December 23, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Social conservatives defend ‘Duck Dynasty’
Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, gay news, Washington Blade

Phil Robertson (Photo courtesy of A&E)

A&E continues to face criticism over its decision to indefinitely suspend the patriarch of the reality show “Duck Dynasty” after he made homophobic and racially insensitive comments during a magazine interview.

National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown sent an e-mail to supporters that contained a link to a petition urging A&E to apologize to Phil Robertson and allow him to once again appear on the show hours after the network announced it had placed the reality show star on indefinite “hiatus.”

“The gay lobby bullies are at it again,” wrote Brown. “This time they’ve attacked one of the most popular Christians in America — Phil Robertson, patriarch of Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family.”

Robertson said during an interview that will appear in GQ magazine’s January issue that “to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus.”

“That’s just me,” the patriarch of the A&E reality show that takes place in Northeastern Louisiana told GQ during an interview for the magazine’s January issue. “I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Robertson went on to describe homosexuality as a sin. He also discussed his experiences growing up in Louisiana before the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” said Robertson, who noted he worked in cotton fields alongside black people. “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal described Robertson and his family as “great citizens” of his state in a statement that criticized A&E’s decision to suspend the “Duck Dynasty” star.

“I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV,” said Jindal. “I find a good bit of it offensive, but I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is among those who also defended Robertson.

“What Phil said was not hate speech. It was the truth,” said Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association on his Twitter account after A&E announced it had suspended Robertson. “The truth is only hate speech to those who hate the truth.”

The Robertson family thanked “Duck Dynasty” fans for their “prayers and support” in a Dec. 19 statement posted to their website.

“While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible,” the statement reads. “Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.”

TMZ on Dec. 19 posted a video to its website that shows Robertson speaking at a Pennsylvania church in 2010. He described gays and lesbians as “insolent, arrogant, God-haters” during his sermon.

“They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless,” said Robertson. “They invent ways of doing evil.”

Louisiana is among the states in which marriage rights for same-sex couples remain constitutionally banned.

The state’s hate crimes law includes sexual orientation, but not gender identity and expression. Louisiana’s anti-discrimination statute does not include LGBT-specific protections.

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, told the Washington Blade late last week that Robertson’s comments “don’t surprise me because they reflect the reality that discrimination and bigotry persist in the South.” Her group continues to lead efforts in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and other LGBT-specific issues in Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and other Southern states.

“His comments reflect a climate of pervasive discrimination and bigotry for LGBT people in the South from cradle to grave,” said Beach-Ferrara, referring to the lawsuit the Southern Poverty Law Center last week filed against a Mississippi school district on behalf of a lesbian student who said she experienced anti-LGBT bullying and harassment from her classmates and administrators. “People suffer because of this.”

Log Cabin Republicans on Dec. 20 announced it would mediate a “Moonshine Summit” between Robertson and his family and A&E.

“Phil, you have your views and we have ours, but I think you’d be surprised how much we all have in common,” said Gregory T. Angelo, the group’s executive director. “We’re conservative, we’re guided by our faith and we believe in freedom of speech. Most important, we are all children of God; that’s the most important thing we have in common.”

The Robertson family said in its statement it remains “in discussions with A&E” about the show’s future.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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