Scott Lively And Rick Warren’s PR Campaign To Whitewash The Right’s Anti-Gay Uganda History

Posted By on March 11, 2014

Lively Warren Uganda

As a communications person myself, I can really appreciate a good PR campaign, and the best I’ve seen in a long time is the new effort by U.S. right-wing evangelicals to completely whitewash their own history of involvement with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law.

For the last five years, human rights advocates around the world been discussing how U.S. conservative figures were integrally involved in the creation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”). Vast amounts of research have been produced on the involvement of conservatives such as Rick Warren (who posted a YouTube video supporting California’s Prop 8 only to later take it down and deny it ever happened), and hours of undercover footage were taken of Scott Lively (famous for claiming the Nazi Party was really a gay club in his book The Pink Swastika) in Kampala, Uganda, advocating the bill’s creation with local political and religious leaders.

As evidence of their involvement has spread throughout the U.S., the public’s sentiment on these characters’ involvement has soured considerably. This was exacerbated when, last month, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, ascribing life-in-prison sentences to LGBTQ people in the African nation, criminalizing advocacy of homosexuality, and requiring authority figures (parents, teachers, doctors, etc.) to report LGBTQ people to the government.

The American public is finally taking notice. Story after story in major media outlets (The GuardianReal News NetworkThe Rachel Maddow Show, and the National Journal in just the last few weeks) is running about these right-wing evangelicals’ involvement, and the millions of dollars they’ve poured into Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere in carefully crafted campaigns to train local pastors and political leaders how to use culture wars-talking points for an all-out attack on LGBTQ people.

So if you were a right-wing public figure, and all of a sudden found yourself standing alone, staring down the barrel of public anger over your past work, what would you do?

For most public figures, it would be a career-ending disaster. But when you’ve got the money, the personnel, and a stellar PR team, you just might be able to convince the rest of us of a simple little lie: They were against the law in the first place.

The process of turning someone who claims “gay = Nazi” and that “equal rights = condoning pedophilia” into a “moderate” is quite the sight to behold.

Step 1: Float the New Idea 

In an interview on NPR’s “Tell Me More” program, Scott Lively wasted no time distancing himself from the criminalization measures in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Almost before host Michel Martin could finish introducing him, Lively jumped in with, “I have mixed feelings about the bill. I support the provisions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse of children and intentional spreading of AIDS through sodomy. But I think the other provisions are too harsh, and I don’t support those and I wish they’d gone in a different direction.”

Quite the change from the Scott Lively of 2009, who wrote a blog post while in Uganda where he admitted meeting with local lawmakers, warning Ugandans “how bad things would be” if it was not illegal to be an LGBTQ person, and that his campaign to enact legislation further persecuting sexual minorities was “a nuclear bomb against the ‘gay’ agenda in Uganda.” He concluded, “I pray that this, and the predictions, are true.”

Step 2: Create a New Image

For the last several years, Pastor Rick Warren has been successfully advancing his media blitz to get people talking about anything other than his stance on homosexuality. In December of last year, he was featured in TIME Magazine talking about his new weight-loss plan. This same story has been pushed hard by Warren’s PR team, resulting in features in Parade Magazine and NPR—none of which mentioned his flip-flop on Prop 8, or his involvement with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.

Step 3: Strategically Place Reinforcements of your Talking Points

Following the NPR story with Lively, a new article surfaced on the Religious News Service, expertly titled “U.S. evangelicals on the defense over Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

Staging the piece as a journalistic interview, author Sarah Pulliam Bailey basically transcribes a press release from Scott Lively and Rick Warren, disavowing themselves of their involvement:

California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, too, posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (March 2) denying allegations that he ever supported the Uganda bill…

Scott Lively, a Massachusetts pastor and head of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that he is not responsible for the bill.

“It’s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that I’ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,” Lively said. “The Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.”

He said he does not support the bill in its final form.

