The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins was not pleased that President Obama used his inaugural speech Monday to compare the Stonewall riots to Selma and Seneca Falls. On his radio show yesterday, Perkins poorly described Stonewall as “homosexuals… pushing back for special rights,” and went on to claim that gays never have their civil rights violated:
PERKINS: Seneca Falls was a woman’s suffrage movement, giving women the right to vote. Selma, obviously, a push to ensure that African Americans — black American in this country had full voting rights and civil rights. Stonewall, many people may not be aware of, was a move of New York of homosexuals that were pushing back for special rights. To tie all those together, there is not a single person in this country today that is gay or lesbian that are denied the rights to vote, the right to work, or doing anything else.
What they’re seeking, and it’s a little disingenuous ’cause he doesn’t say it, but it’s code what he’s saying here. He’s going to push to give them the right to redefine marriage. They have every right that you and I have today. This President has a very loaded agenda.
Listen to it:
Perkins was right that Stonewall wasn’t about voting, but it was about another fundamental right: the freedom of assembly. Back in the 1960s, the LGBT community was regularly denied service in bars, and when they did find safe places to gather (like the Stonewall Inn), the police would regularly raid those bars and load the gay patrons into paddy wagons. The riots that ensued in June of 1969 were a response to police brutality from a community who simply wanted to enjoy a drink in a space where they didn’t have to hide their identities. There is nothing “special” about such an expectation in a free society.
Just like in the response from the National Organization for Marriage, Perkins claims that gays and lesbians have equality under the law, specifically mentioning “the right to work.” Of course, as noted in the earlier post, gays and lesbians can be fired from their jobs just for being gay and lesbian in 29 states — 34 states for people who are transgender. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to create national protections for LGBT employees, has floundered in Congress for decades and notably, the Family Research Council opposes it!
It seems that conservatives are attempting to arbitrarily declare equality won on behalf of LGBT people, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. This “already treated equally” argument is designed to reserve marriage as a privilege just for heterosexual people, as well as protect the so-called “religious freedom” to flagrantly discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Perkins, Brian Brown, and the other pundits who have used this line in reaction to the President’s speech demonstrate that they have absolutely no comprehension of the discrimination, harassment, and inequality experienced by LGBT people every day, let alone compassion on their behalf.