Hostility Between Evangelicals and Gays

Definitions of “Evangelical,” “Fundamentalist,” and “Religious Right”

The broad umbrella that is evangelicalism has been defined in different ways, but the two primary features are belief that the sole or ultimate authority for the Christian life is the Bible and that salvation comes only by an experience with a risen Christ.

Barry Hankins, Uneasy in Babylon: Southern Baptist Conservative American Culture 4 (2002)


In 1910 the Presbyterian General Assembly, in response to some questions raised about the orthodoxy of some of the graduates of Union Theological Seminary, adopted a five-point declaration of “essential” doctrines. Summarized, these points were: (1) the inerrancy of Scripture, (2) the Virgin Birth of Christ, (3) his substitutionary atonement, (4) his bodily resurrection, and (5) the authenticity of the miracles. These five points (which included both the narrow issue of inerrancy and some of the broad issues concerning the supernatural in Christianity) were not intended to be a creed or a definitive statement. Yet in the 1920s they became the “famous five points” that were the last rallying position before the spectacular collapse of the conservative party. Moreover, because of parallels to various other fundamentalist short creeds (and an historian’s error), they became the basis of what (with premillennialism substituted for the authenticity of the miracles) were long known as the “five points of fundamentalism.”

George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture 117 (2006)


The “Religious Right” is a subset of the modern political right that combined those conservative principles with a Christian patriotism that asserted conservative evangelical social values and opposed secularism, communism, and moral degeneracy. This segment of the conservative movement was most concerned with social issues, opposing abortion, feminism and gay marriage, while asserting their idea of “traditional family values.”

Austin R. Biggs, “The Southern Baptist Convention “Crisis” in Context: Southern Baptist Conservatism and the Rise of the Religious Right” (2017), at 14, Western Kentucky University [master’s thesis].


[“Evangelicalism” may be defined in the following ways:]

1. Complex, dynamic, and protean.

The complexity of the movement defies analogy: mosaic, kaleidoscope, network of networks—no one adjective suffices.

2. Transdenominational in nature.

There are evangelicals in every Protestant denomination (Calvinist/Reformed; Wesleyan/Holiness/Pentecostal; Baptist; Anabaptist; Lutheran) and even some within the American Roman Catholic Church.

3. Normatively described. The norms vary according to the commentator, ranging from Gallup’s simple criterion of “born-again” to Webber’s “major emphases” that divide American evangelicalism into at least fourteen groups. Finding a panoramic compactness in Bebbington’s categories, this study will opt for his norms of conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentricism.

4. Historically described.

American evangelicalism grew out of currents stretching back to the Protestant Reformation. It possesses direct British antecedents standing in the theological and ecclesiastical lines of the Puritans, British dissenters (Separatists, Presbyterians, and Baptists), Wesleyans, and Calvinistic Anglicans like George Whitefield. Yet beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, these varied formative influences began to synthesize and metamorphosize into a uniquely American strain of religion. Although evangelicals organized around a core set of theological norms (which largely differed along the Calvinistic/Arminian divide) and emphasized individual conversion and group revivalism, there was an immense variety in evangelical expression from the beginning.

5. Symbiotically linked to the larger American culture.

Before the Civil War, the theological and moral agenda of the Calvinistic/Reformed strain of evangelicalism (“Presbygationalism”) dominated American culture. With the rise of modernism and the religious pluralization of the late nineteenth century, evangelicals, as a group, were increasingly pushed to the cultural periphery. For most of this century, evangelicalism has looked more and more like a subculture. Even on this point, there is great variety, with some evangelicals strongly accommodating of the larger secular, or nonreligious, culture and others, at the opposite fringe (e.g., the fund-amentalists), fiercely oppositional to the culture.

6. Identified either “intentionally” or “unintentionally.”

This category relates to the degree that certain groups identify themselves as evangelicals. ‘ ‘Intentional evangelicals” are those who consider evangelicalism to be their primary category of religious identification. Marsden also calls these people “card carrying evangelicals.” Although a relatively small group in numerical terms, intentional evangelicals are the gatekeepers of the American evangelical subculture, controlling its primary educational, publishing, and parachurch institutions. “Unintentional evangelicals,” on the other hand, are much less self-conscious about their association with American evangelicalism. Unintentional evangelicals may meet the normative theological and behaviorial criteria for being “evangelical-like” while not even considering themselves evangelicals. Three good examples of unintentional evangelicals in contemporary America are Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, and Mennonites. Almost all Southern Baptists are evangelicals in the normative sense. However, until recently, because of their regional identity and strong denominational exclusivism, few Southern Baptists thought of themselves as part of the evangelical subculture. Most modern Pentecostals, in the early period of their movement, saw themselves as part of a unique, new dispensation in God’s economy: the “latter rain.” This made Pentecostalism radically separate from all existing religious structures, including evangelicalism. Finally, there are the Mennonites, an Anabaptist group “always within the evangelical Christian tradition,” yet representing “a distinct hermeneutical community” from it. Only at the end of the century when denominationalism was eroding and some believed the greatest foe to religious faith to be militant secularism, did many intentional and unintentional evangelicals reexamine their own history and their relationship to a dynamic religious subculture. Only now are scholars taking seriously a diverse movement that has left an indelible mark on the whole of American religion.

Robert H. Krapohl, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide 10-11 (1999)

[The theology of evangelicals is generally uncomplicated.]

Rather than displaying sympathy for esoteric theological formulations, most evangelicals reflexively genuflect toward the pragmatic, practical, and populist. In other words, evangelicals gravitate to what “works” for them theologically. At the end of the twentieth century, this tendency tended to atomize even further the theological viewpoint of American evangelicalism. Hence, in addition to the traditional propositional viewpoint advanced by Carl Henry in his God, Revelation, and Authority (6 vols., 1976), one finds “theologies” of many stripes distributed under the broad banner of evangelicalism. Examples include a “Methodist theology” by Thomas Oden, a “Pentecostal theology” by Stanley Horton, a “Baptist theology” by James Leo Garrett, an “evangelical theology” by Donald Bloesch, and, yes, a “neo-evangelical theology” by Paul Jewett.

All theological trends within evangelicalism suggest further fragmentation, particularly in light of the breakdown of denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention and the rise of nondenominational megachurches like Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana, California, and Willow Creek Community Church of South Barrington, Illinois. As these congregations create themselves with little reference to tradition, their theology will surely form either by consensus (what is agreeable to the majority of the assembly) or by fiat (what the church leadership believes is the mandate of God). Neither of these alternatives may lead to a coherent evangelical theology in the twenty-first century, but one or the other may be inevitable.

Robert H. Krapohl, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide 126 (1999)

Bible verses associated with homosexuality

There are seven biblical texts oft quoted by those theologians and laity on the theological and the popular levels of discussion to condemn homoerotic behavior of both men and women. These seven texts include the story of drunken Noah and his sons, the famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah (which everyone alludes to with absolute certainty that the men of Sodom are homosexuals), two sentence-long prohibitions in the book of Leviticus that condemn men having sex with each other, two words that describe some form of homoerotic behavior used in two lists of vices in the Second Testament, and the condemnation of idolatry and homosexuality by Paul in his letter to the Romans, the only text that perhaps mentions same sex activity by both men and women.