Never mind that Lively himself has admitted on several occasions that he had seen and reviewed the original “Kill the Gays Bill” before it had been released to the public. Despite the ample evidence of Lively and Warren’s involvement in Uganda, none of it is mentioned. There isn’t even a hint at what pro-human rights groups have found in their research.

Step 4: Spread the Word

Now that they’ve gotten their press release printed as if it were an accredited journalistic account, the right-wing PR campaign can push to get mainstream outlets to reprint. The whitewashed article has been republished not only on small sites like Spokane Faith & Values, but on major outlets like The Washington Post.

As is typical with controversial and nuanced stories, the simple talking points are much easier to publish. Why bother researching what these right-wing evangelicals have said and done beyond U.S. borders, when they’re willing to tell American media a completely different—and significantly more palatable—story on camera?

The Fatal Flaw

This massive PR campaign has only made one mistake so far, but it’s a big one. Rick Warren has, by far, been the most successful at misleading the public into thinking he’s a moderate. He’s been at it for years. If the campaign had aimed to only wash Warren’s hands of Ugandan LGBTQ blood, it would probably succeed with flying colors. But the efforts have been ambitious than that.

The inclusion of Scott Lively throws the door wide open for the public to see this PR stunt for what it is. While few people other than researchers on the ground have seen Warren at work in Africa—partnering with local anti-gay clergy and feeding them the funds necessary to push through the Anti-Homosexuality Bill—plenty of people have heard Scott Lively on air or in his writings comparing LGBTQ people to rapists and pedophiles. Plenty of people have seen the undercover videos from Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma of Scott Lively in Uganda explaining that if they don’t enact anti-gay legislation then gays from America will come and recruit their children. And plenty of people have seen the videos of Scott Lively on Ugandan TV with the vehemently anti-gay Pastor Martin Ssempa, saying that Uganda needed to enact the Anti-Homosexuality law and criminalize LGBTQ people in order to save children from being “recruited

There’s no question of right-wing evangelical involvement in Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. The work has been verified and fact-checked by researchers around the globe, organizations like Amnesty International, and outlets such as the New York Times. There’s a reason a court refused to throw out the case against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity.

It’s not just human rights advocates who are shocked by the turnabout from these conservatives. The anti-gay clergy in Uganda they’ve spent years training are shocked as well. Pastor Martin Ssempa was so surprised he published a letter addressed to Rick Warren, asking why he is now changing his story.

When you came to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, and expressed support to  the Church of Uganda’s boycott of the pro-homosexual church of England, you stated; “The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda”.

You are further remembered to say, “homosexuality is not a natural  way of life and thus (its) not a human right. We shall not tolerate this  apect at all”.

Good PR work has a tendency to override facts. Tell people that something didn’t happen enough times, and eventually they’ll start to believe it. It’s up to us to tell the truth louder and more often.

**This article is cross-posted from Political Research Associates. Republished with Permission

WARNING: U.S. LGBT Organizations Falling Into Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Trap

Posted By on February 28, 2014

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

**This article was originally written for and published on The New Civil Rights Movement**

Like so many of us, I was dismayed last week after Uganda president Yoweri Museveni announced that despite international pressures and the risk of economic sanctions, he has decided to go ahead and sign the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill (formerly known as the “Kill the Gays Bill”). So naturally, I was pleased as I watched the announcement receive swift condemnation from President Barack Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. “As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda,” said Obama. “It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people.”

National LGBTQ organizations took it a step further over the last few days, and demanded the U.S. government recall our ambassadors from both Uganda and Nigeria. That gave me pause. Why would we want to withdraw our diplomatic connections to countries where human rights are being abused? Doesn’t that leave us without the on-the-ground ability to work on turning these laws back?

As it turns out, both our national LGBTQ rights organizations and President Obama are falling right into the trap set by anti-gay leaders in Africa.

