“The reason why it is so desperately important to homosexuals to redefine marriage has little to do with ‘fairness’ and much to do with gaining access to straight, normal, decent Maryland children from straight, normal, decent Maryland families.”
—Michael Peroutka, February 21, 2012
Back in the ’80s, I volunteered for a toll-free crisis line run by the National LGBTQ Task Force. Before the internet, this crisis line served as a unique resource, connecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people with community and support services.
Over the years, I spoke to thousands of LGBTQ people. In many cases, I was the first gay person the caller had ever knowingly spoken to. I heard firsthand how lives were being shattered simply for being LGBTQ. In particular, I remember conversations with LGBTQ youth. Some had been kicked out of their homes—while still too young to get jobs—because of who they were. Some told me they wanted to kill themselves, and I suspect some went on to do so.
Things have gotten better for LGBTQ people since the time I worked on the crisis line. We can marry. We have become more visible and accepted in many parts of the United States.
But things are far from perfect. Too often, there is still a high price to pay for being LGBTQ. According to the Trevor Project, “lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.” A report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that “more LGBT people were killed in the United States in 2016 than in any of the 20 years since record-keeping began.” The report also stated that “LGBT people of color and those with disabilities were more than twice as likely as whites and the able-bodied to be the victims of harassment and non-fatal forms of violence.”
We will continue to pay a high price for being who we are as long as there are people in this world who see LGBTQ people as defective and unworthy: people like Donald Trump, who mandated a military ban on transgender people; or like Mike Pence, who signed a law allowing Indiana businesses to turn away LGBTQ customers; or like Michael Peroutka, who warned Maryland families that homosexuals are using the public school system to recruit children.
I have never met a gay or lesbian person who as a child had believed himself or herself to be straight until being recruited into homosexuality by an older gay or lesbian. In fact, a growing body of research indicates that homosexuality—like sexuality in general—is hardwired into humans’ genetic makeup. We do not choose this; we choose only how to express who we are. Nonetheless, on the Steve Deace Radio Show, Peroutka said, “This death style does not reproduce, so it’s got to recruit your children.” Peroutka does not believe gays and lesbians have a life style; we have a “death style.”
In fact, Peroutka has relentlessly vilified LGBTQ people, making them more vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and attack in our county and beyond. He has repeatedly equated gay men with pedophiles, although research proves his assertions are false. On the issue of child abuse, he wrote “So, isn’t it clear that at the bottom of all these tragic events—all the sinful, painful damage to young lives—we find the practice of homosexuality?”
If Peroutka has his way, businesses in Anne Arundel County will be able to refuse service to LGBTQ people like me. We know this because when Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill in 2014 that allowed businesses to deny service to gay and lesbian customers, Peroutka wrote, “Brewer decided to give in to the militant homosexual agenda which desires not only to have perverse behavior and activities accepted by the culture, but validated by every business owner as well.”
Immediately after same-sex marriage became law in Maryland on January 1, 2013, Peroutka called upon “all the clerks of the various courts of Maryland” to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. With the firm conviction that his personal interpretation of scripture trumped a Maryland statewide referendum, Peroutka stated that “sodomite unions violate God’s law. Sodomite activity is declared to be perverse and is clearly banned by God in Leviticus 18 and verse 22. As a matter of fact, the very next verse in Leviticus bans the perversion of bestiality.”
Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament, also states that women must wait 33 days to be purified after giving birth to a boy; 66 days if it’s a girl. Then they must “bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.” Why doesn’t Peroutka condemn new mothers for not sacrificing year-old lambs with the same vehemence he condemns homosexuals?
Is it any wonder that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to suicide, harassment, and attack when people like Peroutka call us perverse child molesters unworthy of the same civil rights and protections as other Americans?
Because of people like Peroutka, many LGBTQ Americans remain closeted, too fearful of hate and rejection. I can tell you from firsthand experience, it is not a pleasant way to live, denying who you are.
I wish Peroutka knew who he was hurting with his words. With so many people in the closet, it could a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a neighbor of his. Moreover, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that “those individuals who are most hostile toward gays and hold strong anti-gay views may themselves have same-sex desires, albeit undercover ones.”
For too long, LGBTQ lives have been shattered because of Peroutka and those who share Peroutka’s views. How many more people have to kill themselves or be killed before we as a community come together and demand an end to this hate? It is time we made it clear to Peroutka and our county government that these hateful attitudes are unacceptable to a community that values compassion, respect, and equal rights for all.
A group of Anne Arundel citizens have been coming to County Council meetings to speak out for human rights and social justice, including LGBTQ rights. The County Council meets the first and third Monday every month at 7pm at 44 Calvert Street in Annapolis. I urge you to consider joining us to speak out or to show support.
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