Extreme Rhetoric On Display At DC Marriage Hearing
June 12, 2009
Ed. Note: This post in our continuing coverage of the possible DC ballot measure over recognizing all marriages performed elsewhere, comes from HRC Associate Director of Diversity Donna Payne and HRC State Legislative Director Chris Edelson.
As we’ve been reporting, the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics met this week to discuss whether the legislation passed last month by the DC Council recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of District is the proper subject of a referendum. Leading the charge against equal marriage recognition for same-sex couples is Bishop Harry Jackson and speaking at the hearing on his side was Minister Leroy (the name he uses on his website www.thirdgender666.com). We were there to film the hearing and below is a clip so you can hear Leroy Swailes' extremely disturbing argument directly. For his part, Bishop Jackson was seen shaking Swailes’ hand at the hearing and smiling. It was a meeting of minds.
We should note that Swailes is not an ordained Reverend and has no specific educational credentials that we know of – hence his “Minister” moniker. But no matter his religious affiliation, there is reason to be concerned. In advocating for LGBT equality, it’s clear we face opposition. However, it's one thing to disagree, and it's another thing to use dangerous rhetoric that may provide a justification for violence. Recent murders by an extreme opponent of abortion in Kansas and an anti-Semitic white supremacist in Washington, D.C. make clear that there are dangerous people who are ready and able to turn hateful words into terrifying action. The lesson here is that our opponents missed an opportunity this week to distance themselves from dangerous rhetoric directed at the LGBT community. While waving children's books in the air Minister Leroy linked gays and lesbians to pedophilia. He also suggested that LGBT families are "anti-Christ" and flatly stated that gay and lesbian people cannot have human rights because they are simply not human. He charged that sex between people of the same sex is "a form of bestiality" – not that it is like bestiality or could lead to the legalization of bestiality, but that it is conduct involving beasts, not human beings. He also claimed that "homosexuality would be the extinction of the human race." This is, quite literally, dehumanizing rhetoric. When one claims that LGBT people are not human and threaten to make the human race extinct, one is laying the groundwork not only for denying equal rights but also for far more dangerous action. Mr. Swailes' testimony was greeted with scattered applause. Not one supporter of the referendum rose to disclaim his words. No one stood up and said "this man does not speak for those of us who oppose marriage by same-sex couples." No one can control someone else's actions, and our point is not that those who use over the top rhetoric, or who condone it, are directly responsible for violence. However, responsible leaders have a duty to speak up when those who stand beside them – advocating for the same goals – cross the line. We call on Rev. Jackson to make clear that he does not agree with Leroy Swailes, and that he believes Mr. Swailes' words crossed a line. Rev. Jackson sat quietly at the hearing when Mr. Swailes spoke his hateful words. A responsible leader would have rushed to the witness table to make clear that Mr. Swailes does not speak for those who oppose recognition of marriages by same-sex couples. Rev. Jackson did nothing.
May 18, 2013