I’ve written a few times about the case of former Republican Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who has pled guilty to charges of trying to illegally conceal large cash transfers he made to pay millions of dollars in hush money in order to prevent the public from learning that while he was a high school wrestling coach he molested at least four of the boys under his supervision. The sexual assaults occurred long enough ago that due to a statute of limitations on such crimes, Hastert can’t be charged with the molestation. (Which prompted the Daily Show to point out, “You’d think something as awful as molesting children would have no statute of limitations”, because things like parking tickets have no statute of limitations, for example.)
There was one interesting little twist this week as Hastert’s sentencing date approaches: The judge in Dennis Hastert’s hush-money case says that if the former House speaker wants letters of support considered during his sentencing, they must be made public. Hastert’s lawyers have drummed up 60 letters of support from various people asking the judge for leniency. However, those letters have been submitted under seal, keeping the identity of the letter writers and the contents of the letters private. Presumably because most of the people (if not all) who wrote the letters only agreed to do so on condition of anonymity. Because no one, particularly no elected official, wants to go on record supporting a child molester. The judge has rightfully pointed out that ordinarily such leniency pleas are part of the public record.
I’ve been harping on Hastert because he was an anti-gay politician when he was in Congress, going so far as to, after promising the parents of Matthew Shephard (who was murdered in a gruesome hate crime) to help pass a hate crime’s bill, actually did everything in his power to kill it (and succeeded). Some reporters have tried to claim that Hastert wasn’t that anti-gay, or at least not as anti-gay as some of his fellow Republicans. Michelangelo Signorile begs to differ: How Dennis Hastert Demonized Gays as Predators While He Was the True ‘Super-Predator’
Hastert, of course, isn’t the only Republican who demonized some people’s sexual lives while engaging is sexual misconduct himself: Cosponsor of Tenn. Transphobic Bill Accused of Sexual Harassment Not just accused—the accusations have been around for months—what has finally happened is the Attorney General’s office has found sufficient evidence against GOP Rep. Jeremy Durham that the rest of the legislature felt compelled to act, and has exiled him to an office in another building and essentially quarantined him from any contact with woman on any legislative staff position. I am very amused at Think Progress’s headline earlier this week about it: The Surprising Sexual Harassment Scandal Accompanying Tennessee’s Anti-Transgender Bill, because the only thing that any reasonable person should find surprising about this is that his fellow republicans have taken any action against their fellow family values champion at all.
The records show that Hastert’s office kept a legislative file titled “Homosexuals,” filled with policy statements from social conservative groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and the Family Research Council that criticized same-sex marriage and Clinton administration efforts to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. The file also includes a 1996 Weekly Standard article, “Pedophilia Chic” that warned that “revisionist suggestions about pedophilia” were being embraced by the left…
…What was curiously not in Hastert’s files, according to the Politico report, was anything about the scandal that enveloped former GOP congressman Mark Foley, who was exposed in 2007 for having sent sexually explicit messages to teenage boys in the House page program. Hastert in fact was accused of dragging his feet in dealing with Foley’s activities, his office having known about it for months but either covering it up or simply not acting with the speed expected from the office of a House member who was so concerned about child predators.
And remember those statute of limitations laws in various states that shield child molesters, while letting other, far less severe crimes be punished many many years later. You want to know how those laws came to exist? Disgraced Former NY Assembly Speaker had affairs with at least two women — one a lobbyist, the other a former assemblywoman, court papers show According to records unsealed this week, former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had affairs with two women, one of whom is a former aide turned lobbyist who was hired by the Catholic Church to pressure legislators against a bill that would have extended the time period in which victims of molestation could sue their attackers. Sheldon dropped his support for the bill once his former aide/mistress began lobbying against it. So the sex criminals being shielded were pedophile priests whose victims didn’t speak up while they were still children. Again.
And I have to ask once again, why do any of us ever take any of these anti-sex, anti-gay politicians seriously? There is not one single case of someone using a trans rights law to try to sexually assault someone, but there are hundreds of cases of anti-gay, pro-family elected officials molesting children, sexually harassing or assaulting people, having extramarital affairs, taking their same sex “photographer” who also happens to live with them on taxpayer-funded junkets, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Mat Staver is the head of the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, featured speaker at several Values Voter Summits over the years, a man who has gone to court many times defending laws that discriminate against gay people, and someone who as recently as June has testified to congress about why gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people shouldn’t be included in anti-discrimination law, and has many times on his radio show praised laws in places like Russia and Uganda that criminalize gay people and even talking about gay people. For example, last year he was on another radio show, ranting about those Christians who have said that gay rights and marriage equality are losing battles. “To assume that you can go against the created order is hubris, it’s arrogance, it’s dangerous and it is not something in which we can simply say, ‘the battle’s over, we need to figure out how to coexist.’ There is no coexistence.”
“There is no coexistence.” If he insists that his side can’t co-exist with us, that’s another way of saying either we have to cease to exist or he does, right? And I’m pretty sure he isn’t suggesting that all true believers (his side) should commit mass suicide.
When Staver says “there is no coexistence” that means he’s ultimately willing to kill. The reason Staver’s organization encourages things like Uganda’s kill-the-gays laws, and talks up the rhetoric of how dangerous we are to society is because he believes we should not be allowed to exist. Which means killing us. Or at least, scaring us with a credible enough threat of death that we all go back into the closet.