Robert K. Gnuse, Seven Gay Texts: Biblical Passages Used to Condemn Homosexuality, 45 Biblical Theology Bulletin 45(2):68-87 (2015). See Genesis 19:1–11 (narrating divine afflicting with blindness of townsmen who surrounded Lot’s house and broke into Lot’s home as they attempted to rape him and his guest-angels); Leviticus 18:19-23 (prohibiting Israelites from engaging in sex with women during menstruation, sex with wives of other Israelites, child sacrifice, homosexual intercourse, and sex with animals); Leviticus 20:10-15 (prescribing penalties for prohibited sexual acts); 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (Paul listing types of conduct that evidence unrighteousness); 1 Timothy 1:8-11 (Paul listing categories of sinners for whom Mosaic Law was designed); Romans 1:13-32 (Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome, theorizing that cause of moral corruption is turning away from faith and idolizing material things and listing presumptive manifestations of corruption).


The Hodge-Warfield statement of 1881 arose largely in reaction to the corrosive attacks of theological liberalism. By 1910 the inerrancy defense had hardened into the primary plank of the growing fundamentalist movement as evidenced by the “five fundamentals” statement of the General Assembly of the (Northern) Presbyterian Church, USA. Adopted without reflection by many Presbyterians, Baptists, and other conservative evangelicals, it was felt that to relinquish the belief in an inerrant Bible was to compromise one’s faith.

Many fundamentalists were nurtured theologically on the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), a version of the Scriptures whose annotations advanced a dispensational premillennial interpretation of the text. Although dispensationalism strengthened the traditional biblicism of evangelicals by stressing the supernatural character of the Bible and the need to read it carefully, the anti-historical and anti-intellectual tendencies of the viewpoint had a chilling effect on scholarly biblical research. Dispensationalists tended to equate any application of historical-critical methods to the Bible with theological liberalism. Despite the fact that the dispensational scheme was so highly interpretative as to seem at odds with a doctrine of inerrancy, most fundamentalists were willing to overlook the apparent contradiction. Thus, for most early twentieth-century fundamentalists, inerrancy and dispensationalism tended to go hand-in-hand.

Robert H. Krapohl, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide 120 (1999)


What are the acceptable bounds of biblical criticism within the American evangelical community? As evangelicals have been unable to answer this question with any unanimity, it has formed the context for the “battles over the Bible” that have waxed and waned within the subculture since World War II.
The epicenter for this conflict for most of the past fifty years has been Fuller Theological Seminary, the original citadel of the “new evangelicalism.” The early Fuller faculty valued scholarship and wanted to use their advanced academic training to restore evangelicalism to the position of societal prominence it had enjoyed in the nineteenth century. Although its scholars never agreed on an agenda to accomplish this goal, Fuller seemed to be moving the center of gravity of American evangelicalism away from dispensational fundamentalism by the mid-1950s.

The commitment of the new generation of evangelicals to a more rigorous variety of biblical criticism seemed strong. There were apparent signs at every turn; not only the works of scholars like Ladd and the appropriation of ideas from British evangelicals such as F. F. Bruce and C. H. Dodd, but also in widespread evangelical involvement in academic forums like the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL), the formation of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in 1949, and the willingness of evangelical presses like Eerdmans to publish works like the New International Commentary on the New Testament (beginning in 1951).

This era of good feelings began to evaporate almost as quickly as it first coalesced. The cracks appeared as early as 1954 when Carnell succeeded Harold John Ockenga as president of Fuller, and suggested in his inaugural address (17 May 1955) that the vistas of scholarly investigation at Fuller might be broader than the seminary’s founders had envisioned. Although some were shocked at the implications of Carnell’s speech, given Fuller’s prior commitment to a more rigorous academic methodology, it was almost inevitable that the approach would lead some of its scholars in creative directions that would seem beyond the pale of traditional evangelicalism. The only apparent safeguard against this “slippage” was to institute some guidelines as to what biblical research was “acceptable” and “unacceptable.” This recourse was unpalatable to most of the Fuller faculty because of their revolt against the obscurantist side of fundamentalism and the seminary’s nondenominational status.

The door set ajar by Carnell in the mid-1950s was pushed wide open on 1 December 1962, popularly referred to as “Black Saturday” by many associated with Fuller. On that date, Daniel Fuller, son of the seminary’s founder and the dean-elect of the school, contended against the biblical inerrantists on the faculty that there were errors in the Bible that could not be judged merely as copyist errors. This declaration directly challenged the views of Henry, Harold Lindsell, and others who were wedded to a strict inerrantist viewpoint. Fuller’s statement touched off a protracted power struggle at the seminary that resulted in the departure of the more conservative faculty and the installation of David A. Hubbard, a noninerrantist Old Testament scholar, as Fuller’s president in 1963.

The reverberations from the Fuller shakeup echoed until 1976 when they emerged from the evangelical subculture in an uproarious cacaphony through the publication of Lindsell’s The Battle for the Bible. In his book, Lindsell both asserted a strident defense of the doctrine of inerrancy—that the Bible “does not contain error of any kind” and is absolutely trustworthy in all its references to history, cosmology, and science, as well as in matters of faith and practice— and an extended attack on evangelical denominations (Missouri Synod Lutherans, Southern Baptists, Evangelical Covenanters) and institutions (the ETS and Fuller Seminary) where the author believed that inerrancy was being abandoned in favor of historical criticism.

Lindsell’s book ignited a firestorm within American evangelicalism. For the rest of the 1970s and well into the 1980s the conflict raged. At institutions as conservative as Westmont College, Biola College, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, biblical instructors were forced to resign their positions for failing to give assent to a strict doctrine of inerrancy like the one advanced by Lindsell. Emboldened by Lindsell’s attack, which was further advanced by his The Bible in the Balance, many biblical inerrantists banded together to form the International Council for Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) in October 1978. Throughout the period in question, any semblance of agreement over biblical interpretation was torn to shreds by the inerrancy debate, an argument that grew even more complicated and protracted when various evangelical scholars began to advance alternative theories of inerrancy that differed from Lindsell’s in both nuance and scope.

Evangelical theology in the later twentieth century has evinced this similar strain between the academic and popular approaches. Ever since Calvinism began to lose its interpretive grip over evangelicalism in the early nineteenth century, theology has tended to divide the various evangelical constituencies. Indeed, none of the best-known revivalists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been known as a theologian in the systematic sense. To the contrary, all have deliberately deemphasized highly articulate theological statements as an impediment to the ecumenical nature of their core gospel message: “repent and be saved.”

