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Monday, September 04, 2006

Did Peter LaBarbera Get Fired?

Americablog quoting a Gay Liberation News post.

Over the past few years the Illinois Family Institute (IFI) has established itself as the state's most active and vociferous opponent of equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people. This week it announced that its Executive Director, Peter LaBarbera, had resigned. Given his string of failures, we suspect the real truth is that he was given the axe.

Working out of their bunker in the lily white suburb of Glen Ellyn, LaBarbera has churned out ream after ream of press releases over the past few years, once even putting out a press release decrying the lack of coverage for his press releases!

His obsession with all things gay seemed to know no bounds: from his undercover "research" into the annual International Mr. Leather festivities, while dragged out in leather himself so as to "fit in," to his opposition to not just equal marriage rights, but employment, housing and access to public accommodations.

For all of his activity, Mr. LaBarbera has strung together an impressive list of failures. Here are just some of the highlights:

* When dairy magnate Jim Oberweis launched his immigrant-bashing campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, LaBarbera enthusiastically signed on, even though the anti-immigrant, anti-gay combination made him look like the choice of far right haters.

* After the victorious Republican nominee, family values supporter Jack Ryan, crashed and burned in a sex scandal, LaBarbera became one of the few stalwart supporters of Maryland import Alan Keyes. As ever more unbalanced comments from Keyes cascaded into the biggest landslide defeat in Illinois senatorial history, LaBarbera became one of the few remaining Republican operatives willing to be seen in public with crazy Keyes. GLN, Church of the Open Door, and other pro-gay forces hounded Keyes and LaBarbera at their increasingly pathetic campaign appearances.

* Twice out of the box wasn't enough for Peter. When Oberweis ran for governor, distancing himself from his own, previous immigrant bashing campaign and instead highlighting anti-gay rhetoric, LaBarbera signed on again, going down to defeat as the openly homo hating fringe of the Illinois Republican Party continued to eviscerate itself before the party's moderate wing. At a GLN protest against an Oberweis debate appearance at Channel 7 studios, LaBarbera's counter-demo consisted of two people besides himself.

* Despite being bottled up in the legislature for 30 years, in January 2006 Illinois finally became the 15th state ordering equal employment, housing and access to public accommodations for gay people, and the 5th state to do so for transgendered people. Despite his vociferous opposition to any kind of equality for LGBT people, the pro-gay victory came on LaBarbera’s watch.

* This past spring the IFI attempted to schedule an anti-gay rally at a west suburban African American church, but Black people in the church thwarted it by calling the pastor out regarding his bigotry. African American gay activist Wil Lockett of Black LGBT & Allies for Equality courageously stood up during an anti-gay tirade (read "sermon") a few weeks before the scheduled rally, denouncing the pastor for his hate speech dressed up as religion. That, and the threat of pro-gay a protest outside of the church during the anti-gay rally, prompted the pastor to scuttle the IFI's event.

* When the Gay Games came to Chicago in July, LaBarbera saw it as his mission to prevent homosexual fun (& Games), trying & failing to the get the far northern suburb of Crystal Lake to ban the rowing competition, trying & miserably failing to get corporate sponsors such as Kraft Foods to rescind their endorsements, and failing to get significant media coverage during the Games themselves.

* At the start of the Games he held a press conference at the one hotel in the entire downtown Chicago area that is the subject of a long-time boycott and union picket – way to win allies, Peter! Reporters at the press conference later told us that Peter really seemed to lose it during his rambling presentation, fixating on GLN as the mother of all evils. His real problem is that GLN has made a habit of showing up at all of the IFI's public appearances with our banner that reads, "Opposition to Equal Rights is BIGOTRY," which always seemed to put a damper on whatever gay-hating festivities the IFI was conducting.

* At the end of the Games he and his crew invaded the heart of Boystown in a stated attempt to do "Christian" outreach outside of Steamworks bathhouse. GLN and the Coalition of Welcoming Churches staged a counter protest several times bigger than LaBarbera's crew, which swelled much larger again as we pointed out to passersby who the funny looking people in the matching T-shirts were. Having scheduled his appearance to run from 5:30 PM to midnight, LaBarbera & Co. left before 7 PM, as the much larger opposition taunted them with catcalls and boos.

* The crowning "achievement" of LaBarbera's reign was his failed attempt to get an anti-gay advisory referendum on Illinois's ballot this November. A multi-year campaign, pumping all of the group's resources into a measure that doesn't even make it onto the ballot, was LaBarbera's most stunning defeat yet. Despite the support of local Catholic leadership and various mega-churches in and around Chicago, LaBarbera's failure in Illinois stands in stark contrast to the achievements of his anti-gay colleagues in almost every other state.

Good documentation of Peter LaBarbera's activies from the Gay Liberation Network. And you can't get organizations like this to talk about personnel issues. I'm sorry they fired him. Peter's antics have been quite entertaining to cover over the years.