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, Senior Religion and Sexuality Researcher at the social justice think tank Political Research Associates (where I also work), was the first U.S. researcher to reveal the links between U.S. conservatives and Uganda back in 2008. He’s written an excellent article explaining what is happening:

Last weekend, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni gave a speech “declar[ing] war on the ‘homosexual lobby,’” and called on all Ugandans to stand with him—he was expecting the Western world to react to his declaration. To Museveni and most Ugandans, the ‘homosexual lobby’ includes not only major LGBTQ rights organizations, but the United States and the European Union, which have for many years fought for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ persons on African soil. Western nations and organizations have not fought in the way social justice-minded people have hoped—they have not stopped the arrests, or the beatings—but there is no doubt that their presence and back-room meetings with African politicians has saved LGBTQ lives from systematic persecution, and in some cases, genocides.

It is these nations and organizations that have provided safe spaces for African LGBTQ persons—even in extraordinarily homophobic countries like Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and The Gambia—to share their plight and reorganize after their governments disband them. In Zambia and Uganda, these nations have gone beyond simple meetings with local LGBTQ activists, but are also monitoring and documenting human rights abuses, flooding court rooms when LGBTQ persons appear in court, and have provided safety when African nations declare war on gays. When LGBTQ Africans lives’ are in immediate danger, it is to the U.S. and European embassies they run for safety. These nations’ open protection of sexual minorities in Africa has resulted in charges of “promoting homosexuality in Africa” by both religious and political leaders.

Honestly, had it not been for the presence of the U.S. and European embassies, African gays would have been massacred years ago, without any fear of consequences. For LGBTQ organizations to now demand they pull out of Uganda perilously compromises the lives of LGBTQ persons—who will not have anyone to turn to for safety, and strip our ability to monitor persecution.

I understand that we are all desperate to stop the progression of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. But threatening to leave the country will only boost the political power and credibility of leaders like Museveni, David Bahati, and Martin Ssempa—opening the door for African nations to expand further anti-LGBTQ laws, possibly even including executions and mass slaughter.

In other words, if we were to withdraw our ambassadors and shutter our embassies in these homophobic countries, we’d be shutting off some of the only safe havens available to African LGBTQ people. And even worse, we lose the ability to see what’s happening and destroy our ability to intercede.

Look, no offense to our national LGBTQ organizations, they do some awesome work. But this can only be categorized as stupidity. U.S. and European diplomatic relationships in Uganda and Nigeria are one of the few reasons these Anti-Homosexuality bills no longer call for the slaughter of our brothers and sisters. If we turn our backs on them, what do we think is going to happen?

If we’re looking for real action to take, let’s follow Kaoma’s advice:

African homophobia is promoted and propelled by religion. In Uganda, Christian leaders (paid for and encouraged by American evangelicals) have been demanding the bill for years, and pushing their followers to vote for the lawmakers who support it. Politicians will always be politicians—they are always looking for votes. In his attempt to win the Evangelical votes in 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama disagreed with same-sex marriage in a debate moderated by Pastor Rick Warren—one of very same U.S. evangelicals who worked with anti-gay pastors in Uganda. But to think that such dynamics only work in American politics is naïve at best, and dangerous, careless, and deadly at worst. Museveni needs votes to remain in power. So the answer to Uganda’s anti-gay bill lies in the primarily Christian electorate of Uganda. We should be demanding that Pope Francis speak directly to President Museveni and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, and urge Ugandan Roman Catholics to proclaim his already-stated opposition to any law criminalizing LGBTQ persons. U.S. Anglican, and Evangelical/Pentecostal leaders should equally speak to their friends in Uganda about the dignity and fundamental human rights of sexual minorities. And the American people must demand an end to the constant flow of exportation of homophobia from U.S. evangelicals like Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren to Ugandan pastors and politicians.

Open letters, petitions, and press releases will only give Museveni and Uganda lawmakers another reason to sign and enforce the bill.

Putting it All On the Line: Giving Up Freedom for a Little Equality

Posted By on February 14, 2014

**This article was original written for and published on The New Civil Rights Movement
Post image for Putting it All On the Line: Giving Up Freedom for a Little Equality

Photo credit: Twitter user @BenWinslow

We’ve all “liked” a post on Facebook advocating for LGBTQ rights, whether that be marriage equality, adoption, non-discrimination, or anti-bullying. Many of us have shown up for rallies, blogged, or even picked up the phone and called a lawmaker.  But there are those, a rare few, who are willing to put it all on the line and go to jail so the rest of us gain equality.

