I keep getting asked how I feel about Bryan Fischer leaving Idaho. Quite frankly what is most striking is how i feel when I think of the impact he has had in the time he has been here, relentlessly repeating the cruel words of national anti-gay groups and spending long days in the legislature with people who should know better than to listen to him.
But of course the media has covered him solidly. That love of controversy has earned him front billing whenever he wanted it. There are not a lot of people willing to dedicate their lives to hurting other people and doing so with a megaphone in public life. So he got covered. The media made him louder, more powerful and more virulent than he might have been somewhere else.
You know when young people write to me about hope, hope that someday they will not be hated or pitied for being gay or where they will feel safe and not ridiculed or targeted for violence, I think of Bryan Fischer. If it was his goal to ensure that gay teens in Idaho would find themselves in a hostile world, then he accomplished that.
Idaho has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the nation. Typically in any state about 1/3 of all teen suicides are related to teens struggling with coming out or with conflicts within themselves as to whether or not they are gay. If a parent were inclined to be uncomfortable with their child being gay, sure enough Bryan Fischer would be in the paper over the past decades, talking about how we gay people destroy families and live dangerous lifestyles. Of course he has always hammered away at the idea that being gay is a choice. For a parent and that child, something changes when that is the frame within which you exist. For the parent there is the sense that the child can be forced not to be gay. For the child there is the hostility of those statements, the devaluation of the lives of people who are gay, and the conflict of failure when young people, especially young men find that they can no more make themselves straight than their straight peers can force themselves to find boys attractive and make themselves gay. The idea that gay people can be "fixed" or reprogrammed has long been found false, yet Fischer and people like him know that by insisting that being gay is a choice, they can make it a moral issue, make young people and all of us feel that if we were better people we would not be gay.
I'm sorry, but I think the criticism of Bryan Fischer is all too mild. This man, through his relentless words has incited hatred and violence. He has impacted thousands of lives daily, not for the better, by assisting in forcing through a constitutional amendment not just to ban marriage but to hugely complicate our lives by ensuring that we can in no way be recognized as couples by the state or any government in Idaho. Every year in Idaho we will be turned away from emergency rooms or the bedside a partner who is dying. When we die, our joint possessions can by default be taken away from our partner and given to estranged parents or siblings. Already, our social security benefits can not go to our partners. But here in Idaho now, some couples have had to struggle just to get a family gym membership or health insurance from anti-gay companies like Blue Cross.
The cruelty of all this, the lack of Christian values in working to create an environment where real people suffer, where good people suffer, is what is so hard to take. Young people die at their own hands in this state and I lay some of that blood at Bryan Fisher's feet. When you spend your life perpetuating hate against a group of people, people die, people are beaten and harassed and fired from their jobs and even murdered.
The recent death of Dr. Tiller just shows further how hate leads to violence. Fischer can claim he does not condone violence, but how many times did he ensure that those listening would not do harm to those he condemned? I don't recall a single time.
I wish Bryan Fischer's departure meant an undoing of all the pain and harm he has done to so many. Sadly it doesn't. That is up to the rest of us including that vast majority of Idahoans who know gay people as family, friends, co-workers and classmates. We have to make the changes that end the violence and suicide.
The tide has long been turning against people like Fischer. There were times he was shunned in the legislature, especially in the House under Speaker Bruce Newcomb. I think he found luke warm response to his anti-gay rants and recently focused instead more on promoting absurd fear around gender identity and cross dressing. Nationally, efforts to divide our country over gay people have worn thin but I'm sure Fischer will find others to demean and condemn. I send a quiet apology off into the rain today to the people of Mississippi. I'm sorry you get him now.