The stakes could not be higher. The LGBTQ movement has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams in democratic societies worldwide. Where we have had access to freedom of speech and assembly, remarkable advances have followed. This is why it is vital for the LGBTQ community to lead the way and do whatever it takes to protect our civilization from right-wing tyranny. If the perpetrators of the Jan. 6 coup plot succeed at overthrowing the government and shredding the United States Constitution, the LGBTQ movement is effectively over. As individuals, we will suffer greatly.
To adequately address the ongoing threat, we must first accept that our nation is under attack. The right wing war against America is very real. As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin succinctly put it, "…we truly are in a battle between truth and lies, democracy and the rule of the mob."
What makes this moment scary is that obscure fringe groups aren't leading the attack. Our nation is being sabotaged by one of our two major political parties, with officials at the highest levels conducting the Crazy Train. Spineless GOP "leaders" have supinely caved to the dictates of Donald Trump and cravenly embraced The Big Lie. Each day, they feverishly work to gin up anger in their combustible base, fueling the gullible with paranoid conspiracies and outright disinformation. The right wing media tirelessly parrots the propaganda on continuous loop.
In GOP-controlled legislatures, lawmakers are undermining election integrity by changing voting laws under the guise of stopping election fraud. Their nefarious goal is to subvert the will of the people to permanently ensconce themselves in power.
It is critically important that we don't get high on the opiate of optimism. We must stare hard, cold reality in the face and accept that these warnings are not a product of alarmism, but an actual alarm that is blaring because we are in a state of national emergency.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is not prone to sensationalism, yet he wrote in The New York Times: "Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss. Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy. Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late."
Three retired generals recently warned us in The Washington Post that another coup attempt could possibly lead to the disintegration of military cohesion: "The potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines from the top of the chain to squad level is significant should another insurrection occur. The idea of rogue units organizing among themselves to support the 'rightful' commander in chief cannot be dismissed."
The ongoing, rolling Republican coup can't be understood in the context of normal politics. This is no longer a contest between opposing ideologies within a functioning democratic system. Instead, we are confronting an existential threat induced by a radical cult that increasingly sees violence as a means to its end goal of remaking America in its own twisted image.
President Joe Biden summed up the ongoing peril when he asked in today's speech remembering Jan. 6, "Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the American people?"
Recently, I explained that the old paradigm of Democrats vs. Republicans is no longer useful. What we are confronting is a challenge to our system by religious extremists who have lost favor with the public and have concluded that they can only accomplish their goals in a conservative, religious authoritarian state.
In my column, I wrote: Conservative evangelicals understand that the United States has become a center-left country on social issues. They stand by helplessly, fully realizing that the ballot box is no longer their friend. They loved voting as long as they were winning. Now that they are losing, they no longer have faith in the American people, and the contemporary American Dream has become their worst nightmare. Their contorted minds wonder, "How can we trust majority rule, when the Godless majority believes in promoting sin?"
Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, echoed my sentiments in a New York Times op-ed: "The most serious attempt to overthrow the American constitutional system since the Civil War would not have been feasible without the influence of America's Christian nationalist movement. One year later, the movement seems to have learned a lesson: If it tries harder next time, it may well succeed in making the promise of American democracy a relic of the past."
The implications of the LGBTQ community's most ardent foes wresting control of our nation through brute force or exploiting legislative loopholes to change voting rules can't be overstated. Even during our darkest days fighting the Religious Right, we at least had the U.S. Constitution to protect us. Freedom of speech allowed us to successfully make our case to the American people and equal protection gave us the means to petition the courts. Freedom of assembly provided us the right to march 1 million strong on the National Mall.
Once the U.S. Constitution is dissolved, or disfigured beyond recognition, by rabidly anti-gay religious extremists, the future will be bleak. Without the legal protections afforded us in a liberal democracy, what tools will the LGBTQ community have to fight back and secure its basic human rights?
What we potentially face is a catastrophe of historic proportions. Overnight, we could lose our status as equal citizens, have our relationships legally voided, be subjected to unimaginable persecution and even violence, and surrender our ability to speak out and gather in the public square. Having monitored the Religious Right since 1992, I can confidently say that a worst case scenario is not out of the question.
Given the dreary future we could face, LGBTQ organizations and ordinary citizens must vociferously combat efforts to destroy democracy and replace it with right wing authoritarian rule. Nothing else matters at this precarious moment in history. Losing our country is simply not an option, because accepting defeat likely means total devastation. Are you ready to do your part to defend your families and fight for your freedom?
Let's not one day look back wistfully at 2021 as the end of a Golden Age of our liberty. If there is one thing LGBTQ people must know, it's that our opponents have grand plans to refashion society and you aren't included in them. So, fight like hell while you still can.
Wayne Besen is executive director of Truth Wins Out, a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization that educates the world on the harm caused by destructive "ex-gay" conversion programs, while fighting to eliminate anti-LGBTQ prejudice and discrimination. See TruthWinsOut.org .