Robert H. Krapohl, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide 121-23 (1999)

Historical Background

ACLU Scopes Monkey Trial (1925)

Since 1923 several Southern states had adopted some type of anti-evolution legislation, and similar bills were pending throughout the nation. The law passed in Tennessee in the spring of 1925 was the strongest. It banned the teaching of Darwinism in any public school. This law was immediately tested by a young Dayton biology teacher, John Scopes. Scopes was brought to trial in that small mountain town in July. For his defense, the American Civil Liberties Union supplied three of the eminent lawyers of the day, headed by Darrow, who had recently served as counsel for the defense in the notorious Leopold and Loeb trial. William Jennings Bryan, seizing the chance to meet the enemy head-on, volunteered his services to the prosecution.

George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture 185 (2006)


In 1925, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Tennessee over a law forbidding public schools from teaching evolution in biology’ classes, claiming it lacked the authority to enforce such a law. Sarcastically dubbed the “monkey trial” by journalist H. L. Mencken, the “Scopes” case would prefigure many of the empty debates over sexual politics starting in the 1960s. The law in question was never intended to be enforced, and evolution was only obliquely mentioned in school textbooks.

The trial had the effect of causing evangelicals to retreat noticeably from the political stage, as William Jennings Bryan, a prominent evangelical social reformer and three-time Democratic presidential candidate, was thoroughly embarrassed by Clarence Darrow, the ACLUs silver-tongued attorney, when Bryan took the stand to defend his strict biblical views. Mencken took great glee in ridiculing the devout Bryan, who died a week after the trial concluded, as a know-nothing Bible-thumper.

… [H]istorian Martin Marty traces the origin of modern fundamentalism to the trial. While chastened religious conservatives did retreat from the political world for a time, they hardly died away, as the throngs of followers whom Father Charles Coughlin attracted just a few years later demonstrated. Activists adept at blending revivalist rhetoric with right-wing politics continued to preach, found colleges, publish magazines, and write books. Under their influence, schools quietly went about exorcising evolution from textbooks until the 1960s, when science began to make a comeback. The misunderstandings of that famous trial established the tone for the battles that would resurface decades later. From then on, it was not enough to win; both sides seemed intent on portraying the other as, in Mencken s words, “the forces of darkness.”

John Gallagher, Perfect Enemies 7 (2001)


Another consequence of the Menckenesque caricature of fundamentalism that held sway after 1925, was the obscurantist label that would ever after stick to fundamentalists. Nor could they raise the level of discourse to a plane where any of their arguments would be taken seriously. Whatever they said would be overshadowed by the pejorative associations attached to the movement by the seemingly victorious secular establishment. This image of fundamentalism was strengthened, for example, by Sinclair Lewis’s novel, Elmer Gantry, published in 1927. While Gantry was hardly a true fundamentalist, he was in part patterned after New York City’s John Roach Straton. Gantry was a charlatan who adopted fundamenalist rhetoric largely because he was not bright enough to understand liberalism and because it served the purposes of his sensational campaigns for moral reform. Lewis was eager to expose any hypocritical use of religion, but he took an especially dim view of fundamentalists. “Men technically called ‘Fundamentalists,’” in his account, “saw that a proper school should teach nothing but bookkeeping, agriculture, geometry, dead languages made deader by leaving out all the amusing literature, and the Hebrew Bible as interpreted by men superbly trained to ignore contradictions.” “For the first time in our history,” declared Maynard Shipley in his War on Modern Science, appearing the same year, “organized knowledge has come into open conflict with organized ignorance. “If the ‘self-styled fundamentalists’ gain their objective of a political takeover,” warned Shipley, “much of the best that has been gained in American culture will be suppressed or banned, and we shall be headed backward toward the pall of the Dark Age.”

The furious activities of fundamentalists themselves, especially in the two years following 1925, as they scrambled to raise the banner dropped by the fallen Bryan, lent credibility to such assertions. Fundamentalists across the country had been organizing vociferous anti-evolution lobbies under the leadership of such organizations as the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association and the related Anti-evolution League. George F. Washburn, a friend of Bryan’s, although not previously an active fundamentalist, proclaimed himself “the successor of William Jennings Bryan.” He founded the Bible Crusaders of America, inducing a number of fundamentalist leaders to join the fight “Back to Christ, the Bible, and the Constitution.” Other friends of Bryan undertook massive money-raising drives, with the intention of creating a William Jennings Bryan University. Meanwhile, in California, evangelist Paul W. Rood reported a vision from God calling him to be Bryan’s successor, which led to the formation of the Bryan Bible League. Next, Gerald Winrod of Kansas founded the Defenders of the Christian Faith, another organization using the methods of sensationalism to fight evolution and modernism. Winrod sent a squadron of “flying fundamentalists” through the Midwest and elsewhere to promote the anti-evolution cause. Edgar Young Clarke, a former national organizer for the Ku Klux Klan, attempted to cash in on this trend with the foundation of the Supreme Kingdom, which was structured like the Klan but had fundamentalist anti-modernist and anti-evolutionary goals.

All of these efforts either were short-lived or fell far below their founders’ expectations. Anti-evolution political agitation in the United States, although major efforts continued until about 1928, was losing as much support from moderates as it gained from extremists. Its real successes remained confined to handful of states, mainly in the South.

George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture 188-89 (2006)


Secularization has had the effect of reducing the sphere of Christian ministry to the individual soul and to those purely voluntary “enclaves” within the secular society called churches or parachurch ministries. Aside from church activities and home Bible studies or private support groups, Christian influence in “public life” is almost everywhere resisted.

In this sort of world Christians minister within the tension of two basic biblical obligations: their life in the Christian community calls for their loyalty to the Word of God and their obedience to its mandates. But at the same time their mission in the world demands that they try to influence a secular society, which usually means identifying with, accommodating and compromising. That is the dilemma, and the reason life often is a predicament.

Bruce Leon & Marshall Shelley, The Consumer Church : Can Evangelicals Win the World Without Losing Their Souls? 20-21 (1992)


Evangelicals, especially fundamentalists or separatists, long had a healthy disdain for the social order as an arena where sin would always prevail. Social and political issues were matters of “the world,” while evangelicals were concerned primarily with personal salvation. As early as the late 1940s, however, evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry challenged fellow believers to abandon their apparent lack of social concern, which he attributed to the enduring influence of separatist fundamentalism. Conventional wisdom recognized that evangelicals, even those heeding Henry’s call, tended to be conservative in their politics and suspicious of movements for social change. This quiet, if not quiescent, conservatism began to awaken as evangelicals felt that the values they presumed informed public policy had receded.

Robert H. Krapohl, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide 83 (1999)


The news media could afford to ignore the voting habits of fundamentalists prior to the Carter candidacy. There was no organized bloc of fundamentalist voters. The “born-again Christian” was invisible politically prior to 1976. There were very good reasons for this invisibility, as historian George Marsden makes clear in his study of American fundamentalism. The theology of fundamentalism has been opposed to social and political involvement; this tradition goes back at least to the famous Scopes’ trial of 1925. This retreat from political life has been called “the Great Reversal” by church historians.

