to press their case and develop the narrative.
The sentiment is most obvious in Washington State, where Protect Marriage Washington (PMW), a group opposing marriage equality, successfully placed a voter referendum challenging a law which granted “same-sex (and older opposite-sex) domestic partners virtually all of the same rights that straight married couples receive from the state.” Washington state’s Public Records Act “instructs the state to release names of people who sign petitions to place an issue up for a public vote,” but PMW moved to block the release of names, claiming that publicizing the names of the petitioners “will subject the signatories to harassment, injury, or property damage.” The case is now “scheduled to go before the Supreme Court this month.”
As Krehely notes, these claims are somewhat ironic; the group is complaining about the very kind of abuse that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community have experienced for decades. Abuse that some PMW petitioners undoubtedly propagated, if not overtly then through their unequal policies. Still, that’s not to say that their claims are all frivolous, of course. Any violence against petitioners is inexcusable, but as Krehely notes, it simply pales in comparison to the kind of abuse gay people face when challenging PMW-like petitions or fighting for equal rights. “In fact, based on hate crimes data, the LGBT community received much more harassment and intimidation in California during the Proposition 8 debate than any of the people opposed to marriage equality“:
- Hate crimes in California dropped 2% overall in 2008, but anti-LGBT related crimes increased by nearly 17%, raising recorded incidents from 132 to 154.
- Sexual-orientation-related hate crimes in states with marriage amendments on the ballot in 2004 saw a 47% increase in these crimes from the previous year. Two of the most telling examples are Ohio, which saw an increase from 32 hate crime incidents based on sexual orientation in 2003 to 57 incidents in 2004, and Michigan, which went from 41 incidents in 2003 to 73 in 2004.
- Government reports and data also note that anti-LGB hate crimes are on the rise nationally.The FBI recorded 75 anti-Catholic and 56 anti-Protestant hate crimes nationwide in 2008, which is equal to fewer than one religious-based hate crime for every 100,000 Christians in the country. That same year saw 16 sexual orientation hate crimes for every 100,000 LGB people in the United States.
“The current strategy, which is being advanced through the Protect Marriage Washington Supreme Court case, is to falsely portray marriage equality opponents as political and religious victims whose rights and well-being are being trampled upon,” Krehely argues. “The PMW case before the United States Supreme Court should be about the need to maintain transparent and fair elections, and not about the trumped up and exaggerated charges of voter intimidation.”
But conservatives are busy blaming the victims for the very kind of behavior that “the anti-LGBT ballot fights that groups such as PMW are starting.”