Around the nation, the community has watched in fascination as Judge Robert Shelby struck down the Beehive State’s ban on same-sex marriage in December, setting off a marriage frenzy over the next 17 days as roughly 1,400 couples got hitched before SCOTUS granted an emergency stay while Utah appeals the ruling with the 10th Circuit Court. But behind the glitz and glitter of the fight over marriage equality, tireless activists in the reddest of red states have stepped up their game for a law that’s even more important: workplace and housing protections.

A non-discrimination law, barring employers or landlords from discriminating against anyone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity has been pushed every year in Utah for the past five years, with little to no results. During the 2013 legislative session, the law successfully passed out of committee for the very first time (after which it promptly died on the floor of the state senate without receiving a debate).

Despite the state’s image, the only place a non-discrimination law is unpopular in Utah is in the state legislature itself. Multiple statewide polls have all shown support for the law hovering between 67 and 77 percent, and a few weeks ago hundreds of blue slips of paper were taped to the doors of the Utah Senate by citizens of all political stripes demanding a hearing on the non-discrimination law.

sb100 2

Image by Ben Winslow via Instagram

This year, Republican lawmakers (who hold a super-majority in both the House and Senate) were advised by State Attorney General Sean Reyes and outside counsel Gene Schaerr to deny the non-discrimination bill a public hearing—regardless of whether it would pass or not—for fear that some lawmaker would make an extremely bigoted statement against LGBTQ people and hurt the state’s appeal with the 10th Circuit which is set to begin April 10th. That fear seems pretty founded, as one Senator recently penned an op-ed calling marriage equality a “massacre.”

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser heeded the Attorney General’s advice, and told the media that he was not going to allow the bill to receive a hearing because LGBTQ issues are “too emotional” right now.

That was enough to push 15 LGBTQ activists over the edge.

Without warning or announcement, the group showed up at the capitol building with “We are the 72%” and “Hear SB100″ signs around their necks, forming a human-barricade in front of Governor Gary Herbert’s (R) main office doors. “If the democratic process won’t work, and if we’re allowed for procedural things like tabling to stop hearing things like the nondiscrimination bill, it’s time for regular citizens to engage in peaceful acts like civil disobedience,” said Dustin Trent.

“I don’t even have a parking ticket,” added Donna Weinholtz, “but I’m willing to be arrested today.”

Several lawmakers spoke with the group, thanking them for their passion and trying to negotiate an agreement to get them to stand down. But after each offer, including a private meeting with both the Senate President and the Governor, the activists responded with a resounding “NO.” The only way they were going to move, they said, was if the Senate agreed to give the bill a public hearing, or if they were arrested.

Eventually, the governor’s staff were bustled out a side door in an attempt to take away the power of the human-blockade. But the protesters responded by moving from the governor’s office to a legislative committee room, where crowds of people and lobbyists were trying to get in and out. The crowd was not happy they couldn’t get into the room, and shouts of “Arrest them!” rang out in the cramped space. Utah Highway Patrolmen, who handle security at the capitol building, immediately placed 13 of the protesters under arrest for suspicion of disruption of a public meeting, a class B misdemeanor; and disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor.

As they were being led away in handcuffs, protester Troy Williams shouted out “With liberty and justice for ALL!”

Was it worth it? Well, Senate Republicans have still refused to give the non-discrimination bill a hearing. But on the other hand, the Utah Legislature received a pretty fat black eye as the story of the protesters spread throughout not only local media, but on national sites like MSN (and now here on NCRM!).