Gary North, “The Intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right,” in Symposium on The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, Christianity and Civilization (Spring 1982, no. 1) (James B. Jordan, ed.) at 4.

McCarthy – Lavender Scare (1950s)

In February 1950, two statements by U.S. government officials concerning security risks in the State Department captured national attention. One has come to be seen as a pivotal moment in American history—the Wheeling, West Virginia, speech that catapulted Senator Joseph McCarthy (R–Wisconsin) into the national limelight and gave the era its name. In that speech McCarthy made the inflammatory claim that 205 card-carrying Communists were working for the State Department. The other statement, though in part a response to McCarthy’s continuing charges about subversives in the State Department, has been all but forgotten. Appearing before a congressional committee, Deputy Undersecretary John Peurifoy denied that the department employed any actual Communists. At the same time, however, he revealed that a number of persons considered to be security risks had been forced out, and that among these were ninety-one homosexuals. Rather than see the revelation as evidence of an effective security system, many interpreted it as proof that the State Department—perhaps the entire government—was infiltrated with sexual perverts. Members of Congress demanded to know who hired the ninety-one, whether they found jobs in other government departments, and if there were any more. Seeming to confirm McCarthy’s charges about subversives in the State Department, Peurifoy’s revelation prompted concern and outrage throughout the nation, heated debates on the floors of Congress, congressional committee investigations, countless newspaper articles, and numerous White House meetings. It eventually led to the ouster of thousands of government employees. It marked the beginnings of a Lavender Scare.

In 1950, many politicians, journalists, and citizens thought that homosexuals posed more of a threat to national security than Communists. One Pulitzer prize–winning columnist argued, “There is no record of comparable corruption in American history.” In a national radio broadcast, liberal Elmer Davis noted, “It looks as if the enemies of the State Department, and of the administration generally, have gotten hold of a more profitable issue than communism.” In one of many debates on the Senate floor that year, Senator Kenneth Wherry (R–Nebraska) asked his colleagues, “Can [you] think of a person who could be more dangerous to the United States of America than a pervert?” Three of President Harry Truman’s top advisors wrote him a joint memorandum warning that “the country is more concerned about the charges of homosexuals in the Government than about Communists.” Constituents writing to members of Congress confirmed this analysis. “Many of them tell me,” Representative Clare Hoffman (R– Michigan) told his colleagues, “they are concerned before they get to the issue of communism or loyalty with this issue of morality and decency.” By November, what some journalists derided as the “panic on the Potomac” and some politicians defended as the “purge of the perverts” resulted in the dismissal of nearly six hundred federal civil servants. In the State Department alone, security officials boasted that on average they were firing one homosexual per day, more than double the rate for those suspected of political disloyalty

David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government 1-2 (2004)


Homosexuality was so far beyond the realm of acceptability that it rarely figured in any discussion of the CP’s sexual practices. There were, it is true, intimations that Communism was somehow effeminate. Joe McCarthy led the charge with his diatribes against the “Communists and queers” in the State Department and his macho disdain for its leader, “the Red Dean [Acheson] of Fashion.” But class antagonisms shaped McCarthy’s language as much as homophobia did. Nonetheless, the two groups received the same treatment. In 1950, the Senate responded to rumors that there was something “queer” within the government by authorizing a special investigation. The language of the committee’s preliminary report could have been written by HUAC. The images are almost identical. Like Communists, “sexual perverts” concealed their activities presumably in order to seduce unsuspecting prospects. Their influence over “young and impressionable people” was so powerful that even “one homosexual can pollute a Government office.” And, because their sexual practices made them vulnerable to blackmail by Soviet agents, they were a threat to security. Ironically, the CP purged its gay members for exactly the same reason. Still, we should not impose our contemporary sensibilities on those of the early Cold War years and conflate the two outcast groups in ways that people at the time did not. Though considered aberrant, most Communists were depicted as thoroughly straight.

Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America 148-49 (1998)


On April 30, 1954, a risqué exchange provoked gales of laughter from the unruly spectators at the Army-McCarthy hearings. While examining a doctored photograph offered into evidence by the McCarthy staff, attorney Joseph N. Welch sardonically suggested that perhaps “pixies” were the culprits responsible for the alterations. McCarthy snidely asked Welch to define “pixie” because “I think [you] might be an expert on that.” “A pixie,” the lawyer shot back, eying McCarthy’s side of the table, “is a close relative of a fairy.”

The prickly banter made oblique reference to an unspoken suspicion hovering over the official charges and countercharges. To wit: that a homosexual liaison between Roy M. Cohn and G. David Schine spurred Cohn’s obsession with Schine’s welfare in uniform. Whether the attraction was consummated or platonic, neither the menace of communism nor the excesses of anticommunism but the all-too-human thrall to eros triggered the downfall of Joseph R. McCarthy.

Thomas Doherty, Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarythism, and American Culture 215 (2003)


Schine was Roy Cohn’s special friend — though exactly how “special” remains a mystery. Cohn’s homosexuality is well known but, despite widespread rumors, the two men, though inseparable, were probably just friends. Schine had little expertise as an anticommunist investigator; his main talent seemed to have been flaunting his wealth in nightclubs. Nonetheless, Cohn had gotten him onto the McCarthy committee as an unpaid consultant. In the summer of 1953, when it appeared as if his sidekick might be drafted, Cohn began to pester the military to grant a commission. Schine’s utter lack of qualifications made that impossible. In November, he went into the army as a private. He was, however, a highly privileged recruit. His wealth, Cohn’s badgering, and McCarthy’s clout got him passes every weekend and ensured that he would be excused from KP and other unpleasant duties.

Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America 262 (1998)


[T]he history of the gay and lesbian movement since its beginnings in the 1950s has been one of change so rapid and extraordinary that it can justifiably be described as progress. Fifty or more years ago, when the first gay and lesbian organizations in the United States were taking shape in California, every state had sodomy laws that criminalized homosexual behavior. Local police forces used them as warrant for making thousands and thousands of arrests every year. The federal government enforced a blanket ban against its employment of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, and many state governments and professional licensing agencies did likewise. Cold War rhetoric about perversion and sexual menace saturated the public domain. Christian religious teaching utterly condemned same-sex desires. The medical profession categorized homosexuality as disease, and many states allowed judges to send gays to asylums with indeterminate sentences and permitted parents to institutionalize their queer teenagers.

