Bil Browning

What the LGBT movement can learn from anti-abortion protesters

Filed By Bil Browning | January 12, 2010 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: anti-choice, Insurrecta Nex, LGBT movement, Randall Terry

Randall Terry's new anti-abortion group, Insurrecta Rex, has really been on my radar recently. They came to the National Equality March and recently encouraged people to burn Sen Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in effigy.

I got an e-blast yesterday evening about a protest the group did in Harrisburg, PA to heckle Senator Bob Casey about his support for a woman's right to choose. Needless to say, I don't agree with their end goal, but I admire their chutzpah in this action and it really illustrates something I've been talking about for a while now. Sen Casey, you see, is known as a pro-life politician who's most often the target of pro-choice protesters.

Stick with me for a moment and let's explore what the LGBT movement can learn from anti-abortion protesters.

As far as a quick disruption and protest goes, the group did it beautifully. Senator Casey had no idea it was coming, there were a ton of cameras around, and they were quickly surrounded by press wanting to know why they were protesting. The Philiadelphia Inquirer, for example, ran a big story about the abortion opponents' interruption of Casey's remarks.

Casey (D., Pa.), who has been a key figure in the Senate battle over abortion funding in the health-care bill, was in Harrisburg to open a photo exhibit on hunger in America.

He had just thanked his wife, Terese, for introducing him to an audience in the Capitol's crowded Rotunda when three women and a man stood up, one after another, to shout that he "voted to fund abortion."

During the five-minute disruption, Casey stood and listened as one of the protesters shouted, "You say you're pro-life."

"I am," the senator said.

Capitol police escorted the protesters out of the building. A spokesman for the police said the four were not arrested but were asked to refrain from interrupting Casey. They did not go back into the building afterward.

The protesters said they were affiliated with Insurrecta Nex, the Washington antiabortion group formerly known as Operation Rescue. Outside the Capitol, the four accused Casey of selling out his constituents and his Roman Catholic faith for supporting the health-care bill and appropriations bills that they contend fund abortions overseas.

That clip is only about a fourth of the entire article; it lays out all of the group's grievances against the anti-abortion Senator, the history behind their complaints, and a nice shout-out to the organization and it's mission. I counted about ten articles in various news outlets about the protest in a quick Google search. I'm blogging about it and other sites have picked up the story from the news too. As far as earned press goes, this is spectacular.

ENDA's Earned Press

When was the last time you saw earned press in the mainstream media about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act? Sure, the Perry v. Schwarzenegger Prop 8 trial has been in the news this week, but marriage equality tends to dominate the media attention, doesn't it? You see the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell pieces floating around with stories about the Ugandan "Kill the Gays" bill, but Rachel Maddow - the only openly lesbian newscaster - seems to have the most coverage on either story. LGBT blogs and papers even tend to nudge some of our own issues into a second-class status - see recent coverage on ENDA versus same-sex marriage on the big gay blogs for a quick comparison.

If we want the mainstream media to focus on the ENDA story - and make no mistake, we need them to do it - we've got to spoonfeed them a reason to put us on the evening news. The anti-abortion protesters targeted a "friendly" politician, made sure TV cameras would be handy, put together a basic plan for the action, prepped a handful of people, and got their cause on television, radio, print and online media outlets. The brief outburst - less than two and a half minutes of time - was well worth their time.

When was the last time you saw an LGBT rights protest like this? Here in Indiana, zaps and actions like Insurrecta Nex's aren't usual and they make good news bites. Back in 2005 when a few of us stood up to a local bigot's anti-gay rally in the statehouse, it made every channel with multiple stories.

"Make Me Do It"

Why aren't these going on daily now while targeting both Republicans and Democrats who haven't committed to protecting our civil rights? As ENDA flounders in committee why aren't we flexing our own muscles?

If we're complaining about the lack of attention that ENDA's getting by Congress members, why aren't we dragging them back to focusing on our needs? Legislators love to say they can walk and chew gum at the same time, but that never seems possible when the gum is queer flavored.

