’Americans for Truth’ Labeled a ’Hate Group’

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday March 22, 2010

Anti-gay blog Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) is rather like a publicity engine for gay and lesbian causes, only in reverse: its constant reporting on gay issues (including the occasional in-depth, undercover reportage from various gay gatherings) are written from the perspective that gays and lesbians are "sinners" who "choose" to embrace the gay "lifestyle."

The blog's author, Peter LaBarbera, often adopts a populist tone, his articles often addressing readers as, "Folks." But the site is fringe right, and far out of the mainstream; indeed, AFTAH has now been categorized as a 'hate group' by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups, extremists, racist organizations, and paramilitary organizations. A March 22 article atFeast of Fun.com reported that the SPLC had been encouraged by Chicago GLBT equality group the Gay Liberation Network to list AFTAH "as a hate group so that its lies against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people could be exposed to public scrutiny and condemnation." The article noted that AFTAH's inclusion among hate groups appeared in the SPLC's Intelligence Report, a quarterly publication. The same edition of the Intelligence Report noted that after several years of decline, right-wing militias and "Patriot Groups" had resurged.

The SPLC has been the target of right-wing threats and vandalism in the past, with the Ku Klux Klan firebombing the group's offices in 1983. Founder Morris Dees has also been the target of death threats. Fringe-right groups and causes excoriate the group, which has brought suit against white supremacist organizations and promoted a "Teaching Tolerance" program of education. SPLC maintains a "Hate Map" that allows readers to see, at a glance, the distribution and concentration of various hate groups across the United States.

"The criteria that the Law Center historically has used to determine whether or not an organization is a hate group is not merely that it opposes legal equality for gays or others, but whether or not they intentionally utilize discredited and slanderous propaganda to spread lies about a group of people," the article said. "By repeatedly using the phony "research" of defrocked psychologist Paul Cameron, who is roundly condemned by every major professional psychological association, AFTAH's website apparently met the Law Center's definition of a hate group."

The article noted that when Cameron's work was cited by the anti-gay Illinois Family Institute, the SPLC listed that organization as a hate group, as well. LaBarbera was the founder and, at one time, the head of the Illinois Family Institute. "After a series of defeats, most notably two spectacularly failed attempts to get anti-gay referendum on the Illinois state ballot, in 2006 LaBarbera was apparently forced to resign from the Illinois Family Institute, where upon he upon he re-launched Americans For Truth About Homosexuality and his rhetoric against gays has gotten even more unhinged," the article says, before going on to note another tie between LaBarbera and the anti-gay fringe: he was, at one time, employed by Concerned Women for America.

"Getting LaBarbera's website labeled a 'hate group' is important because it helps assist the political marginalization of a man who has dedicated his career to denying others legal equality," said the Gay Liberation Network's Bob Schwartz. "Through demonstrating against LaBarbera and his organizations over the years, GLN and others have made LaBarbera gain the reputation of being a bigot, and thus radioactive in many 'respectable' circles.

"This most recent victory, getting the Southern Poverty Law Center stamp of disapproval for LaBarbera's website, makes it less possible for him to garner support for future anti-gay legislation and initiatives."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.