John D’Emilio, “Will the Courts Set Us Free? Reflections on the Campaign for Same-Sex Marriage,” in The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage 45-46 (Craig A. Rimmerman & Clyde Wilcox, eds.) (2007)


Reform has always been central to the self-understanding of American evangelicalism. Ambition to reform American Protestantism was the energizing dynamic and motivating cause for the emergence of the so-called “new evangelicalism” as it burst upon the national scene in the 1940s and ’50s. Outraged by the encroachments of liberalism, evangelicals sought to salvage the mainline denominations.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Reformist Evangelicism: A Center Without a Circumference,” in A Confessing Theology for Postmodern Times (Michael S. Horton, ed.), at 131 (2000)

Civil Rights (1960s)

The first cohort of pioneering activists had little room to agitate for justice. They tried, successfully, to secure de facto recognition of their right to assemble, a not insubstantial victory since police could argue that, when gays met together, it was prelude to criminal activity. They won from the courts acknowledgment that their publications were not obscene. Influenced by the nonviolent demonstrations of civil rights activists, a few of them in the 1960s braved public exposure by mounting picket lines outside government buildings and carrying signs that demanded fair treatment. Still, for all their effort, by the late 1960s there were fewer gay and lesbian organizations in the entire United States than exist today in the state of New Jersey alone.

Then “the sixties” intervened. I use this as shorthand for the few years when the United States experienced at home a broad-based challenge to authority. Core institutions found themselves under assault. At least temporarily, bodies as diverse as the presidency, the medical profession, the military, the university, national political parties, and local police saw their legitimacy questioned, their exercise of power challenged.

Gay liberation and lesbian feminism rushed into this vacuum. Like those who launched the sit-in movement in the South a decade earlier, activists were relatively young, many of them college students or not far removed. They were deeply influenced by the message of self-assertion that came from the black power movement; by the challenge to white middle-class values that came from the counterculture; and especially by the rethinking of gender norms, sexual ideology, and family structure that women’s liberation put forward. Their radicalism impelled them to violate one of the central principles of gay life in the generation that preceded them. They refused to stay hidden and keep their identity secret. Instead, they turned the mandate to stay in the closet on its head. They made “coming out” a new imperative. Men and women who came out more easily became activists in a movement.

John D’Emilio, “Will the Courts Set Us Free? Reflections on the Campaign for Same-Sex Marriage,” in The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage 46 (Craig A. Rimmerman & Clyde Wilcox, eds.) (2007)


The origins of the two political movements at the heart of America’s culture war are as humble as they are contemporary. The cultural ferment of the 1960s stands as the prelude to the battle to come. The first rousings of the modem gay movement date back to a sultry summer night in June 1969 when a rag-tag group of drag queens and teenage hustlers rebelled against police harassment outside the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar. The gays and lesbians who led the disturbance had little more to rely on than their anger. In a time when police raids on gay bars were the norm, they were largely at the mercy of hostile city officials. Routinely described as freaks and perverts in the press (one newspaper mockingly described the protesters as “Queen Bees”), they had little political organization to speak of, were characterized as mentally ill by the mainstream of the medical profession, and were generally banished from jobs and families if their sexuality was discovered. The political weakness and precarious social position of gays and lesbians at the time of Stonewall remains a fact that the religious right, intent on painting them as privileged and pathological, has been loath to accept.

The founding of the Christian evangelical movement was equally inauspicious. While gays and lesbians were rioting in New York City, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who would one day come to serve as a potent one-two antigay punch, were preaching in obscurity with little following, profoundly ambivalent about entering the political realm. Robertson had refused to aid his own father’s senatorial reelection campaign on the grounds that to do so would be to participate in an evil political system, while Falwell inveighed against the clergy’s participation in and support of the civil rights movement.

John Gallagher, Perfect Enemies 1-3 (2001)


Much of the contemporary religious rights political motivation can be seen as revolt against the 1960s. The liberal Warren Supreme Court dealt a series of devastating blows to conservative evangelicals throughout the decade. In a 1968 ruling that would have made William Jennings Bryan turn in his grave, the high court struck down an Arkansas ban on the teaching of evolution in public schools as a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state. In Engel v. Vitale, the court struck down state-sponsored prayer recitations in the schools. And in the 1971 ruling Lemon v. Kurtzman, the court ruled that state support for teacher salaries at parochial schools, even when the subject was secular, represented “excessive entanglement” between church and state.

John Gallagher, Perfect Enemies 8 (2001)


In 1966, the Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission at Wheaton College called Christian social action essential to global evangelization; three years later a prominent speaker at the United States Congress on Evangelism, Leighton Ford, brother-in-law of Billy Graham, insisted that evangelical Christians must make social action a central testimony to their personal faith. Ford and Henry both signed the Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern prepared by an ad hoc group meeting in Chicago in November 1973; many often call it the “Chicago Declaration.” From that gathering at the Wabash YMCA came the impetus for forming Evangelicals for Social Action and the Evangelical Women’s Caucus. With added ferment from groups such as the People’s Christian Coalition, the nucleus of the Sojourners Community, all these reveal a passion brewing to translate evangelical convictions into concrete social and political action.

Robert H. Krapohl, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide 84 (1999)

Removal of Homosexuality from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (1973)

Freudians and neo-Freudians, those inspired by the libido theory and those who followed Rado, proponents of the preoedipal and oedipal etiological formulations all agreed, however, on one point. Homosexuality was a pathological condition. When the dominance of psychoanalytic theory in American psychiatry began to wane in the 1960s, other schools of thought incorporated, without much difficulty, the view that homosexuality was an abnormality. For behaviorists, for example, homosexuality was simply transformed from a perversion of the normal pattern of psychosexual development into the “maladaptive consequence” of “inappropriate learning.”

Ronald Bayer, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry 38 (1987)


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Mental Disorders (DSM-I) had evolved from the efforts of a working group brought together under the aegis of the United States Public Health Service to design a nosological scheme adequate to the needs of modern psychiatry. … In the new nomenclature homosexuality and the other sexual deviations were included among the sociopathic personality disturbances. These disorders were characterized by the absence of subjectively experienced distress or anxiety despite the presence of profound pathology. Thus it was possible to include homosexuality in the nosology despite the apparent lack of discomfort or dis-ease on the part of some homosexuals. It was the pattern of behavior that established the pathology. Explicitly acknowledging the centrality of dominant social values in defining such conditions, D5M-I asserted that individuals so diagnosed were “ill primarily in terms of society and of conformity with the prevailing cultural milieu.”

Ronald Bayer, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry 39-40 (1987)


In 1973, after several years of bitter dispute, the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association decided to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, its official list of mental diseases. Infuriated by that action, dissident psychiatrists charged the leadership of their association with an unseemly capitulation to the threats and pressures of Gay Liberation groups, and forced the board to submit its decision to a referendum of the full APA membership. And so America’s psychiatrists were called to vote upon the question of whether homosexuality ought to be considered a mental disease. The entire process, from the first confrontations organized by gay demonstrators at psychiatric conventions to the referendum demanded by orthodox psychiatrists, seemed to violate the most basic expectations about how questions of science should be resolved. Instead of being engaged in a sober consideration of data, psychiatrists were swept up in a political controversy. The American Psychiatric Association had fallen victim to the disorder of a tumultuous era, when disruptive conflicts threatened to politicize every aspect of American social life. A furious egalitarianism that challenged every instance of authority had compelled psychiatric experts to negotiate the pathological status of homosexuality with homosexuals themselves. The result was not a conclusion based on an approximation of the scientific truth as dictated by reason, but was instead an action demanded by the ideological temper of the times. To those who viewed the 1973 decision sympathetically, psychiatry had displayed a remarkable capacity to acknowledge the significance of new research findings and to rethink its approach to sexuality. Psychiatry did not capitulate to the pressure of Gay Liberation, but rather revealed an admirable flexibility. Unlike those who were unyieldingly committed to antihomosexual values rooted in the Judeo-Christian past, the leadership of the American Psychiatric Association had demonstrated wisdom, insight, and the strength to break with conventional but scientifically unwarranted beliefs. Both those psychiatrists who fought to preserve the status of homosexuality as a pathology and those who, in alliance with Gay Liberation groups, wished to remove it from the list of psychiatric disorders understood the profound significance of the battle that had been joined. Each side mobilized the full range of resources it would need to prevail, limited only by the standards of professional decorum.

