Massachusetts got the ball running on marriage equality back in 2004 when the state supreme court ruled, in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that under the state constitution, it was illegal to deny same sex couples their right to marry. Less than a decade later, Hawaii has become the 15th state to recognize this human right, and though the road ahead seems difficult, there is little reason to suspect that the rest of the United States will not come around eventually.
Still, progress towards a more just future almost never occurs without a reactionary, religious-based backlash, and today the state of Massachusetts is bookended by a pair of anti-gay hate groups that seek to spread the view that LGBTQ citizens are deserving of second-class treatment at best, if not outright condemnation. Not content to merely influence the direction of public discourse in their home state, these groups spread their hate and lies nationally and even internationally, helping to destroy lives in the process.
In Waltham, just outside Boston, Brian Camenker leads the group he founded in 1995 to oppose the “homosexual agenda,” MassResistance. Meanwhile, across the state in the city of Springfield, Scott Lively leads Abiding Truth Ministries, “a church that seeks to ‘re-Christianize’ the city of Springfield, Mass., where he lives.”
Perhaps sensing that the battle over gay rights has been lost in their home state, both men have turned their groups’ attentions elsewhere. (Though MassResistance continues to advocate strongly in Massachusetts against any bill that seeks to expand the legal protections of trans persons and against any bills that might seek to help LGBTQ teens who are victims of bullying.) Camenker made at least two appearances at the Rhode Island State House to testify before the General Assembly against marriage equality, and MassResistance was part of the anti-marriage equality coalition known as the Faith Alliance.
Most recently Camenker’s organization bombarded the Hawaiian Legislature with copies of its booklet “What same-sex ‘Marriage’ had done to Massachusetts” a book filled with lies and misrepresentations, as well as real life “horror stories” about the effect marriage equality has had on Massachusetts, such as requiring insurance companies to recognize same-sex couples in their coverage. Yes, that’s portrayed as a horror story, for some reason.
As bumbling and comical as Camenker’s antics may appear in one light, do not forget that there is a wide spectrum of groups, even here in Rhode Island, that take the views of his organization very seriously. The groups that shook the dome of the Rhode Island State House during the marriage equality hearings, including the Knights of Columbus, the Providence Catholic Diocese, the Hispanic Coalition of Pastors and Ministers, NOM-RI and many others welcomed Camenker’s group as one of their own. Camenker’s views are also taken seriously by several state senators and representatives.
Worse, Camenker is going international, delivering “a copy of the MassResistance booklet… to every member of [the Australian] Parliament” as the people there debate legally recognizing same-sex marriage rights. How much influence Camenker has is debatable, but the media he generates, including a new DVD, “What ‘gay marriage’ did to Massachusetts” allows disorganized marriage equality opponents to access a series of pernicious and false talking points around which to rally their cause.
Vastly more dangerous than MassResistance is Scott Lively and Abiding Truth Ministries. Lively does not seem all that interested in the finer points of battling for his views in state legislatures and courtrooms. Lively’s schemes are international in scope and always self-aggrandizing. He has a sickening fondness for theocratic authoritarians like Vladimir Putin of Russia, who he calls, “the defender of Christian civilization.”
Mid-October found Lively in Russia, helping to plan the World Congress of Families VIII, to take place at the Kremlin in September of 2014. While in Russia, Lively met and “bonded instantly” with Archpriest Dimitri Smirnov, head of the Patriarch’s Commission on the Family, and together they discussed Lively’s plan to reclaim the rainbow as a Christian symbol from the LGBTQ movement. Lively seems keen to help his Russian friends to undermine any effort LGBTQ activists may undertake to use the upcoming Moscow Olympics as a forum to protest Russia’s new anti-homosexuality laws.
Should we take Lively’s efforts seriously? Perhaps not, but unfortunately the Ugandan parliament does. In March 2009 Lively, along with Don Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge, gave a series of talks in Kampala, Uganda. According to Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times,
For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”
One month after Lively’s visit, “a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals.” Lively himself reported with some satisfaction that his visit to Uganda “was like a nuclear bomb against the ‘gay’ agenda in Uganda,” though he later backed away from his involvement when the international criticism became too harsh.
Expect to see Lively attempt to distance himself more and more from his Ugandan visit over the next year as he is being sued by the pro-LGBTQ rights group, Sexual Minorities Uganda, for allegedly “violating international law by inciting the persecution of gay men and lesbians in Uganda.” If Lively is concerned about the lawsuit, he has not publicly demonstrated it. Instead he has announced his candidacy for Governor of Massachusetts.
Lively has long spread hate against homosexuals, and it should not seriously surprise him that homophobic politicians would take his ideas and run with them. He is the author (along with Kevin Abrams) of The Pink Swastika, a repellent piece of pseudo-history and holocaust revisionism that claims that “homosexuality found in the Nazi Party contributed to the extreme militarism of Nazi Germany.” Further, the book claims that “many leaders in the German Nazi regime, including Adolf Hitler himself, were homosexual and [the book] says that eight of the top ten serial killers in the US were homosexuals.”
Is it any wonder that those who take Lively’s lies seriously might want to outlaw, criminalize and punish the homosexual community?
Scott Lively and Brian Camenker lead the only two anti-LGBTQ hate groups in New England of note. Certainly there are smaller religious ministries that share the views of these two men and swallow their lies whole, but these smaller groups lack the reach and the influence of MassResistance and Abiding Truth Ministries. Lively and Camenker do not seem to work together too often, but they are fans of each others’ work. Lively refers to Camenker as a “good friend and ally” while Camenker has passionately defended Lively on his website.
To misquote Oscar Wilde, “Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a bromance.”