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The Race Divide

Homosexuality has, for years, posed a threat to the dominant culture which perceived it as differing significantly from the threat posed by demands for racial and gender equality.63 The elevation of the ex-gay movement to mainstream consciousness has reinforced the Christian Right's message that anyone can be a homosexual or engage in homosexual behavior, but people cannot pick the color of their skin-therefore it would be wrong to extend civil rights legal protections to homosexuals. The tactic of using racially charged arguments to create hostility toward homosexuals within communities of color often leaves gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender people of color more isolated within their own communities. Since the early '90s, with the release of Gay Rights, Special Rights, a video aimed at conservative communities of color, the Christian Right has used the "no special rights" theme to imply that gay rights would diminish the value of legitimate protections against racism.

The ex-gay movement has borrowed this organizing tactic. On July 15, an ad featuring African American professional football player Reggie White appeared in the sports section of USA Today. With the headlines, "In Defense of Free Speech" and "Toward an open debate on homosexuality," the ad cleverly utilizes anti-censorship language coupled with an image that resonates for millions of people. In the ad, White is quoted as saying, "I've been called homophobic. I've been called stupid. I've been called unintelligent, and I've been called a nigger by so-called gay activists." In an attempt to defend its homophobic attacks in the name of free speech, the ad continues, "Just because we disagree doesn't make us homophobic."64

The Reggie White ad prompted a response from the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum (NBLGLF). "Reggie White's quote saying he has been called a `nigger' by gay activists seems a despicable attempt to obscure the homophobia in this ad campaign by playing the ultimate race card," noted NBLGLF chair, Willa J. Taylor. "Why is the religious right-which is predominantly white-using black stars and spokespersons to spew its antigay rhetoric in the press? This is just the Right's latest outrageous attempt to split the black community along gay and straight lines."65

Exploitative placement of people of color on the front lines of this debate continues. On August 10, 1998 the Family Research Council issued a press release alerting the media that it would hold a press conference bringing together conservative religious leaders from different faiths and ethnic backgrounds to discuss what the Bible and the Koran say about homosexuality.66 This is one of the more public expansions of FRC's coalition to embrace people of Islamic faith, in an effort to present the misleading impression that individual leaders of any faith speak for the entire faith. By utilizing people of color to advance its homophobic agenda, the Christian Right attempts to suggest that "homosexual activists" are trying to rob people of color of their civil rights protections, implying that there is only a limited amount of civil rights.67

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