Anti-LGBT and Religious Right Movements in the United States
- Clyde WilcoxClyde WilcoxDepartment of Government, Georgetown University
The Christian Right continues to oppose lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, but the nature of this opposition has evolved over time—often in conjunction with changes in public opinion. From the formation of groups such as the Moral Majority and Concerned Women in America in the late 1970s through the late 2010s, Christian Right groups and LGBT rights groups have frequently responded to each other’s arguments, strategies, and tactics.
The Christian Right of the 1980s used anti-gay themes and rhetoric to raise money and to motivate its members, but it was not effective in reaching individuals outside of its relatively narrow membership base. In the 1990s and 2000s, a number of more sophisticated Christian Right groups were active at the national level, and a number of state and local-level organizations formed to address LGBT issues specifically. Focus on the Family, for example, took a national approach. Its radio programs reached millions of listeners and its mailing list consisted of 2.5 million names. Focus on the Family’s efforts were aimed at converting sexual minorities and attacking both the “radical homosexual agenda” and the gay rights groups that promoted it. At the same time, Family Research Council (FRC) worked with state affiliates to distribute materials across the country.
As public opinion shifted in support of same-sex marriage (SSM), and after the Supreme Court overturned state bans on SSM in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the movement then worked to pass “religious freedom” laws. These laws would allow conservative Christians to refuse to provide services for SSMs, and in many cases allow far broader forms of discrimination. Although the Christian Right was successful in the realm of electoral politics (e.g., the Christian Coalition once claimed to control 35 state Republican Party committees), it has not been able to stop growing public acceptance of LGBT rights.