While the LGBT community loves to castigate Republicans (for good cause, for good cause!) and complain about the Democrats who don't support us, what do we do with Democrats like Indiana Senator Evan Bayh who still hasn't confirmed his support of ENDA? Bayh is considered LGBT friendly even though he's a blue dog democrat, but he's not helping the legislation move forward by refusing to confirm he would vote in favor of ENDA. At what point do we institute the FDR principle? (FDR told a supporter who was advocating for a specific action, "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.")

What can the LGBT movement learn from anti-abortion protesters? It's time to get off our butts and on our feet. It's time to put some of our famous creativity to work and "make them do it." One commenter recently accused me of advocating "the crap I can listen to on Fox" for pointing out what breathed life into the teabaggers and suggesting we use some of the same strategy.

Maybe. But we need to do something. The story about Conan leaving American Idol because he admitted to using steroids with a negro is kicking our asses.

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I'm shocked | January 12, 2010 7:47 PM

Is it seriously your position that we should be learning how to win civil rights from crazy religious right wingers? How about we learn from a victorious civil rights movement, like the African-American civil rights movement or the women's rights movement? Wow, there must seriously be a pipeline from Bil Brownin's face to Barney Frank's ass because Frank said a few months ago we should learn from the NRA. Great minds think alike.

Judas Peckerwood | January 13, 2010 3:19 AM

Not sure if you're being facetious or simply missing the point. But this well-planned, in-your-face action is the exactly the kind of successful technique that Randall Terry and his fellow fascists are stealing from the civil rights movement.

While progressives are largely sitting on their asses -- even those disgusted by the betrayals of Obama and the Democratic leadership -- the wingnuts have seized the grassroots activism mantle. Think about it: aside from the Tea Baggers and other right-wingers grabbing attention in the field, who else is out there forcefully injecting themselves into the public's attention? This is how battles over human rights are won or lost. And I increasingly fear that our side is failing to rise to the challenge. Hope I'm wrong.

I'm being dead serious, Judas and Shocked (who used a great fake e-mail address ""). As I said in a thread below, we've lost our way.

Are they stealing the techniques from the civil rights movement? You bet your ass. So why are we letting them do it? Why aren't we using those techniques ourselves?

As you pointedly say, the wingnuts have seized the grassroots activism mantle - and with those disgusting teabaggers and the religious right, of all things!

... And I would like to point out that the GLBT movement has used these tactics in the past, to some notable success. Specifically, I was reminded by a friend recently that the APA did indeed remove homosexuality from its dictionary of "mental disorders" --- but only after Frank Kameny and helpers conducted several "zaps" on APA gatherings, one involving Kameny, who had been invited as a panelist, tactically taking over the microphone for a few minutes at a major APA convention.

;Angela Brightfeather | January 12, 2010 8:21 PM


I am convinced that the issue of ENDA and getting it passed simply is not on the minds or the schedules of our own leadershiup in the GLBT community.

When was the last time you heard Frank or Baldwin say anything about ENDA in the news? When was the last time you heard of any funds being available from HRC or NGLTF to help in assembling actions at the community level about ENDA?

I live in NC, a state where a Democrat Senator is unable to committ to ENDA openly. Why isn't anyone, especially the HRC Committee in NC even talking, let alone organizing others to push ENDA outside of Hagan's office doors? Where are all the state Equality groups and what are they doing except giving lip service to ENDA? No organizing. No talk. No nothing. No leadership. WHY!!!!!!

Every day that goes by ENDA becomes more of a Trans issue than a GLB issue, simply because GLB people don't believe they need it any more.

Lastly, the money, the leadership from the base to the Congress, the time and the anger just isn't there.

The truth is that far more than 50% of all Americans are all for GLBT working without the threat of getting fired. Most people already think that they are protected or can't imagine why they would not be. In fact, show me one case in court today that we can rally around or advocate for. There isn't one and the last one was Diane Shroer and that was a favorable outcome.

