Right-wing anti-gay advocate Austin Ruse is becoming the face of Breitbart.com's LGBT coverage, using his perch at the website to smear slain Wyoming student Matthew Shepard and tout Russia's horrific anti-gay legislation.
Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), has a lengthy history of rabid anti-LGBT bigotry. As GLAAD notes, Ruse believes all countries should pass laws stigmatizing homosexuality in order to "help society to teach what is good." Ruse asserts that affirming that LGBT people exist and should have rights amounts to sexual "indoctrination." Further, Ruse claims that LGBT teen suicides are caused not by bullying and social stigma, but by the LGBT movement's "ideology" and gay sex itself.
Breitbart.com can apparently think of no better figure to comment on LGBT issues. Ruse's first piece for the website made the transparently ridiculous claim that "human rights groups" supported Russia's laws banning the dissemination of "gay propaganda" and the adoption of Russian children by couples from LGBT-friendly countries. Ruse previously defended the Kremlin's anti-LGBT crackdown at The Daily Caller, where he lauded Russia's effort to "resist ... the political movement to regularize and even celebrate" homosexuality.
Ruse's latest hobbyhorse is Matthew Shepard trutherism, which he has pushed in two Breitbart pieces in as many weeks. Right-wing media outlets have seized on the publication of a new book claiming that the gay Wyoming college student's 1998 murder was the result of a drug deal gone awry, not anti-gay bias. Describing Shepard as a "winsome young homosexual," "achingly handsome," "slight of frame," and "delicately chiseled," Ruse has blasted "Matthew Shepard Inc." for promoting the "lie" that homophobia contributed to his murder.
In a September 14 column for Breitbart, Ruse denounced the "gay hagiography" that fed the "Mathew [sic] Shepard industry":
Almost immediately Shepard became a secular saint, and his killing became a kind of gay Passion Play where he suffered and died for the cause of homosexuality against the growing homophobia and hatred of gay America.
Indeed, a Mathew Shepard industry grew rapidly with plays and foundations along with state and even national hate crimes legislation named for him. Rock stars wrote songs about him, including Elton John and Melissa Etheridge. Lady Gaga performed John Lennon's "Imagine" and changed the lyrics to include Shepard.
Thanks to a new book by an award winning gay journalist we now know that much of this narrative turns out to be false, little more than gay hagiography.
Most people would likely consider a man who describes homosexuality as "intrinsically abnormal and disordered" emblematic of "homophobia and hatred of gay America," but Ruse has used his platform at Breitbart.com to suggest that such things don't exist. In a September 22 column assailing "the cult of Matthew," Ruse parroted the right-wing narrative that Shepard's death served as a convenient excuse for supporters of "the gay agenda" to enact LGBT-friendly policies:
Shepard became not just a saint, he was manipulated to be a tool. He was instrumentalized to castigate opponents of the gay agenda and to advance federal and state hate-crimes legislation. We were told endlessly that Wyoming and many other states, along with the federal government, did not protect homosexuals from such hate-crimes.
Even before Shepard died, President Bill Clinton used his attack to advance federal legislation. "I was deeply grieved by the act of violence perpetrated against Matthew Shepard," Clinton said. "There is nothing more important to this country than our standing together against intolerance, prejudice and violent bigotry." Take that Family Research Council. When a federal hate crimes bill was later signed by President Obama, it was named for Matthew Shepard.
Ruse's shameless animus toward LGBT people would seem to discredit him as a commentator on LGBT issues. But even in the face of brutal assaults on LGBT rights in Russia and the continued problem of hate crimes in the U.S., Breitbart.com is all too willing to provide a soapbox to an unapologetic bigot.