Being both hard-of-hearing and a gay guy made December an interesting month: between a phony interpreter at the Mandela memorial service and something to do with ducks, my opinion was asked frequently on both topics. Multiple friends asked what I thought about the words of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family, concerning his remarks in a GQ article about homosexuality.
To be fair, my opinion is not the be-all, end-all of this particular controversy. I willingly choose not to watch Duck Dynasty primarily because I was born and raised (and still live) in Kentucky and get tired of seeing caricatures of lifestyles similar to many Kentuckians, even though the DD family is in Louisiana. Although my state is gaining grounds in progressive action, there are still pockets of extreme conservatives scattered throughout. And honestly, Robertson’s words are nothing I haven’t heard before.
Actually, ask anyone who identifies as anything other than straight and you will most likely hear the same thing. Those of us on the LGBTQ spectrum are told from before we even consider coming out that we are destined for hell, that our lifestyle is sinful and wrong and perverse. So what about Robertson’s vitriol is so hurtful?
His words come at a time when equality is gaining grounds at a phenomenal pace. At the time of this article, 18 states as well as Washington, D.C. have obtained marriage equality. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was gutted and deemed unconstitutional. Television and various types of media are slowly introducing homosexual characters that are not parodies of a healthy relationship. The Disney Channel will soon have a lesbian couple. Pope Francis has even advised Catholic followers that there are more important issues in the world than homosexuality and gay marriage.
But the Duck Dynasty family is supposed to be “real” (even though many of their antics are scripted). They are good-ol’-boys who prefer the simple, backwoods type of living to cities and urban life. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that; in fact, it’s very admirable. But they are also a famous family and instead of using their fame to spread the loving messages of the Bible, they used their time in the spotlight to demonize a group of individuals. Robertson used a single incomplete Bible verse as justification for his views.
He then follows up his statements with words about how it is not his place to judge and that he loves the homosexuals and the terrorists and the drunkards, and this is often said among those of his ilk. That is the equivalent of saying “I’m not racist, but…” And don’t even get me started on what he said about the segregation era black community.
What he said is not new. It is nothing that those of us in the LGBTQ community haven’t already heard so many days of our lives. Is Phil Robertson allowed to express his views? Of course he is, he is protected by the Constitution. And even though I personally do not endorse the show, I would not have supported A&E’s decision to permanently cancel it for Robertson’s homophobic comments alone either (they’ve since called off the suspension).
But do I feel any sympathy for Phil Robertson regarding the public backlash that followed his remarks? No. Just as he has a right to say what he believes, people have the right to say what they feel about his statements as well. My sympathy goes to those who will potentially be hurt by all this, and let me tell you, it ain’t Robertson who, if anything, may very well profit from the publicity of this controversy more than he is hurt by it. Moreover, he is in no danger of someone wanting to hurt or kill him for his lifestyle. His children and grandchildren will never be bullied to the point of suicide for loving someone. Phil Robertson is not a victim; Matthew Shepard and John French are victims. They were tortured to death for being gay.
Phil Robertson was, at worst, only ever in danger of losing a television show and now not even that. Let’s not make him some martyred hero.