While those of us who live in blue states sit back and enjoy the fruits of old labors, eagerly watching as marriage equality battles unfold, it’s easy to forget that there are many places left in the country where basic protections don’t exist and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are still vulnerable. But with heroes like this, willing to step up and put it all on the line for the sake of everyone else, I’m not too worried. Bigotry cannot long stand against the tide of justice and understanding.

protesters released

The 13 arrested protesters, after being released from the Salt Lake County Jail.
Photo credit: Twitter user @JimDabakis

A Message for Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser

Posted By on February 3, 2014

Sincerely, the LGBT community of Utah.

Niederhauser meme

Poll Recap: How Did Utahns Vote on Same-Sex Marriage in 2013?

Posted By on January 6, 2014

After Judge Shelby’s ruling on December 20, striking down Amendment 3, Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, several local news outlets immediately launched online polls and asked their viewers what they thought of the ruling. Here are the results:

ksl dec 20 pollKSL 5 TV (incidentally, a station owned by the LDS ((Mormon)) church), was the first to launch a poll, on the same night the ruling came down. The language they chose for the question was rather suspicious, reading “If a measure was on the ballot today, would you define marriage as between one man and one woman?” Far from the neutral language typically used in polling questions, one could almost say it’s pushing people to vote against same-sex marriage. However, to no avail it seems. With 21,326 votes cast, the poll went 60%-40% in favor or same-sex marriage.



fox 13 dec 20 poll

Fox 13 News was the second outlet with a poll in the field, launching theirs shortly after KSL’s on December 20. This time, the question offered several different options: “Utah’s Amendment Three, which defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge Friday. Several same-sex couples were granted marriage licenses. What do you think ought to be done regarding the issue?” Respondents were given the option of answering “No,” “No, marriage should be solely between a man and a woman,” “Yes, same-sex marriages should be allowed in Utah,” “Government should have less say in social issues like marriage,” or “I don’t know/don’t care.” 29,830 votes were cast, and the clear winner (with 72.79 percent of the vote) was “Yes, same-sex marriages should be allowed in Utah.”


ksl jan 3 pollApparently, KSL was not happy enough with their initial poll, and decided to run a second poll on January 3. This time, the language was written much more straight forward: “Do you think same-sex marriage should be legal in Utah?” Respondents were given the option of “Yes,” “No” or “Unsure.” 8,909 votes were counted, and once again same-sex marriage was the clear winner with 77 percent of the vote.


Obviously, none of these polls were conducted with scientific or strict polling standards, so the results aren’t going to be perfect. But while so much is being made of the fact that Amendment 3 was originally passed by Utah voters in 2004 with a 66 percent majority, it’s apparent things have shifted heavily in favor of LGBTQ equality. That was in 2004, a time when the majority of the country may have voted the same way and Gallup polls showed only 42 percent favor of same-sex marriages. But attitudes towards recognizing equality for same-sex couples have shifted vastly since then, and the most recent polling from the Washington Post and ABC show 58 percent t of the country in favor, and Gallup shows 52 percent. Keep in mind, these polls are strictly about same-sex marriage. Once expanded to include lesser-levels of recognition, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships, the numbers jump even higher. The last official poll in Utah, conducted by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University (BYU) back in July of 2012, showed 71 percent of the Beehive state is in favor of some form of legal recognition—whether that’s marriage or civil unions. That number is likely even higher today, as attitudes shifted significantly in favor of LGBTQ equality after the Supreme Court ruled on U.S. Windsor, which struck down DOMA, and the numbers will likely jump again in the next few months as Utahns realize that the 900+ couples in Utah who have already been married aren’t actually destroying the state, or making three-headed cats appear in the sewers (or whatever else conservatives think might happen).

ksl non-discrimination poll Dec 19 2013There is one other Utah poll worth pointing out, also written by KSL. This one came out on December 19, the day before Judge Shelby’s historic ruling, and asked Utahns whether or not they would favor a non-discrimination law, making it illegal to fire someone from their job or evict them from their home simply because they happen to be LGBTQ. The law has been proposed every year for the last five years in the Utah Legislature, but has been shot down quickly every time (in 2013 it went further than ever, passing out of committee before being left to die on the Senate floor without a debate or vote). 3,540 voted, and 91 percent of them support the bill. Three different scientific polls over the last several years have shown support for non-discrimination at over 70 percent, and nationwide there isn’t a single congressional district in the country that doesn’t have majority support for the laws. Of course, whether state lawmakers will listen to their constituents is another thing.