Ronald Bayer, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry 3-4 (1987)

Women’s Equality Movement (1970s)

When Newsweek proclaimed 1976 the “year of the evangelical,” for many it was as if a sleeping giant had suddenly awakened. After all, Douglas Frank had claimed that American evangelicals entered the twentieth century “less than conquerors.” Popularly confused, if not equated, with fundamentalism, evangelicalism seemed to have shared the ignominy that consigned fundamentalism to the fringes of religious life after the furor over evolution in the 1920s. Yet as Joel Carpenter and others have shown, both fundamentalism and evangelicalism thrived as religious subcultures, developing supportive networks to sustain their respective visions and institutions to strengthen their foundations. It was as if evangelicalism were awaiting a kairos, an appointed time, when it would reemerge as not only a vital, but perhaps even dominant force in American religious life. As the twenty-first century dawns, American evangelicals rehearse a distinguished history, for the contemporary resurgence of an evangelical spirit in American Protestantism has roots in the religious life of the first Europeans who peopled what became the United States as well as in antebellum religious currents. Every emphasis on inner experience of the saving presence and power of God in Christ buttressed the evangelical spirit.

Robert H. Krapohl, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide 17 (1999)


From the ERA battles of the 1970s to the AIDS wars of the 1980s, from the elections of Jimmy Carter to George Bush, each has used the other as fodder for the growth of its own movement. Seeking hot buttons to win converts to its cause, each could alternatively invoke the ” gay threat” to American families or the “radical right” threat to the health and happiness of gays and lesbians. The tactic was financially lucrative, especially for the television ministries of the religious right. It made up for in success what it lacked in fairness.

John Gallagher, Perfect Enemies 4 (2001)


One of the first major confrontations between the left-wing liberation movements of the 1960s and the emerging religious right was not specifically about homosexuality. Passed by Congress in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment guaranteed “equality of rights” for women, but did not specify how they would be achieved. After an initial surge of support, the amendment died in 1982, falling three states shy of the thirty-eight required for the adoption of a constitutional amendment.

John Gallagher, Perfect Enemies 10 (2001)


As [Phyllis Schlafly] saw it, the ERA was a no-holds-barred attack on the traditional role of women. Whereas many feminists saw that role as restrictive or even demeaning, Schlafly, a housewife who considered her massive political involvement to be little more than dabbling, believed that it provided women with special status. Loosening the role, she thought, would abolish husbands’ responsibility to care for their wives, tear apart families, and throw women into the increasingly competitive job market. If women had actual complaints of discrimination, they would “take their case to God,” rather than the government, she declared in 1973.

The ERA fight was a harbinger of future battles, In her attacks on the ERA, Schlafly established the tone for the wildly exaggerated charges and scare tactics—many of them involving homosexuality—that would come to be employed by anti-gay activists for years to come. Throughout her ten-year battle, Schlafly erroneously claimed that the ERA would lead to the conscription of women for military service on a par with men, iorce the sharing of public bathrooms by both genders, and mandate state-funded abortions. In one particularly incendiary advertisement, the Eagle Forum claimed that the ERA, or Amendment Six, was not just about the “sex you are, male or female” but the “sex you engage in, homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual,” or even “sex with children.” Over a photo depicting two stereotypical-appearing gay men from a New York City gay parade, the headline announced, “Who Hid the Sex in Six?”

One of Schafly’s most potent charges was the amendment would result in the legalization of gay marriage, even though its Senate sponsor, Democrat Birch Bayh, had made sure that the legislative record specified that it would not. With a series of far-ranging liberal court decisions culminating in the 1972 ruling Roe v. Wade, which legalized first- and second-trimester abortions, Schlafly could suggest with some credibility that the courts were likely to interpret the amendment more broadly than even its supporters suggested.

John Gallagher, Perfect Enemies 11-12 (2001)


In the course of the 1970s, the movement achieved a host of victories. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its catalogue of mental illnesses. The Civil Service Commission dropped its blanket exclusion of gay men and lesbians from federal employment. A number of states eliminated their sodomy statutes. Almost three dozen cities enacted statutes banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Federal courts repeatedly affirmed the First Amendment speech and assembly rights of homosexuals. Of greatest significance, perhaps, activists in many cities succeeded in sharply curtailing the police harassment that had been endemic to queer life.

Measured by the expectations of the early twenty-first century, the gains provoked by gay liberation seem like just a few faltering steps on a very long road to the still-unreached destination of equality. Measured by what had preceded them, they seemed huge to activists at the time. The constraints on police behavior had especially profound consequences. In the 1970s a queer public life became visible. It was different from the queer worlds that existed earlier, less contingent on the whims of law enforcement, less contained and restricted. It was visible and accessible in a sustained and continuing way. Among men, it was highly commercialized, consisting primarily of bars, bathhouses, discos, and sex clubs. Among women it was more overtly oppositional, consisting of coffeehouses, music festivals, small presses and bookstores, and art and theater collectives.

In “Gay Is Good,” one of the earliest pieces of gay liberation literature, Martha Shelley described lesbians and gays as “women and men who, from the time of our earliest memories, have been in revolt against the sex-role structure and nuclear family structure.” In “A Gay Manifesto,” a widely circulated document of the gay liberation era, Carl Whitman called marriage “a prime example of a straight institution fraught with role playing. Traditional marriage is a rotten, oppressive institution.” In New York City, an organization of radical gays of color asserted that “all oppressions originate within the nuclear family structure.” Meanwhile, gay liberation groups in Chicago defined one of the key virtues of being gay as its contribution to breaking down the nuclear family.

