Who’s 2008’s Homophobe of the Year?

It’s been a rough year for Latter Day Saints Movement President Thomas S. Monson. Since replacing Gordon B. Hinckley in February, Monson has presided over a church under scrutiny. In March three Mormon missionaries in Colorado desecrated a Roman Catholic shrine, leading Catholic officials to retaliate by preventing Mormons from accessing parish genealogical records Mormon church leaders use in their practice of baptizing the dead. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign highlighted the rifts between evangelicals and Mormons, with Republican primary opponent Mike Huckabee barely containing the sentiment that evangelist Bill Keller said directly: “A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Satan.” An April raid on Texas’ Fundamentalist LDS Yearning for Zion Ranch reminded Americans of just how out of the mainstream LDS beliefs have been historically, though for many there’s no distinction between the Mormon Church and its polygamist offshoots.

It’d be easy to say that Monson’s decision to lean heavily on church members to help pass California’s Prop. 8 through time and money was nothing more than a cynical move to ingratiate LDS to the wider evangelical Christian community, but it would also be unfair. The Church of Latter Day Saints answered the call of San Francisco Catholic Archbishop George Niederauer to join the Prop. 8 fight whole-heatedly and out of a genuine belief in the immorality of gay marriage. An ongoing investigation is looking into whether the zealous of enthusiasm of the Mormon Church broke California election laws, but the efforts paid off and Prop 8. passed in November with 52 percent of voters in support of it.

“You’d be hard pressed to cite another time in recent American history when a religious institution so transparently involved itself in the laws of the land.”

Then, all heck broke loose. The gay community, with varying degrees of ferocity blamed the church, its leaders and, in some cases, anyone who believed in the Mormon faith with taking away their civil rights. In the political blame game, the Monson and his church was left holding the lion’s share of the blame and while the Church has gone to great lengths to paint themselves as part of a coalition of religious groups, this is one instance where blame is being laid at the feet of the responsible party.

You’d be hard pressed to cite another time in recent American history when a religious institution so transparently involved itself in the laws of the land. Despite the fulminations of the religious right, hot-button issues like abortion, gay rights and the separation of church and state have been tackled outside the ballot box by major religious institutions. Monson’s decision to use his church as an agent of intolerance should be alarming to all Americans, Mormons included.

As President Monson’s now learning, when politics and religion mix, it’s almost always the church that winds up the loser. While Prop. 8 successfully passed, it drained more than just the coffers of the Mormon Church, it drained much of the goodwill the church had accumulate since 2002, when Salt Lake successfully hosted the Winter Olympics. Today, Mormons are less likely to be viewed as hardy pioneers and more as oddball, backwater bigots. Mormons find themselves boycotted, challenged and ostracized, especially if they’re so foolish as to work closely with gay people and support Prop. 8. Monson’s efforts may have set the gay community back a few years, but it potentially set his own church back decades. It’s one thing to have private religious beliefs, it’s quite another to try to shove them down the throats of your fellow countrymen.

“The Mormon Church needs to decide if it wants its entire message to be dominated by the issue of same-sex marriage.”

It’s for these reasons Queerty names President Thomas S. Monson “Homophobe of the Year.” It’s a dubious distinction, but it’s doubtful that Monson will lose any sleep over us awarding him the dishonor. What should keep him awake is a realization that the Latter Day Saints can’t run national government the way they run Utah’s state government and expect to be embraced by the mainstream of America. Our nation’s deep sense of mistrust towards religion interfering in democracy is well-founded and ultimately, the Mormon Church needs to decide if it wants its entire message to be dominated by the issue of same-sex marriage. We’re guessing that for your average LDS family, there are more important issues and hopefully, next time their leadership asks them to support bigotry and homophobia, they’ll stand up to President Monson.

Runner’s Up:

Doesn’t it feel like a lifetime ago that Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern said this?

“Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell of this country. I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam – which I think is a big threat, okay? Cause what’s happening now is they are going after, in schools, two-year olds…And this stuff is deadly, and it’s spreading, and it will destroy our young people, it will destroy this nation.”

Sine the surreptitiously recorded statements, Kern has been called out by Ellen, claimed she was the target of death threats (which Oklahoma State Police disproved), been arrested for carrying a concealed handgun and, oh yeah, she won reelection handily in her district, with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

It seems that Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov never passes up an opportunity to pass up insulting and demeaning gays and lesbians. Whether its denying permits for pride parades by saying:

“Last year, Moscow came under unprecedented pressure to sanction the gay parade, which can be described in no other way than as Satanic. We did not let the parade take place then, and we are not going to allow it in the future…Religious thinkers throughout the world have said that the West has reached a crisis of faith. Some European nations bless single-sex marriages and introduce sexual guides in schools. Such things are a deadly moral poison for children.”

Or justifying his actions as describing gays and lesbians as carriers of disease and a general public health threat, the conservative mayor uses Russia’s emerging LGBT community as a convenient scapegoat. Fortunately, LGBT Muscovites continue to march, assemble and protest the vile bigot running city hall.

That Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies that there are gays and lesbians in his country doesn’t seem to keep him from hanging them in the streets of Tehran. Life in Iran for LGBT people is a living hell, with people like Hamzeh Chavi, 18, and Loghman Hamzehpour, 19, routinely arrested for homosexuality. Reports this year that 30 men were arrested and beaten for attending a gay party are stark reminders to the Western world that despite all the progress made, for much of the world’s gays and lesbians, secret lives are the only option available. Ahmadinejad’s quest to develop stronger ties between Iran and the Western world needs to be monitored carefully by equality activists. Ahmadinejad allows gays and lesbians to be arrested, tortured, beaten and killed, and then he smugly denies the problem even exists. No tailored suit can cover up the brutality of his regime.