We just lost an opportunity with Amanda Simpson. Instead of all the hoopla about a late night joke, people should have been yelling at the top of their lungs that she is a rarity because GLBT people can be fired at will just for being GLBT. Why wasn't our leadership out there organizing protests against the evangelists who came out publicly against Amanda's appointment. We should have had people outside of their doors demanding an apology and a stop to the hate speech.

I'm not so sure I agree with this part, Angela.

I am convinced that the issue of ENDA and getting it passed simply is not on the minds or the schedules of our own leadershiup in the GLBT community.

When was the last time you heard Frank or Baldwin say anything about ENDA in the news? When was the last time you heard of any funds being available from HRC or NGLTF to help in assembling actions at the community level about ENDA?

At this point, the leadership of Gay Inc just needs a WIN. ENDA is on their mind because it was supposed to be the second thing passed by the administration. If it doesn't pass, they've made themselves completely irrelevant and that's not in the game plan.

Frank and (especially) Baldwin have been pretty forthcoming about ENDA, but not in the mainstream media unfortunately.

The orgs though, are sending out help. Here in Indiana where our state equality group is so stupid they actually oppose ENDA, several orgs have sent in workers to do the job the local folks can't/won't. I've met with four different organizers from four separate groups in the past month and a half alone.

"... because it [ENDA] was supposed to be the second thing [emphasis mine --- AJL] passed by the administration."

Says who? Where exactly was this prioritization list collectively agreed upon and ratified? Please see my comment below. --- AJL

I think it's pretty common knowledge that Gay Inc had a pecking order, AJ. We covered it several times and most of the leaders have acknowledged it. Here's the order they had it planned:

1. Hate Crimes

The timeline was for hate crimes and ENDA to go last year while DADT was this year. DOMA, of course, was in NeverNeverLand and probably wouldn't happen until Obama's second term.

Many of us have been preaching for months that it is time, and in fact it is long overdue, that we annoy and harrass our opponents and spotlight our issues by getting public attention for our collective plight.

But, any time that we even make a small move towards radicalisation, the HRC and the Neo-Mattachinists preach fear in terms of "the right will twist this into something bad" and the move towards a bit of civil disobedience is killed.

We desparately need a bit and more of civil disobedience for two related reasons; to exact a price from our opponents for their theocratic legislative oppression of ourselves and our brothers and sisters as well as to gain a public forum for and public attention to our issues and our disaccomodation in America.

Angela Brightfeather | January 13, 2010 1:08 AM


There is one place that we can and should start to show our strong objection towards the GLBT protesters. When they show up at pride parades.

We don't impose ourselves on their churches, but they impose themselves on our Pride celebrations Permits or not, they should be blocked out and not allowed near Pride or we should find some other way to deal with them directly but without physical violence.

Christopher D | January 13, 2010 1:40 AM

As long as we aren't learning to shoot people.

The right wing stole its disruption tactics from the left, and from us! Remember: "Act up! Fight back!!


Exactly, Hugo. So why have we lost our way while the radical right uses our own techniques against us? We seem to have stopped protesting in favor of quietly lobbying.

A caveat that I would like to add to this thread is that, it appears to be assumed that, having achieved our goal re federal hate crimes legislation, we move on automatically to ENDA.

But I think there are two goals on the top of our list now that deserve equal standing, the other being "repeal" of DADT --- I put "repeal" in quotes because we really do not what to return to any previous state, but demand to move forward.

No further lecture from me needed herein --- but the fact that multiple foreign countries now allow GLBT people to serve openly shows, like the HIV+ travel ban that was recently lifted, that the US is falling down from its supposed stance as a leader championing individual liberties on the world stage.

What's funny to me about this post -- and I don't disagree with it -- was that I realized the other day that what the right is essentially saying when they try to block broadcast of the Prop 8 trial & the release of names of Ref 71 supporters is that they are *afraid* that we will start using anti-abortion tactics against them.