John D’Emilio, “Will the Courts Set Us Free? Reflections on the Campaign for Same-Sex Marriage,” in The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage 47 (Craig A. Rimmerman & Clyde Wilcox, eds.) (2007)


The Chicago Declaration of Social Concern grew out of a workshop of evangelicals in November 1973 organized by Ronald J. Sider. The Declaration, which had fifty-three signatories, called upon evangelicals to take seriously the matter of social involvement from an evangelical perspective. It confessed to evangelical complicity in such social ills as racial and economic injustice, militarism, materialism, and sexism. The sentiment regarding sexism, introduced by Nancy A. Hardesty, one of only three female delegates, acknowledged that evangelicals “have encouraged men to prideful domination and women to irresponsible passivity.” The text, originally drafted by Paul B. Henry, a political science professor at Calvin College who would later be elected to Congress and was reworked by Stephen Mott, William Pannell, and Jim Wallis. Subsequent meetings of socially concerned evangelicals, also held in Chicago, produced two organizations, the Evangelical Women’s Caucus and Evangelicals for Social Action.

Randall Balmer, “Chicago Declaration of Social Concern,” in Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism 152 (2004)

Moral Majority (1980s)

By the late 1970s, conservative Republican operatives sensed that if they could organize evangelicals, they could transform American politics. They recognized that the faithful had been disappointed again and again by Democrat Jimmy Carter. Despite the president’s own deep evangelical convictions, he had not made evangelicals’ social or economic priorities his own. As a committed Baptist who revered the separation of church and state, he did not believe that faith should influence policy. Meanwhile, the controversial social issues of the era, such as feminism, abortion, sex education, gay rights, and the ongoing civil rights movement, pushed many white Christians further to the right. In 1979 a small group of conservative political activists, including Howard Phillips, Paul Weyrich, and Richard Viguerie, began seeking ministers who might help them lure the evangelical masses into the GOP’s nets. Jerry Falwell was intrigued. During a meeting Weyrich and Falwell discussed their mutual concerns. “Jerry,” Weyrich said, “there is in America a moral majority that agrees about the basic issues. But they aren’t organized. They don’t have a platform. The media ignore them. Somebody’s got to get that moral majority together.”

Matthew Avery Sutton, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism 354 (2014)


In August 1980 more than ten thousand people assembled at Reunion Arena in Dallas for the National Affairs Briefing sponsored by the conservative Religious Roundtable. It brought together the secular right-wingers concerned about defense, taxes and government regulation of business and the conservative evangelicals troubled by legalized abortion, gay rights and the banning of prayer in the public schools. It was a political revival designed to transform passive fundamentalists and charismatics into political activists for the approaching election. One slogan ran “Get ’em saved, get ’em baptized, get ’em registered.”

Bruce Leon & Marshall Shelley, The Consumer Church : Can Evangelicals Win the World Without Losing Their Souls? 20-21 (1992)


More public expressions of evangelical social concern received validation when the born-again Jimmy Carter became president of the United States in 1977. But many evangelicals still feared that Supreme Court decisions regarding abortion and prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, along with the civil rights movement and subsequent calls for women’s rights and gay rights, destroyed the unofficial alliance between evangelical faith and public values. The year of Carter’s election, Jerry Falwell organized several mass rallies under the banner of “I Love America.” In 1979, building on the momentum the rallies generated, he organized a political organization, Moral Majority, the name reminiscent of the “silent majority” of Richard Nixon’s rhetoric a decade earlier. With Moral Majority, Falwell sought to develop a network of followers to bring about desired changes in public policy by influencing legislation from the local to the national levels, registering voters sympathetic to its aims, and supporting election of candidates who reflected his views. What motivated Falwell to start Moral Majority in 1979, in addition to dissatisfaction with prevailing practices regarding abortion and religion in public schools, were the social movement influenced by feminism and the call for homosexual rights. For Moral Majority, women’s liberation and gay rights signaled the demise of the nuclear family and the morality basic to American life. It thus campaigned to defeat ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Related to its idealization of traditional women’s roles was the antiabortion or “pro-life” position that Falwell brought into nearly every address. He also linked gay rights to the presumed growth of pornography. As well, Moral Majority condemned heavy regulation of the private Christian schools springing up as alternatives to public schools. It wanted to be “tough on crime,” endorsing the death penalty and antidrug laws. It exalted capitalism and free enterprise, while criticizing most welfare programs. At times, Moral Majority rhetoric approached a conspiracy theory: evil forces out to destroy all Americans held dear lurked around every corner. Moral Majority became identified with the conservative wing of the Republican Party, particularly when Jimmy Carter failed to embrace Falwell’s political agenda. Carter’s ambivalence toward his positions may have prompted Falwell to organize Moral Majority. In the 1980 presidential election, Moral Majority supported Ronald Reagan, not Carter. Falwell basked in the publicity Moral Majority reaped after the election, although by the time Reagan came into office, analysts of the “new religious political right” were already debating whether its presence would endure.

Moral Majority was one of many evangelical and/or fundamentalist groups rushing into the political arena. The National Conservative Political Action Committee, Christian Voice, the National Pro-Life Political Action Committee, Concerned Women for America, and the Roundtable all burst on the scene in the 1980s. The program of these groups, all overwhelmingly Protestant in their constituencies, received endorsement from one prominent Catholic, Phyllis Schlafly, an attorney by profession and an outspoken political conservative. This political activity added a new dimension to evangelicalism: It became a multi-faceted political force in Washington. Using the latest communications technology, groups maintained vast mailing lists, communicated almost instantly with millions, and made extravagant claims about the number of their committed supporters. While Moral Majority claimed a membership of millions, many were only names on a mailing list. Nevertheless, by 1988 Moral Majority underwrote a budget of over $8 million. In response to this conservative political presence, television mogul Norman Lear started People for the American Way, concerned that Falwell and his compatriots violated the cherished American principle of separation of church and state in principle, if not in fact.

Robert H. Krapohl, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide 83-84 (1999)


The establishment’s self-styled intellectuals, with their incessant attacks on traditional morality, have achieved what they wanted: a society free from Puritan hang-ups. But it is not the free, humane and healthy society they predicted. The Christian fundamentalists were correct in predicting that, with the abandonment of traditional morality, we would see an enormous rise in the rates of crime, suicide, venereal disease, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and illegitimacy.

Richard A. Viguerie, The Establishment vs. The People: Is a New Populist Revolt on the Way? 7 (1983)


Another way the media elite harm society is by promoting pornography. Advertisements for X-rated movies, including photos from the movies, are a routine part of all but a few daily newspapers. These same newspapers are within easy reach of children who, scanning the movie guides, cannot help but see the graphic nature of such ads, including those pushing homosexual films.

But even if X-rated movies were eliminated, the problem would not go away. There would still be daytime soap operas, telephone sex advice programs on many radio stations, and pornographic magazines sold at 7-Eleven stores and drug stores.
And over 95 percent of all movies shown at local theaters— mostly R- and PG-rated movies—feature such themes as pre-marital sex, adultery and homosexual relationships. Many of these films ridicule religious values, glorify violence, and present drug use as smart and fashionable.

Richard A. Viguerie, The Establishment vs. The People: Is a New Populist Revolt on the Way? 122-23 (1983)


“Gay” life as promoted by homosexual radicals is not an alternative life style. It is a defiant denial of the basic human instinct of procreation and the central tenets of our Judeo-Christian faith. I strongly oppose “gay” rights legislation. I feel we should have the right not to hire, work with, rent to, or live next to a homosexual, or an adulterer, or a sexually promiscuous heterosexual, if we so choose.

