Gay Rights and Moral Panic: The Origins of America’s Debate on Homosexuality

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Bishop Barron on Gay Marriage & the Breakdown of Moral Argument

In the mids it seemed people felt at least compassion for homosexuals as a marginalized group. Yet, when Anita Bryant joined forces with largely Protestant Miamians in the gay threat to children and the moral fabric of America was akin to Communism. Young, gay Cubans, empowered by a new, American identity and acceptance of their sexuality, also joined the fight. Jerry Falwell speaking to a Miami audience.

Anti-gay Christian rhetoric has not changed in 30 years, it seems. While Bryant or her followers rallied conservatives in cities like Miami, St. Paul, MN, Wichita, KS and Eugene, OR, to ensure those cities repealed or forbade gay rights inclusions into city ordinances the community itself was uniting as one voice. At the time even drag shows were considered an affront to women, although they eventually joined in the fight. Furthermore the national mobilization that went on to support gay rights in Miami led to a new identity that would hopefully not retreat into the closet.

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Demonstrations took place as far away as Moosejaw, Saskatchewan. The Netherlands, also fearful of conservatives, staged their first gay rights marches after noticing Miami. Oxford Research Encyclopedias American History. Search within subject: Select Read More. Subscriber sign in. Forgot password? Don't have an account?

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Gay Rights and Moral Panic

Attempts to recriminalise homosexual relationships between men failed in , and Granted, problematic stereotypes abounded, but, relatively speaking, it seemed like progress nonetheless for those of an optimistic inclination. All of these explanations contain elements of truth. It also misses the point that the anti-gay laws are having very real consequences for LGBT people living in Russia. TV journalist Anton Krasovsky, meanwhile, was fired having come out on during a show that he was presenting. Rather than merely looking to find reasons for homophobia, therefore, we need to be looking at the broader socio-political dynamics and how to challenge them.

Emily K. Hobson

In this respect, I suggest that the concept of moral panic provides a useful starting point for such an investigation. As a person, I am profoundly against gay parades, because I am an Orthodox Christian and the demonstration of the sin of Sodom is repellent to me.

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Some will oppose change. They may invoke culture, tradition or religion to defend the status quo.


Such arguments have been used to justify slavery, child marriage, rape in marriage and female genital mutilation. I respect culture, tradition and religion, but they can never justify the denial of basic rights. LGBT people in Russia are currently on one of the front lines of this contestation.

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  • Moral panics and the wider moral politics of which they are part are a stark reminder that the personal is political and the political is — or can rapidly become — intensely personal. As has already been demonstrated in the US and other countries in relation to debates over reproductive rights and sexual violence, as well as by events in Russia in relation to LGBT rights, the practices of moral politics are inherently divisive and dehumanising, costing people their lives and livelihoods and blaming them for their own victimisation.

    If we do not want this to happen, as Anton Krasovsky argues , remaining silent is not an option, both for the sake of other people and ourselves.