Utah TV Station’s History of Censoring Gay Content

Posted By on December 27, 2013

There’s been some controversy this week, after an internal memo from Mormon-owned TV station KSL in Utah leaked out showing management directing staff not to show footage of gay couples kissing.

“Please avoid using kissing footage in your stories about Amendment 3,” reads the email, apparently written by Managing Editor Keri Wilcox. That’s a tall order considering every news station and newspaper in Utah has been filled with pictures of happily married couples for the past week.

Mormon-owned news outlets have some history with either censoring LGBT content from their viewers, or going out of their way to give credibility and voice to those who are opposed to equal rights for all citizens.

Remember the stink last year when KSL announced they had decided to censor “The New Normal,” a new NBC show that featured gay parents? There was also the time when the Deseret News, a major Utah newspaper owned by the Mormon Church, posted a story that used an anonymous internet commenter from a different site as an official source, using their quote about how gays are like alcoholics.

The Salt Lake Tribune posted a quick article a couple of days ago, as this rumor started going around, which quoted KSL’s executive vice president of news saying that no such policy banning footage of gay couples kissing exists.

But Seth Bracken, who used to work for the Deseret Digital Media Team which includes both and, says otherwise. “When I worked on the Deseret News Web team we were not allowed to show photos of gay couples kissing. It was official and written policy,” Seth tells me.

Seth even provided a few other examples of KSL and Deseret News censoring affection between gay couples. “For example, we were banned from acknowledging that “8: The Mormon Proposition” [a 2010 documentary about the Mormon Church's involvement in California's Prop8] existed, even when we were listing all other Sundance Film Festival information. When we listed movie times and locations we were not supposed to list the information for ‘8: The Mormon Proposition’. If I recall, some editorial information was used (in stories).” Seth says some info about the film made it online anyways, but it was against policy for it to happen.

Bracken also detailed one other instance of censorship, during the several “kiss-in” protests in downtime Salt Lake between 2009-2011, where gay couples shared a quick smooch in public. According to Bracken, it was a big challenge for the digital editors to find photos of the protest without actually showing any of the kisses themselves.

How the media portrays LGBT people matters. It would be almost unthinkable to find a wedding story that doesn’t show some footage of lots of hugging, kissing and tears. By refusing to show any of that for gay couples, it dehumanizes them and perpetuates the idea—if subtly—that gay couples are somehow worth less than straight ones. The media plays a powerful role in the movement for equality, and a perpetuation of the idea that gay couples are somehow different or lesser than straight couples by a major new station can have lasting impact on the lives of not only LGBT adults, but LGBT kids for a long time to come.

EDITORIAL: Gay Marriage Must Stand in Utah

Posted By on December 22, 2013

**Article was originally written for Utah Political Capitol

Friday afternoon, Judge Robert J. Shelby shocked the state and nation when he lifted the ban on same-sex marriage by overturning Utah’s Amendment 3 to the state’s constitution, ruling it unconstitutional and in violation of the equal protection  and due process guarantees of the United States Constitution.

It is the opinion of Utah Political Capitol that Shelby was correct in his decision.

Like all amendments to the state constitution, Amendment 3 was approved by the citizens of Utah at the ballot box with just over 65 percent approval. The amendment, simply reading “Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect,” and preemptively denied same-sex couples from ever receiving anything close to the rights of heterosexual couples in Utah.

For this reason, many conservative organizations who supported Amendment 3 are claiming that a federal, activist judge, has usurped the will of the people.

Indeed, this is true. The will of the citizens of Utah (at least, their will from 9 years ago) has been undercut—but not by an “activist judge,” but by the law.