Richard A. Viguerie, The Establishment vs. The People: Is a New Populist Revolt on the Way? 196 (1983)

HIV/AIDS Epidemic (1990s)

Similar fears lay behind disputes over AIDS. Did promiscuity (whether hetero- or homosexual) undermine the family and society? How did drug use and sexual unorthodoxy interrelate? The socially transgressive connections among blood, sex, premature death, gayness, and drugs occasioned much facile metaphorizing of AIDS. … Society’s reactions to the disease mirrored those to drugs, homosexuality, death, racial minorities, and foreigners—most generally to that ubiquitous foil of contemporary thought, the “Other.”

Peter Baldwin, Disease and Democracy: The Industrialized World Faces AIDS 10 (2005)


In 1998, Pat Robertson likened gays to Nazis. The aging preacher declared that gays want to “destroy” Christians and that “the acceptance of homosexuality is the last step in the decline of Gentile civilization.” The Family Research Council claims that gays are pedophiles, Satan worshippers, hurt families and communities, and embrace a culture of death. The American Family Association has claimed that gays support pedophilia, incest, and bestiality, and give children AIDS.

Susan Hunter, Aids in America 36 (2006)

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (1993-2011)

“The New World Order Wants Your Children,” Phillis Schlafly warned. When Hillary Clinton published It Takes a Village, a book describing how forces beyond the immediate family impacted the well-being of the nation’s children, Schlafly and other conservatives were adamant that it did not take a village to raise a child. … By advancing the absurdity of “children’s rights,” the Clinton administration, and the UN, threatened parental authority, an orderly society, and American sovereignty.

Failing to protect national sovereignty wasn’t the only way Clinton was undermining the nation’s security. The Gulf War had briefly reinvigorated narratives of a heroic military and American power, but for conservatives this confidence diminished quickly as Clinton took the helm as commander in chief. On the military front, Clinton’s sins were legion. Early in his presidency he announced his intention to open the armed forces to people regardless of their sexual orientation. Facing immediate backlash, he settled for a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Opposition came from within the military itself and from American evangelicals, and by this point, to be sure, the two groups were not mutually exclusive. Evangelicals in the military used materials supplied by the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, and Exodus International to oppose opening the military to gay service members. In turn, Dobson hosted Colonel Ronald D. Ray on his radio show, and Ray warned listeners that “military leaders were real naïve about the widespread agenda” homosexuals were advancing.

Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation [Ch. 8] (2020)


The wheels were in motion. The President had said “This year.” The higher-ranking civilian official and uniformed officer in charge of the military were in agreement with the policy change. But something didn’t seem right about the timetable that was beginning to materialize for repeal. And it was already becoming crystal clear that any piece of progressive legislation that failed to gain congressional approval in 2010 would be doomed indefinitely.

Secretary Gates was laying out a sweeping study that would include an unprecedented survey of the troops’ attitudes about gays and lesbians, the policy itself, and how suspension of it might personally affect them. Ultimately, the survey would seek input from some 400,000 nondeployed active duty troops and reservists and another 150,000 family members of the troops, The results would be incorporated into the working group study that was due to be completed on December 1, 2010.
… By late February; people such as political prognosticator Charlie Cook were uttering phrases like, it’s “very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don’t lose the House.” If the House fell into Republican hands, the effort to re­peal “don’t ask, don’t tell” would be dead for the next two years of the upcoming Congress and maybe longer. There was no guarantee, either, that Obama would be reelected in 2012; repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” without a receptive executive would be an absolute nonstarter.

But even as the storm clouds gathered for the midterms, old Washington hands were directly linking the fate of the November elections to “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Former Bill Clinton adviser and Democratic pollster, Douglas Schoen, warned that overturning the gay ban would turn into political disaster for Democrats at the polls.
“The Obama administration’s decision to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ may well be the right decision morally, ethically and militarily,” Schoen wrote on February 7, 2010, in the Washington Post. “But it could have a dramatic and deleterious impact on Democratic fortunes in November. … I fear that the Tea Party movement, social conservatives and what is left of the Christian right will use this issue to further mobilize opposition to Democratic control of the House and Senate as we approach the fall elections. The political impact could well set back the goal of achieving full civil rights for gays and lesbians.”

Kerry Eleveld, Don’t Tell Me to Wait: How the Fight for Gay Rights Changed America and Transformed Obama’s Presidency 123-25 (2015)

Gay Marriage (2000-2014)

Same-sex marriage was one of the hottest issues of the 2004 electoral season—perhaps the hottest. In May the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the state could not prohibit same-sex marriages under its constitution. This ruling produced enormous backlash, and the voters of thirteen states quickly amended their constitutions to codify the definition of marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. President George W. Bush came out in support of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. It is possible—although the issue is hotly debated—that these amendments helped Bush clinch the election by raising turnout among conservative voters, especially in Ohio, the state that provided his margin of victory.

Mark Carl Rom, “Introduction,” in The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage 1 (Craig A. Rimmerman & Clyde Wilcox, eds.) (2007) (citations omitted)


By July, with the 2004 election season well underway; President Bush had no real challengers for the Republican nomination, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts had won enough primary votes to become the Democratic nominee. …

Ultimately, though, the election turned on a domestic issue: Eleven states had measures on the ballot that would mandate a ban on “gay marriage,” a practice approved in some states—including Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts—but which Christian conservatives deemed an abomination. The Christian right had helped propel Bush into office in 2000—some conservatives felt America’s foreign policy needed to protect Israel so that biblical prophecies about the end-limes could come to pass—and in 2004 that alliance was galvanized by the gay-marriage issue, hi some states where a gay marriage ban was on the ballot, such as Ohio, Christian voters provided the margin of victory for Bush. After the results came in, however, Bush hailed his victory as a validation of his foreign policy and of the neocon agenda.

Len Colodny & Tom Schachtman, The Forty Years War: The Rise and Fall of the Neocons, from Nixon to Obama 410 (2009)


Republicans also worked hard to show that they were motivated by principles, not partisan gain. The party did this in two related ways. First, the GOP elevated the gravity of issues such as abortion and same-sex relationships by calling for constitutional amendments and a reformed judiciary. Second, Republicans employed religious and moral language, a move that suggested that transcendent, ‘‘deeply held values’’ were at stake. Both steps were valuable because these issues are, simultaneously, central concerns for religious conservatives and subjects on which Americans are deeply divided. Elevating them into symbols of national morality provided the GOP with a persuasive rationale for controversial agenda items: we are pursuing these matters, they could say, because of our beliefs about what is right and good for America and Americans. Framing their positions as acts of patriotism and principle did much to engender respect among voters, even those who disagreed. Further, this approach provided Republicans with capital among religious conservatives when the party failed to deliver desired policy changes, which sometimes occurred.

David Domke & Kevin Coe, The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America 103 (2008)

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