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Pro-LGBT Christians distance themselves from anti-gay summit

More religious leaders add their voices to the NALT Christian Project

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Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out, gay news, Washington Blade
Wayne Besen, gay news, gay politics dc

Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen (photo by Michael Murphy).

One day before a conference hosted by the anti-gay Family Research Council is set to take place, Christian leaders are turning up the volume on their message that the social conservative group doesn’t speak for everyone and their faith, in fact, welcomes LGBT people.

On Thursday, religious leaders affiliated with the “Not All Like That” Christian project held a news conference at the National Press Club to decry the anti-gay sentiment often expressed by others in their religion and leaders at the upcoming Values Voter Summit.

Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral in D.C., which earlier this year made the decision to conduct same-sex weddings, said it’s not enough for the religious to say they accept LGBT people, but also embrace them.

“It’s really important for the church to say, first, that sexuality is good and that sexuality is a gift, and that human beings are called to live out their sexuality freely and responsibility and creativity and compassionately and ethically with other people,” Hall said.

Heading up the conference was Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, who attributed the current gridlock in Washington to the kind of vitriol coming from the religious-right in American politics.

“I ask you: are politics in America more civil, more humane, dare I say more Christ-like since the infusion of the religious right?” Besen said. “The answer is clear, Washington, and much of the country, is angrier, more dysfunctional and more fractured than ever. It’s time for change.”

The Values Voter Summit is set to take place in the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C. and will feature prominent conservatives like the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.). Another prominent speaker is Ben Carson, a conservative neurosurgeon who once compared LGBT advocacy to endorsing pedophilia and bestiality.

Michael Keegan, president of the People for the American Way, said the upcoming Values Voter Summit marks the “high holidays of extremism” for leaders of the religious right.

“They are extremists that have pushed vicious smears against progressives, against immigrants, against non-Christians, and, I think, most importantly, and most frequently, members of the LGBT community,” Keegan said.

Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America, expressed regret that he once partnered with organizations that held anti-gay views and decried that their actions are contributing young LGBT people’s decision to take their lives.

“If a pastor or church member asks you to partner with that message coming from those anti-gay religious organizations, tell them that you do not want to make a mockery of your faith,” Childers said, “because the message that would cause that type of harm cannot be sanctioned by the Christian faith.”

The news conference highlighted new videos for that NALT Christian Project, which aims to provide a voice for Christians who want to post online videos of themselves to proclaim they’re “not all like that” in terms of holding anti-gay views. Among the new videos were from Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop.

In response to the Washington Blade’s inquiry on the news conference, the Family Research Council replied  by sending its own video depicting Dan Savage, a co-founder of the NALT Christian Project, as bully to Christian teens. The video includes Savage using profanity as he rails against the religious right.

Besen responded to the video by saying that the Family Research Council is seeking to deflect attention away from its “insidious message” by taking Savage’s comment grossly out of context.

“Savage may use naughty words, but he is correct to point out FRC’s naughty behavior,” Besen said. “Furthermore, Savage has never worked to strip fundamentalist Christians of their rights, while FRC is a lobby group that works tirelessly to keep LGBT people as second class citizens.”

Following the news conference, Besen told the Blade he thinks progress can be made in encouraging religious leaders to be more pro-LGBT because younger people of faith, like other young people, tend to be more accepting. Still, Besen noted there’s still challenges.

“There’s still a heavy price to pay if you come out in support of equality, you could have a divisive issue, you could lose your job,” Besen said. “We’re starting to see the change where we you can speak out, I believe, but it’s going to take a lot of work.”

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Politics

Michael Knowles targets trans people and LGBTQ families in CPAC address

Pundit defended his infamous anti-trans remarks at last year’s event

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Michael Knowles speaks at CPAC on Feb. 22, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Right-wing commentator Michael Knowles began his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday by briefly addressing the “kerfuffle” over his proclamation during last year’s event that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”

Widely interpreted as a call for violence against transgender people or the trans community, the remarks were denounced at the time by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who called them “shameful, hateful and dangerous.”

Looking back at the incident, Knowles told the crowd “I stand by the observation that men can’t become women.” The controversy, he said, is evidence that the country “is having an identity crisis” — primarily as a consequence of the “decline of religion in America.”

