The Homosexual Witch-Hunt: Using Fear to Shift Focus in a Time of Crisis
Michael Joseph Georger
American Political Science Association (APSA)
APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper
In times of crisis, be them economic or otherwise, the powers that be inevitably look to a scapegoat. They need to be able to shift the focus from their own mistakes to the actions of others so as to take the spotlight off the current crisis and their own shortcomings. It may be no coincidence that during the latest economic crisis, the rhetoric against homosexuals and same-sex marriage has been ratcheted up. While the expected politicians and religious leaders continue the fight against same-sex marriage rights, the more surprising trend has been the success of ballot initiatives against same-sex marriage. With the recent repeal by ballot votes in California and Maine, we have seen the populace shoot down state approved same-sex marriage. Interestingly, public backlash against same-sex marriage comes at a time where support for same-sex marriage rights continues to rise across the country. However, even in the face of polling data which suggests public support, we still see politicians such as those in New York City vote against same-sex marriage rights under the guise of “the will of the public.” Where the denial of equal rights comes from may vary from state to state, but whether coming from the legislature or the protesters on Main Street, you are likely to hear the same rationale: Same-sex marriage will ruin the institution of marriage, it will ruin families, it will ruin society, the next step is marrying animals, the list goes on and on. The question becomes: is there a scientific, logical, or legal basis for these arguments? Perhaps more so than with any other social issue, the politics of fear and blame are utilized, often successfully. It is an issue where we see a break from attacks based on science and statistics, with a shift to using hypothetical situations as ammunition. Is there any actual threat to the institution of marriage from the recognition of same-sex marriage, and are these arguments sufficient to justify the denial of equal rights? I argue that the arguments against same-sex marriage rights are fear tactics used against a growing minority to distract the populace. I argue that: (1) data indicates either a strengthening of, or non impact on, familial institutions in nations that granted same-sex marriage or union rights; and (2) the purported state interests in denying same-sex marriage rights do not pass Constitutional muster under any standard of review. I further argue that the recent backlash against homosexuals arises from the politics of fear being implemented by Conservative politicians, leaders, and community members to create a new political underclass that can be focused on in a time of crisis. In short, the current backlash against equal rights of homosexuals is a witch-hunt that uses ballots and pulpits instead of torches and pyres.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32working papers series
Date posted: August 11, 2010 ; Last revised: August 13, 2010
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