Just like the people who regularly go to Seattle’s old gayborhood (Police investigating weekend hate crimes on Capitol Hill) every weekend (‘Not one more’ — March strikes back at anti-queer violence on Capitol Hill), the aim isn’t to kill each and every queer person, it’s to scare the rest of us back into the closet. When rightwing Texas preacher Rick Scarborough announces that he’s willing to be burned to death to oppose gay marriage, he doesn’t mean that he’s going to set himself on fire; he wants to whip up fear and anger so that people who agree with him will do horrible things to some of us to frighten us into silence.
It’s the same tactics used by the hate leaders who radicalized Dylann Roof into shooting nine innocent people in a church in Charleston: making members of the majority believe that a historically oppressed minority somehow has all the power. Roof told the lone adult survivor of his shooting, “I have to do it. You’re raping our women and overrunning our country.” In a country where white police officers gun down unarmed black children in the street without facing murder charges, he believes that black people are the ones threatening the existence of white people.
Similarly, in a country where:
- 1500 queer children are bullied into committing suicide every year,
- where thousands of queer children are thrown out onto the streets by so-called Christian parents whose religious leaders have told them they have to show tough love,
- where the authorities don’t investigate those parents for child neglect,
- where the numbers of homicides of LGBT people have climbed to record highs,
- where more than half of hate-motivated murder victims are trans people of color,
- where state legislators are rushing to enact religious-belief based “right to discriminate” laws,
- where in most states it is perfectly legal for employers to fire someone simply because they think the person might be gay (and where landlords can evict gay tenants or refuse to rent to them, et cetera),
- where queer people are 2.4 times more likely to be victims of hate crimes than jews, and 2.6 times more likely to be victims of hate crimes than muslims,
- where the number of hate crimes against all groups except lesbian, gays, trans, and bi people is going down while all categories of anti-queer hate crimes remain the some or are rising,
- where the overwhelming majority of elected officials at the federal, state, and local level are Christian (far out of proportion to their percentage of the population),
- where state and federal tax dollars are funneled into “faith-based” charity organizations that are often allowed to discriminate in how they administer those tax-funded activities,
- where religious schools are often supported by tax dollars diverted from public schools,
- where high school kids are threatened with expulsion for wearing “Gay OK” t-shirts to school after a bunch of Christian bullies beat a gay classmate (but the bullies weren’t punished),
- where a public school teacher responding to an incident of anti-gay bullying read a book about acceptance to his class, then was forced to resign for “promoting homosexuality,”
- where Christian organizations rally and raise money to combat anti-bullying policies unless said policies include exemptions that allow their kids to bully gay kids in the name of their faith,
…Christians are claiming that queers are persecuting them.
Seriously? Not being able to bully, discriminate against, and torment their gay neighbors is oppression?
Why that is so hilarious is that the IML conference, the Folsom Street Fair, and the pride events he “sneaks into” are all open to the public. Furthermore, all of those events encourage their members to send in the pictures they themselves take at events to post on their web sites. You can go to the IML website and find links to attendees’ Instagram streams of themselves and their partners in all their naughty gear. In other words, he doesn’t need to go in disguise. He doesn’t need to sneak in. He doesn’t even need to attend in order to get all these shocking pictures. He can just go to a few social media sites and search on a few hashtags to gather all the shocking pictures he wants.
So in addition to being a hate monger (he and his organization continue to quote long-debunked and wholly disproven “research” claiming that all gay people are pedophiles, that being gay is caused by incest, that kids who come out as gay will rape their siblings, et cetera, et cetera) and a sleazeball who leverages prurient imagery to titillate and shock in order to manipulate people into donating to his cause, he’s also a liar. Because he isn’t sneaking into any of these places. He isn’t uncovering things that people are trying to keep hidden.
On Friday he was briefly detained at the Canadian border because the literature he was carrying with him appeared to violate Canada’s hate speech laws. Not surprising, given how hateful his stuff usually is. Eventually they decided to let him and his papers enter the country, but he spent the entire weekend appearing on every rightwing radio show and so forth that he could, talking up how horribly he was treated and how the Canadian policies violated his religious liberty.
He has since escalated, having gone to a university to distribute his literature and spout off his hate. And when he was asked to leave, he refused, then proceeded to kicked up a fuss until the police were called to arrest him. I think he assumed he would be released on his own recognizance right away, just like the Canadian anti-abortion/anti-gay activist who was arrested with him. But he’s been held in custody until he can face a deportation hearing.
Given his long-running history of using lies, titillating imagery, and shocking “facts” to attract attention and donations, one must conclude that this was all on purpose. We know from tax filings of most of the other anti-gay organizations that donations have been plummeting the last several years. Support for gay rights in general and gay marriage in particular has been going up, up, up throughout the country.
We also know he’s done this sort of thing before: picking fights with audience members at the speaking events of gay rights activists, getting removed by police, then going on the rightwing talk circuit to explain how he was abused “merely for stating his religious beliefs.”
He isn’t merely stating his beliefs. Demonizing gay people has been his livelihood for about two decades. For nearly twenty years he has earned his living by doing things like convince evangelical and fundamentalist parents that they must kick their gay kids out or bully them (often leading to suicide), then turn around and use those gay homeless teen death and gay teen suicide statistics to beg for more donations and convince more parents to abuse and reject their children.
And now the money seems to be drying up. So, sitting in a jail cell in a nice, civilized country like Canada is probably a smart move. It will amp up the sympathy from that shrinking rightwing base. It will get him appearances on radio and TV shows where if he doesn’t get paid, he’ll at least get free advertising. It will probably land him some new paid speaking gigs. Donations will take an uptick for a while.
A few nights being held by the mounties in a low security cell is a very small price to pay for that.