USA Today, January 9, 2013
How "family values" hurt kids
Anti-gay efforts go beyond political disagreement when they foster bullying.
By Bruce Kluger
celebrated the holidays by
briefly escaping their the
workload, one unlucky group
never got the chance to take
a day off. And I'm not talking
about the beleaguered clerks
at the Big Box stores, but,
instead, about those valiant
defenders of virtue at the
American Family Association
(AFA). They were busy trying
to stop elves from cavorting
with a known lesbian.
AFA, inveighed against J.C. Penney for a holiday ad featuring spokeswoman Ellen
DeGeneres. "JCP has made their choice to offend a huge majority of their
customers again," Moms said in a statement. "Christians must now vote with their
Hyperbole is nothing new for the AFA satellite army. When Penney first hired
DeGeneres last February, Moms blasted the retailer for "jumping on the pro-gay
bandwagon." Back then, the nasty broadside was wearying, though predictable.
This time, it was just stupid. In the holiday spot, DeGeneres talked gift-shopping
with a trio of Santa's elves. Scary, right?
Reasonable people can disregard the ramblings of a belligerent splinter group (as
DeGeneres herself noted, you have to wonder about an organization that calls itself
One Million Moms but can barely round up 50,000 Facebook followers). But I
continue to be bewildered at the obsessive, mean-spirited activism of the American
Family Association itself.
Since its 1977 founding by a Methodist pastor in Mississippi, the AFA (whose
mission is to rid the nation of "ungodliness and depravity") has sprayed its
venomous indignation like buckshot, boycotting any group that bears the faintest
whiff of gay inclusion. Among its countless targets: the Walt Disney Co., for
promoting "the homosexual agenda" by providing health coverage for employees in
same-sex relationships; the American Girl doll company, for supporting the non-
profit youth organization Girls Inc., which it called "a pro-abortion, pro-lesbian
advocacy group"; Hallmark, for offering same-sex wedding cards on its racks; the
Ford Motor Co., for advertising in gay publications and sponsoring gay pride
celebrations; Archie comic books, for allowing its first openly gay character to marry
another man in one of its stories; McDonald's, for joining the National Gay &
Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; and the Campbell Soup Co., for buying an ad in a
gay magazine that featured a presumably lesbian couple and their son enjoying a
bowl of butternut squash bisque.
These people must be exhausted.
Though the AFA has largely gone after corporations that have the means to fight
back, it crossed the line in late 2012 when it chose a new and more defenseless
kind of victim: children. In October, National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month,
it launched an offensive against Mix it Up at Lunch Day, an 11-year-old national
program that encourages kids to seek out new friends in the cafeteria as a way of
keeping cliques—and bullying—at bay. The AFA decried the program as "a
nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools," and it asked
parents to file protests or keep their children home from school on that day.
Supporters of AFA's efforts argued that anti-bullying campaigns focus too heavily
on protecting gay and questioning youths at the expense of non-gay bullying
victims. But the fact is, numerous studies—including a survey by researchers at
Harvard—have determined that gay kids are one to two times more likely to be
bullied than straight kids, and between two to four times as likely to attempt suicide.
It is a problem within a problem.
The AFA boycott was ultimately unsuccessful—only about 200 of the 2,500
participating schools reportedly canceled the day's events—but it underscored the
shameful irony at the heart of the brouhaha: that the American Family Association
has now, in effect, become the nation's reigning bully, preying on those who are
One would think that the AFA might learn a thing or two from the election season
polls, which revealed that most citizens are turned off by negative attacks and,
likewise, by those who would pry into their personal lives, including their sexual
preferences. One would also think that the AFA might learn a lesson from last
month's tragedy in Newtown, Conn.: that our children are not only precious to us
but also frighteningly vulnerable, and undeserving of being anyone's prey.
It's time to ask the AFA to stand down. Despite its self-appointed, McCarthy-like
crusade to transform this nation into its own image, America doesn't need its help,
(Photo of Ellen DeGeneres by Michael Rozman, AP)