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Topics In the News
With Progress Comes Backlash?
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/22/13
Last updated on: 05/22/13
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Mark Carson was murdered in Greenwich Village.

The recent uptick in anti-gay violence, as seen in a riot in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia led by Orthodox priests, brutal gaybashings in France, and the murder of a gay man in Greenwich Village, raises the question of whether progress in the pursuit of equal rights inevitably engenders a backlash.

The debate over marriage equality has been accompanied by an increase in acts of violence targeted at openly gay couples in England, France, and elsewhere. A gay pride march in Georgia was recently violently disrupted by an ugly display of Christian hatred led by Orthodox priests. And in New York City there has been a dramatic increase in gay bashings and even murder.

Indeed, just hours after the conclusion of a large march on May 21, 2013 protesting the murder of Mark Carson, a 32-year-old gay man shot in the face on May 17, more gay bashings were reported in Greenwich Village, long regarded as a safe haven for gay people.

David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement calls attention to a statement in a New York Times video by Sharon Stapel, executive director of New York's Anti-Violence Project: "There is absolutely a backlash" against glbtq civil rights progress, Stapel says, "and that backlash is often very loud and full of vitriol. That backlash, especially when it comes from community leaders, in the form of hate speech, who people look up to and respect, really does encourage an anti-LGBT sentiment in the world."

Dan Savage of the "It Gets Better" project made a similar point when he said that "every dead gay kid is a victory for the Family Research Council." The hate speech which is spouted so freely in this country affects both gay people and gay bashers.

There is no doubt that as we edge closer to achieving an approximation of equal rights, our opponents become ever more desperate and increasingly resort to public rhetoric that encourages violence.

We have seen backlashes before. As Susan Stryker observes in her glbtq.com historical survey of San Francisco, the assassination of Harvey Milk in 1978, "was part of a larger pattern of backlash against the gay civil rights gains of the 1970s. In the later 1970s, there were numerous arson attacks on gay community institutions, as well as at least one politically motivated murder. Four assailants attacked and beat to death Robert Hillsborough, a gay man, in front of his home in the Mission District, while yelling 'This one's for Anita!,' in reference to born-again Christian former beauty queen Anita Bryant's then current campaign against a gay rights ordinance in Florida."

Whatever backlash develops in the struggle for equality, we must not be deterred. We must proceed on the assumption that we shall overcome someday. But we must also not forget that the enemies of equal rights have blood on their hands.

Below is the New York Times video examining the aftermath of the murder of Mark Carson.

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