After a token suspension lasting the week of Christmas, A & E has put profit ahead of principle and reinstated Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty.” http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-duck-dynasty-phil-robertson-to-return-to-show-20131227,0,7212096.story#axzz2olcnJP4c Robertson attracted notoriety for comments published in GQ which crudely stigmatized gay people and made light of Jim Crow racism in the Old South. A & E’s short-lived decision to suspend Robertson crumbled under pressure from right-wing politicians like Sarah Palin and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and a petition drive through Change.org.
This latest development in the controversy over Robertson indicates the unevenness of recent advances in LGBT equality. While marriage equality now reigns in 18 states, the anti-gay right-wing has stepped up its blasts of homophobia. This unrepentant hostility toward the LGBT community reflects continuing strident opposition toward the equality movement from tens of millions of Americans. Consider that, apart from soccer, no American professional sport has any openly gay athletes among its active participants. Homophobia still nails closet doors shut.
Some have blithely suggested that the LGBT civil rights movement is on the verge of making itself obsolete in light of recent advances. But the wins tell only half the story. Vocal homophobia is as shrill as ever and may proliferate freely under the shelter of the First Amendment. While hate speech is constitutionally protected, its role in motivating persistent anti-LGBT violence suggests that we have not evolved as far as fulsome self-congratulations for America’s growing enlightenment suggest.
Hate retains its market appeal in much of America. And A & E’s cave-in to the extreme right proves that all is not settled but for the hoped-for Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the US. In many areas there is more tolerance for homophobia than openly LGBT people.