Gay rights and a D.C. shooting: Don’t play the blame game

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Does a watchdog group that monitors “hate” groups bear any responsibility for Wednesday’s shooting of a security guard at the conservative Family Research Council in Washington? Some conservatives seem to think so.

According to the Associated Press, the suspect in the shooting is Floyd Corkins II, who had volunteered for a local gay rights group. The FBI said he had 15 sandwiches from Chick-fil-A in his backpack. Gay rights groups have called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A because of its chief executive’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

Trying to link a political group or political rhetoric to violence is a familiar ploy for liberals and conservatives alike. This time the connection is being drawn by the National Organization of Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage.


Brian Brown, the group’s president, said that the shooting of the security guard by someone who worked as a volunteer for a gay rights group “is the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Family Research Council a ‘hate group’ for its pro-marriage views, and less than a day ago the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement calling FRC a ‘hate group’ -- they even specified that FRC hosts events in Washington, D.C., where today’s attack took place.”

Brown added: “For too long national gay rights groups have intentionally marginalized and ostracized pro-marriage groups and individuals by labeling them as ‘hateful’ and ‘bigoted’ -- such harmful and dangerous labels deserve no place in our civil society, and NOM renews its call today for gay rights groups and the Southern Poverty Law Center to withdraw such incendiary rhetoric from a debate that involves millions of good Americans.”

Actually, the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Family Research Council as a hate group not simply because it opposes same-sex marriage but because (according to the center) the conservative group defames gays by promoting junk science about homosexuality and asserting a link between gays and pedophilia. Second, even conservatives have defined down the meaning of the word “hate.” Bill Donohue of the Catholic League not long ago accused Jon Stewart of hate speech against Catholics because of a tasteless joke Stewart made about women protecting themselves from unwanted medical intrusion with a strategically deployed Nativity scene. If a deranged Catholic were to attack Stewart, would that be Donohue’s fault? Of course not.

That’s the real problem with this sort of guilt by inspiration. The Supreme Court has adopted a narrow definition of the sort of incitement to riot that can be punished by law. Legality aside, blaming an act of violence on spokesmen for a cause to which the offender has attached himself is almost always a cheap shot. That’s true whether it’s liberals blaming the “tea party” for the attack on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords or conservatives insinuating that gay rights supporters have the blood of the Family Research Council guard on their hands.


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