Gay rights activists protested Pope John Paul II when he made his highly publicized visit to the US in 1987 because of a letter written by one of his cardinals which damned homosexuality as ‘intrinsically evil.’
That letter was written by a cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger went on to become Pope Benedict XVI who has since done even more to earn a place on The Advocate’s ‘The 45 Biggest Homophobes of Our First 45 Years’ in a new issue celebrating the magazine’s 45th anniversary.
The late Ronald Reagan, US president from 1981-89, secured a place on the list for several reasons but the biggest was his failure to give a formal speech about the AIDS epidemic until 1987 after thousands of people had died from the disease. Before he was president, Reagan reportedly called gay people ‘sick unfortunate’ and stalled repeal of anti-sodomy laws while governor of California in the state in the early ’70s.
Actor-director Mel Gibson, under fire in recent years for anti-semitic and racist rants, first showed an intolerant side back in 1992 when in an interview, he said there was no way anyone would think he was gay: ‘I don’t lend myself to that type of confusion. Do I look like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?’ He also pointed to his backside during the interview and declared: ‘This is only for taking a shit.’ Gibson was also taken to task by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) more than once for what it said were homophobic portrayals in his movies.
Among the other famous homophobes: Televangelist Pat Robertson who blamed gays for an earthquake in Southern California, Hurricane Andrew, cold weather bothering the East and Midwest, and famine in East Africa; radio personality Laura Schlessinger who said in 1998 that homosexuality is a ‘biological error’ and in 1999 that ‘a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys’ and failed presidential hopeful Rick Santorum who said he planned to annul all same-sex marriages and reinstate the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.