In 2004, the Massachusetts courts had just ruled gay marriage legal in that state. Identity politics (politics featuring an “us vs. them” mentality) were in full swing nationally during the Bush vs. Kerry election, and conservative states were rushing to try and shore up their own laws to prevent something similar from happening in their state. It has has since been revealed this was a tactic employed by members of the Bush re-election campaign in an attempt to get social conservatives out to the voting booths in higher numbers.

And, so, Amendment 3, was born and voted into law. But the question that now arises is whether or not Utah voters, or the State Legislature for that matter, ever had the right to vote on whether or not LGBT Utahns should receive their full rights as citizens.

It is our firm belief that in our representative democracy, the will of the people should generally be followed. However, as the old saying goes, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch,” and within the constitution the judiciary is in place to ensure the rights of the lamb are never trampled by the wolves. The will of the people must be set aside when the tyranny of the majority steps on the rights of individuals who seek nothing more than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As Judge Shelby put it, “[The wording of Amendment 3] suggests that the imposition of inequality was not merely the law’s effect, but its goal (emphasis added)… Amendment 3 thereby preemptively denied rights to gay and lesbian citizens of Utah that they may have already had under the Utah Constitution.”

That same constitutional principle of equal protection and due process is what granted the vote to women, to people of color, and is also what prevented nationwide votes on whether to ban religions such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in an age when it surely would have passed.

Opponents, such as the conservative lobbyist group Sutherland Institute, are arguing that there is definitive proof same-sex couples marrying harms the “tradition” of one man and one woman marriages, and further proof that same-sex couples make bad parents, and that the purpose of marriage between one man and one woman is to encourage child bearing.

Yet, as equal marriage for gay couples has been debated in courts across the country over the last decade, not once have opponents managed to produce any evidence of such claims. Judge Shelby asked the state’s lawyer, “Is it the state’s position that it would be constitutional, if the state chose to do so, to enact a regulation or law requiring that individuals who wish to marry submit to fertilization testing to prove that they’re capable of procreation? Is that constitutional?” The state lawyer could only answer that no, that would not be constitutional. The California Supreme Court, when they were hearing the case there, asked the attorney for Proposition 8 what harm gay marriage does to straight marriage. “I don’t know,” was the reply.

In no court case across the country have any of the arguments we hear daily against gay marriage from lobbyists, think tanks, or pundits hold up in court. This can only lead us to conclude that such arguments are little more than bad public relations.

Because we honor the United States Constitution, we must honor the ideals enshrined within it of due process and equal protection. These ideals require that our government be fair to all and give equal access to the rights and liberties afforded to us by this great nation. These ideals tell we the people that if you work hard and contribute to society, you can expect that you will be treated fairly. Indeed, these ideals tell the world that there will be equality to all with prejudice towards none.

Our state, nation, and private institutions provide several advantages to legally married couples. Citizens with legally recognized marriages receive tax breaks, are able to avoid the pitfalls of inheritance laws, are guaranteed access to insurance benefits, visit spouses in the hospital and make medical decisions, make funeral arrangements, receive fair separation of assets in a divorce, sue on behalf of a spouse, and much, much more. By denying these rights to upstanding citizens who happen to be homosexual is a clear violation of these couples’ right to equally engage their government.

The tyranny of the majority clearly violated the rights of the minority in the case of Amendment 3, and it is clear that the Judge Shelby considered the law, and not the fleeting emotions of the day, in his logical and reasoned position. This was not the response of an “activist judge,” but rather the type of fair ruling we should expect from our judicial branch. This check on the legislative branches power is exactly what we should admire in our state and nation.

And so, Utah Political Capitol applauds Judge Shelby for the courage to stand up to a public that may be angered by his decision because, after all, he did exactly what we demand he do—ensured that all are treated justly. After all, you don’t have to agree with gay marriage, in fact you can think whatever you want about it. Religions can preach whatever they wish, and set any requirements they wish for the marriages they perform. Freedom of Religion has remained intact. But whatever we might think, whatever a religion might believe, it should have no bearing on whether two loving adults are able to get married in a courthouse.

Follow Author Eric Ethington on Twitter @EricEthington