While “true freedom is a national policy based on what we know in our hearts as morally right,” as ordained by God, Knowles said a worldview that makes space for the recognition of LGBTQ people and their families is based on a “false” notion of freedom that privileges, instead, “liberation from all limits.”

He pointed to same-sex marriage as an example, arguing that marriage does not and cannot include unions between “a couple of men, or a couple of women, or three men and a billy goat, for that matter.”

Additionally, Knowles said, one may not claim the “right” to have a child, because “children are people and no one has a right to another person.” He then veered into criticizing the practice of purchasing “designer babies” on the “open market of the surrogacy industry.”

Medically assisted family planning is a symptom of America’s moral decline that is akin to abortion, Knowles said. “If we have the right to kill babies, surely we have the right to buy and sell them too.”

Knowles argued there are “trade-offs” to understanding freedom as a permission structure to identify oneself outside the cisgender male-female binary, or to build relationships and families that are not centered around heterosexual, procreative unions.

Allowing trans women to use women’s restrooms — or, as he put it, giving “men” the “freedom to use the women’s bathroom,” means that “women lose the freedom to have their own bathrooms.”

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Politics

Tuberville promotes anti-transgender sports ban at CPAC

Senator’s bill introduced Feb. 1

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U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) speaks at CPAC 2024 (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – During an interview with right-wing talk show host Ben Ferguson at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) promoted a bill he introduced on Feb. 1, the Protection of Women in Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

The legislation, which Tuberville acknowledged would not be brought to the Senate floor so long as Democrats have a majority in the chamber, would “prohibit any governing body recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee” from allowing transgender women to participate “in any athletic event intended for females.”

The senator accused the Democrats, “the socialist party” of “dividing the family” by “trying to bring gender together, because they think men can have babies now.”

Tuberville expressed frustration with Republican Senate colleagues who did not agree with his sports bill, recounting how he had asked some of them, “don’t you have a daughter?”

“Now they want to tear down sports,” he said, warning that opening women’s and girls’ teams to trans women and girls will result in injury.

Tuberville and Ferguson criticized a new policy adopted by USA Boxing in January, which they found insufficiently restrictive.

The organization’s new rules stipulate that minors “must compete as their birth gender” and in weight classes specified in the rulebook — but allows trans women older than 18 to compete in the female category if they have undergone genital reassignment surgery and agree to quarterly hormone tests for four years.

More transphobia from GOP’s leading candidate for N.C. governor

Taking the stage after Tuberville and Ferguson was North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the Republican frontrunner in the state’s gubernatorial primary, who also spoke out against allowing trans women and girls to compete in athletics and proclaimed “men oughta go in their own bathroom, not the women’s bathroom.”

Robinson objected to press coverage of his anti-trans remarks during a campaign speech this month in which he said, “we’re going to defend women in this state,” which means “if you’re a man on Friday night and all of the sudden on Saturday, you feel like a woman and you want to go in the women’s bathroom in the mall, you will be arrested — or whatever we got to do to you.”

At a different rally, Robinson said those who “are confused” about their gender should “find a corner outside somewhere to go” to the bathroom.

Robinson accused “the leftist news media” of cherry-picking these statements in their coverage rather than his remarks about other subjects. “Whenever they mention my name, they mention it in connection with social issues,” he said. “According to them, I hate everybody.”

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Congress

Marjorie Taylor Greene targets Rachel Levine with transphobic insults

Ga. Republican has long history of attacking health official

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In an X post on Feb. 17, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) lobbed transphobic insults at Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the highest ranking transgender government official.

The congresswoman was responding to a video posted by Levine on X, which highlighted the disproportionate harms wrought by climate change on “the physical and mental health of Black communities” along with HHS’s work addressing these issues.

“Here is a man pretending to be a woman claiming the climate is hurting Black Americans more than others” Greene wrote in her post. “This is the Democrat Party. Mental illness on full display.”

The congresswoman has repeatedly targeted Levine, largely over her support for gender-affirming care — medically necessary, evidence-based interventions that are governed by clinical practice guidelines and endorsed by every mainstream scientific and medical society in the world.

Greene’s post on Feb. 17 was not the first time she crossed the line into rank anti-LGBTQ bigotry, however.

Speaking from the House floor in November, Greene misgendered and dead-named the health official while introducing an amendment to “reduce — no, castrate” her government salary to $1.

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