An Odd Definition of Losing

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The Southern Poverty Law Center recently added the Family Research Council, along with a number of other fundamentalist Christian groups, to its list of hate groups because of their anti-gay rhetoric. The Family Research Council didn’t much like this, and responded in part by saying this:

” The Left is losing the debate over ideas and the direction of public policy so all that is left for them is character assassination.”

They then go on to mention the more than thirty states which have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and the recent Supreme Court elections in Iowa in which 3 justices who earlier found in favor of same-sex marriage were removed. And if you only look at that side of things, then yes, it seems that the socio-political left has been losing on this issue. But that’s a pretty myopic view of the issue.

For instance, a recent poll found 56% of people felt it important that Congress repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. (All polling numbers from Polling Report.) And if you scroll down that page, you see that number range from a low of 50% to a high of 72%. So on this issue at least, the left is decidedly not losing.

The results on same-sex marriage polling aren’t quite as recent as the DADT results, but they’re just as telling. None of the polls have a majority opposed to same-sex marriage anymore–they’re all under fifty percent–and many of them have overwhelming majorities in favor of some sort of legal recognition, whether as marriage or civil unions. Given where those polling numbers were even ten years ago, it’s hard to say that the left is losing here either.

And don’t think for a second that the Family Research Council and the other groups the SPLC named don’t know this. They can read a poll as well as anyone. Their influence on this issue is disappearing as their constituents, well, get old and die, leaving in their place a new generation who have grown up in a world full of out and proud LGBT people who are family members, television and movie stars, musicians, artists, classmates, and most importantly, friends.

The SPLC was correct in designating these groups as hate groups, because when you look at their rhetoric, it’s not significantly different from the types of things that were said about African-Americans by “respected” outlets in the 1950’s and 60’s (and previously). And I hope that in years to come, the legacy of groups like the Family Research Council will resemble those of the Ku Klux Klan, the Council of Concerned Citizens, and the John Birch Society.


Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →