Ryan Lee: Anti-gay conservatives now afraid of warnings they once ignored

History passes much faster than I expected, and we’re beginning to see that its judgment is as ruthless as was warned.

When LGBT Georgians were defending ourselves against a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, one of the most powerful weapons we and our allies had was a promise: History will judge you.

It was a dual-purpose vow. It triaged our wounded psyche, giving us the comfort of knowing that although we were losing, brutally, our losses and our dignity would eventually be vindicated by time and progress.
More obviously, it was a threat to our opponents: It’s easy for you to bully us now, but one day history is going to knock you on your ass.

Our opponents responded to this graciously blunt warning by laughing at us, by punching us with constitutional force. In Georgia and across the country, they cast votes for their anti-gay amendments and made donations to ensure that these measures passed.

We got a glimpse of history’s vengeance this month when Brendan Eich was forced out as CEO of Mozilla for the miniscule sin of donating $1,000 to the political campaign that passed Proposition 8 in California in 2008.

Candidly, there are far more malicious expressions of bigotry than a millionaire making a token contribution to a ballot initiative that 52 percent of California voters supported, and I still believe the outcry over Eich’s employment was exaggerated given the degree of his offense.

But some fruit is designed to hang low, and the ease with which Eich was picked has rightly terrified the higher-up haters.

“This is just the most open, blatant expression of the new fascism, which says, ‘If you don’t agree with us 100 percent, we have the right to punish you,’” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is among the many who have done more to oppress LGBT people than Eich ever did. “If you have the wrong view, meaning conservative, you have no career.”

Gingrich’s indignation collides with the right-to-work, at-will employment dogma of Gingrich and most conservatives. A business owner should be able to fire you without cause at any moment, according to this anti-employee mindset, yet it’s “fascism” for a business owner to terminate an employee after deciding his bigotry is bad for business.

The Republican vision of the American workplace is one where businesses and corporations can impose their religious opinions on female employees’ family planning by refusing to cover contraception in healthcare plans; entrepreneurs can cite their religious worldview to refuse employment and service to homosexuals.

Being conservative does not make one unemployable, just as it does not require one to hate.

Gingrich, Eich and their ilk chose to hate. It was their lifestyle preference, no matter how much they insist that God made them that way, spiteful and sanctimonious. The enmity that Conservative Inc. had toward LGBT people has not been washed from everyone’s heart during this millennial baptism that our culture is undergoing—it’s simply unacceptable to express it as proudly as it has been until just a couple of years ago.

Unable to call us queers or consider us a fray in the national fabric, Gingrich now justifies his opposition to LGBT rights by claiming victimhood. Instead of hating sodomites, Gingrich despises fascism.

Gingrich and the conservative political strategy has morphed from “smear the queer” into a crusade for “religious liberty,” suggesting they remain in denial about the changes that are occurring, and how they dwell in the gutters of a bygone way.

They will pay for their prejudice now and in the future. As long as they cling to their belief that rights are less inalienable for citizens who are different from them, it will continue to cost them—elections, jobs and legacies.

Gingrich and other conservatives can try to con the public by redecorating their bigotry and finding new ways to justify it, but the judgment of history will not be outrun by excuses.