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On Lawrence King anniversary, LGBT foes claim they're the victims

Today is the second anniversary of the tragic murder of Lawrence E. King Jr., who was gunned down execution-style for being gay and gender non-conforming. However, this anniversary isn’t just about Larry, or Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, or Gwen Araujo or Matthew Shepard; it’s about all of us. When one member of our community is terrorized, we all are, and the message is clear: stay in the closet, don’t fight for your rights.

It is important to remember that as we watch the people who passed Prop. 8, the very people who try to take away what rights we have gained, try to cast themselves as victims.

Wednesday, EQCA’s Government Affairs Director Mario Guerrero testified before the California Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento, calling for the impeachment of Commissioner Ronald Rotunda. Rotunda is trusted by the public to carry out laws requiring fair election reporting, yet his op-ed in the Sacramento Bee claimed that Prop. 8 supporters shouldn’t have to disclose their funders like everybody else, because they feel that doing so will expose their funders to harassment and violence. Let’s be clear: the role of the FPPC is to enforce the law as written, and the law currently calls for campaign contributions to be reported to the public. The role of a commissioner is also to make a decision based on evidence, but Rotunda is announcing through the media how he will vote before even hearing the case.

What’s more, Rotunda, as an FPPC Commissioner, is a defendant in a lawsuit against the Commission, ProtectMarriage.com v. Bowen, the outcome of which will determine future campaign finance reporting regulations in California. His role in this case is to defend the laws as written, as a representative of the people and of their right to transparency. It doesn’t sound as if he is planning to do so.

But I’m most troubled by the characterization as victims of the people who stripped rights away from a minority – one that regularly faces harassment, persecution and even murder – simply for being who they are. Rotunda is not the only person peddling this image. Some familiar homophobic voices, like Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber and Brian Brown, have engaged in a concerted effort to cast themselves as victims while they try to discredit Judge Vaughn Walker. They are claiming that Judge Walker’s sexual orientation somehow disqualifies him from being impartial, and that their side was treated unfairly. Brown even goes so far as to say: “He's been an amazingly biased and one-sided force throughout this trial, far more akin to an activist than a neutral referee.” (Never mind that the defenders of Prop. 8 put together a remarkably shoddy case, dropping the bulk of their witnesses at the last moment and putting academics on the stand who had no experience studying the questions at hand.)

We know who actually suffered during the Prop. 8 campaign and beyond. Advocates who work with LGBT youth noted a distinct rise in anti-LGBT bullying while the campaign was in full swing. Authorities in Los Angeles and Santa Clara noted a rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes, and the FBI has reported a rise nationwide in recent years, even outside of heated ballot campaigns.

Not once did the NO on Prop. 8 campaign threaten anyone on the other side. Conversely, the campaign committee supporting Prop. 8 sent threatening, harassing letters to Equality California’s donors during that period attempting to silence them and cut off their support.

As we remember Larry and all of our victims of violence today, let’s recommit ourselves to fighting for equality. We have to call out our opponents on their false claims of victimhood, and we have to keep reaching out to help our neighbors and communities realize that we all deserve the same rights. Please, join EQCA in reaching out across California and volunteer to help change hearts and minds.