At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro, National Organization of Marriage's president Brian Brown, Republican super-lawyer Celta Mitchell and voting ID and anti-New Black Panther Party activist Hans von Spakovsky convened to discuss "Threats, Harassment, Intimidation, Slander and Bullying From the Obama Administration." But despite its controversial title (and a few incidents about which the audience was given but few details), the panel devolved into an hour in which prominent conservative activists attempted to wrest the mantle of Most Repressed from the liberals they often accuse of playing the victims.
"If you are a supporter of voter identification," Mitchell began, "then [to liberals] you are a racist." Voter ID initiatives by conservative groups led to controversies and lawsuits as they disproportionately targeted minority voters and minority voting areas in 2010 and more extensively in 2012.
"When the argument is put forth that those of us who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman are not only wrong but are bigoted, are discriminating," Brown said, "then we are treated as if we are bigots." After citing two incidents of private harassment, including the 2012 shooting at the Family Research Council and a stalking case, he added, "This is not the first example of those of us that believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman being targeted for repression, marginalzation."
Of course, it wasn't until 2003 that the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that consensual sodomy between two adults of the same sex could not be criminalized by the state, and many states and even the federal government still allow discrimination based on sexual orientation in many cases -- though the 1964 Civil Right Act made religion a protected class. Many LGBT Americans face socioeconomic marginalization compared to straight Americans and hate crimes against LGBT people remain common.
Shapiro agreed that being called out on beliefs and advocacy designed to impose discriminatory policies or policies with discriminatory effects is very difficult for people, especially white men who don't like LGBT people. "[Racism] is a charge that is very difficult to come back from for most people, because they're not used to being hit with that," he said. "It's the worst thing you can say about somebody in America in life, is that they're a racist, sexist, bigot homophobe."
The problem, he added, was that being called such names based on one's political positions means that it becomes more difficult to be taken seriously in society. "Once you move outside of the realm of civility, once you get into 'sexist racist bigot homophobe,' you don't get to be part of the typical political conversation. You've exited the realm of being a good person on that issue. And you ought to be 'punched back twice as hard,' in the words of President Obama."
But while the panel wrapped up by taking a question from a man who described himself as a military pastor facing charges because of some "militant homosexuals" to a mostly empty room, GOProud -- the gay conservative group that was banned from official participation in the conference -- was holding court in a packed room to talk about why inclusion was necessary to the future of the movement.
[Image via the National Organization for Marriage