Christians Calling for Queers to ’Convert’ Chased Out of Castro

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday November 17, 2008

Across the nation, GLBT Americans appalled at the loss of family rights for California's gay and lesbian families have come out in force to protest, mounting a number of mostly peaceful demonstrations. But in the heart of San Francisco's gay Castro neighborhood, a group of anti-gay Christians encountered an impromptu counter-demonstration that led to police intervention.

As reported by California news station KTVU in a Nov. 14 story, anti-gay Christian demonstrators have made Friday nights their habitual time to appear in the Castro, attempting to sell so-called "conversion" to heterosexuality to the neighborhood's gay denizens.

In the wake of a bruising campaign and a devastating loss of family rights with the passage of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that rewrites the California constitution and revokes the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, the state's GLBT community has been roiled with anger, shock, and hurt.

The presence of anti-gay Christians in the heart of a traditionally gay neighborhood was too much for some; the KTUV story said that the religious demonstrators were practically chased out.

However, neighborhood gays said that the religious protesters were not subjected to any violence.

The article quoted Joe Schmitz, who said, "Their rights were respected."

Added Schmitz, "They got a chance to go ahead and pray on the sidewalk and I had the opportunity to express my freedom of speech which is telling them to get out of my neighborhood."

Many of the protests against the passage of the anti-gay ballot initiative that have taken place across the country have been organized in advance, but the San Francisco event was not, according to those who were there.

Said Adam Quintero, "It was not an organized thing. We're tired of it. It's not religious."

Continued Quintero, "It's not a racial thing.

"....We're trying to send a message across the world that we're standing up and we don't want this to go on anymore."

San Francisco GLBT leaders did, however, organize a protest scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 15, the article said.

The city's police arrived at the scene, clad in riot gear, and ensured that the demonstrators left peacefully.

Religion and religious groups played a huge part in the saga of Proposition 8, with religiously based coalitions trucking hundreds of thousands of "Yes on 8" yard signs into the state, and members of the Mormon faith funneling a reported $22 million into California to fund TV and radio advertisements claiming that young children would be told about same-sex marriage in school and the freedom to worship would be stripped from people of faith who opposed marriage equality.

Nothing in state law or the state Supreme Court decision that, last May, struck down state laws barring marriage equality as unconstitutional supported those claims, said marriage rights supporters.

In the aftermath of the amendment's passage, 18,000 California families remain uncertain what the ballot initiative's success at the ballot box means for their marriages; countless thousands of others now have been legally locked out of marriage rights.

Mormon and Catholic officials sought to distance themselves from the damage. Said a PR rep for Bay Area Mormons, Don Eaton, "The church only encourages people to vote their conscience."

The Mormon leadership had instructed its followers to support the anti-marriage measure; Eaton characterized this as a matter of "doctine," saying, "The church also reminded us what our doctrine is with regards to marriage between a man and a woman." Eaton said that the church did not force any of its membership to contribute financially to the amendment's supporters.

GLBT Americans and civil rights groups have reacted to the revocation of family rights in California through legal means as well as social ones, with several lawsuits having been filed to overturn the amendment.

The argument used in the latest suit, brought by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the Equal Justice Society, Mexican American Legal Defense, and the NAACP, seeks reversal of the amendment on the grounds that it goes beyond roadblocking potential rights, and rescinds existing rights.

The Equal Justice Society's Eva Paterson was quoted in the report as saying, "People of color need to stand up for the LGBT community."

Added Paterson, "We think civil rights groups that represent people of color say it's very dangerous for the California electorate to take away constitutionally guaranteed rights."

Within a few days of the state's gay and lesbian families seeing their rights revoked at the ballot box, angry posts appeared at online GLBT sites such as JoeMyGod.com. Christian Web sites instantly began to disseminate stories that gays and lesbians were widely promulgating violence against Christians, relying on carefully culled sections taken from a handful of posts.

JoeMyGod and other GLBT sites scrubbed hate language from their reader forum areas, and called for calm and respectful discourse, but received coarse and threatening messages from correspondents reacting to the stories.

In a Nov. 7 article, JoeMyGod reported having received this letter:

"you making threats Joe? Why did you faggots not target a mosque??? You fucking cowards. You fucking faggot fruitcake cum guzzler ass Aids Bitch."

Added the correspondent, "You sick Freak. Violence will not work. The people of the USA don;t [sic] like fags like you bullying people."

The letter continued, "FUCK YOU BITCH. GET AIDS AND DIE.....PLEASE DIE FROM HIV."

JoeMyGod also reported that right-wing Christian leader Matt Barber, one of the main Christian commentators who had claimed that gays were calling for violence to be done to people of faith, appeared in Chicago at a counter-rally where an anti-Prop 8 demonstration was scheduled to take place.

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.