Yeah, I’m mentioning them in the same breath. And why not? They’ve got a few things in common; specifically that both of them have said some rather nasty things about gays & lesbians in the past. Falwell blamed gays & lesbians, among others, for the attacks on 9/11. Farrakhan once advocated the death penalty for homosexuality. Most recently both have set togues wagging (and bloggers typing) with their conciliatory words and gestures to gays & lesbians.
Falwell was probably most surprising with his on-air statement about gay & lesbian civil rights.
Falwell, who in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, blamed the terrorist attacks on “the pagans, the abortionists, and the feminists and the gays and lesbians,” and who describes himself as “very conservative,” told Carlson that if he were a lawyer, he too would argue for civil rights for gays.
“I may not agree with the lifestyle,” Falwell said. “But that has nothing to do with the civil rights of that… part of our constituency.
“Judge Roberts would probably have been not a good very good lawyer if he had not been willing, when asked by his partners in the law firm to assist in guaranteeing the civil rights of employment and housing to any and all Americans.”
When Carlson countered that conservatives, “are always arguing against ‘special rights’ for gays,” Falwell said that equal access to housing and employment are basic rights, not special rights.
“Civil rights for all Americans, black, white, red, yellow, the rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, et cetera, is not a liberal or conservative value,” Falwell went on to say. “It’s an American value that I would think that we pretty much all agree on.”
I’m sure Tucker nearly fell out of his tassled loafers. And, to tell the truth I did a bit of a double take myself. Falwell hasn’t commented since then, and his remarks were almost immediately wiped off the front page by Pat Robertsons murderous designs on the president of Venezuela, and hesitant to read too much into it.
I know Falwell has long been the focus of protests and outreach by Soulfource, and while it looks as though those activities have had some positive effect, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. There’s no word how Falwells base reacted to this, and he hasn’t yet tried to back away from his comments. But I think it’s unlikely that Falwell’s about to become an outspoken advocate for gay & lesbian equality. Also, notice what was specifically not included in his brief list of civil rights.
Then there’s Farrakahn, who recently sent a letter to the National Black Justice Coalition reiterating his support of black gay & lesbian participation in the Millions More March in the wake of recent anti-gay remarks by march organizer Willie Wilson. In an open letter, Farrakhan added "I cannot fault a gay or lesbian person who stands on their platform to preach what they believe of self and how the world should view them." Sounds good, but I can’t help feeling he’s managed to leave himself some wiggle room, and he didn’t say anything glack gays participating in the organization and planning of the march.
Maybe I’m wrong to be skeptical of seemingly gay-supportive statements from guys like Falwell and Farrakhan. After all, condering the past of each man, even mildly supportive statements concerning gays & lesbians are pretty significant steps forward. But, again considering each man’s past, some suspicion is warranted. After all, both seemed to have crafted their statements so as not to go too far, and risk offending their base support.
To borrow a quote from NBJC Executive Director H. Alexander Robinson, "While I would not count this as a victory, it is not a defeat."
It’s somewhere bewteen point A and point B, with some distance yet to go between the two.