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May 19, 2013 12:59 PM Pity the poor homophobe; or, the curse of homophobia denialism

By Kathleen Geier

Michael Kinsley has written some unfortunate columns lately. The austerity one drew more attention, but a second column, on gay marriage politics, was also fairly cringe-inducing. In that column, Kinsley strongly sympathized with homophobes whom he claimed were being unfairly attacked; but where actual LGBTQ people who want basic human rights are concerned, his sympathies were far less in evidence. Scott Lemieux did a fine job eviscerating Kinsley’s silly arguments in the gay marriage column, so I won’t address them here.

But I did want to note that Kinsley’s column is symptomatic of a growing tendency I’m witnessing in some elite discourse, which I’ll call homophobia denialism. It seems that, because LGBTQ people have been winning the right to marry in some states, homophobia is no longer a serious problem. Never mind that gay marriage is legal in only twelve states so far; that, barring a favorable Supreme Court decision, it will likely remain illegal in much of the country for years to come; and that the federal Defense of Marriage Act still bars married single-sex couples from many rights heterosexual couples enjoy, such as Social Security survivors’ benefits.

In short, we have a long way to go before same sex marriage becomes a universal right in this country. And even when that happens, it will hardly mean that homophobia is over, any more than passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act meant racism was over.

Here’s what I mean: take these three heartbreaking stories of homophobia in action that have made headlines just in the past day or two:

— In New York City on Friday night, a 32-year old gay man named Mark Carson was shot dead in cold blood in what police are describing as a “hate crime.” The murder took place on a public street just blocks away from the Stonewall Inn, the bar that was ground zero in the modern gay rights struggle. A longtime Greenwich Village resident quoted in the New York Times said, “It’s outrageous. […] They say we’ve worked through homophobia, but it’s not gone away. It’s just not usually as out there in the open like it was this morning.”

— A Texas judge has ordered that a mother in a lesbian relationship stop living with her female partner, or risk losing custody of her children. Republican Judge John Roach made this demand in spite of the fact that the woman’s ex-husband rarely sees their two children and has been charged with stalking.

— In Florida, an 18-year old girl named Kaitlyn Hunt has been expelled from her public high school and charged with a sex crime felony for engaging in a lesbian relationship with a younger teen. Hunt apparently is the victim of a homophobic vendetta being pursued by her former girlfriend’s bigoted parents. Hunt’s parents have started a petition — “Stop the hate! Free Kate!” — to get the charges dropped; you can sign it here. In the petition, Hunt’s parents note that “If convicted, [Kaitlyn] could end up in jail or live under house arrest, will have to register as a sex offender, and live her life as a convicted felon.”

So — those are just three horrendous cases of homophobic bigotry and hate in America that happen to be in the news today. I didn’t even seek them out; I just happened to stumble upon them. I am sure I could easily find many more current examples that are just as outrageous as these three are.

Kinsley and others of the “pity the poor homophobe” school would be far better advised to save their sympathy for people who actually deserve it. They could start with the three cases I’ve listed here: a teenager being threatened with prison, a mother being threatened with losing her children, and a young man who lost his life, all for the crime of being gay.

Sorry, Michael Kinsley. Throw a pity party for homophobes if you’d like, but I am sending my regrets.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

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