God, Gays & Glasnost

The Oregon Citizens Alliance is back, and banking on Soviet émigrés for its revival.

In front of about 30 people gathered recently in a Salem church sanctuary to celebrate the reunion of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, Scott Lively found cause for optimism about the rebirth of the anti-gay group.

Lively's reason to believe the OCA could return from dormancy to its glory days of the early 1990s, when it claimed to have more than 3,400 members and earned national notice for getting anti-gay measures on the state ballot, are immigrants from the former Soviet Union who haven't yet been indoctrinated by American culture.

"There is a fairly sizable Russian population in Portland who is not poisoned to the OCA. That's a good place to start," Lively says. "They weren't poisoned by the sexual revolution."

Lively, a longtime OCA leader, introduced five members from the group the Watchmen on the Walls—an international network of Christian activists dedicated to fighting what it calls "the homosexual agenda"—to show a video of their movement in parts of the former Soviet Union.

The 45-minute video, which repeatedly refers to homosexuals as "terrorists," shows how conservative Latvians successfully stopped gays from marching in their capital, Riga. (European news reports show anti-gay demonstrators throwing feces on the gays.)

The video also features Alexei Ledyaev—a Kazakhstan-born Baptist pastor and leader of the New Generation Church, whose satellite broadcasts claim an audience of more than 200 million people—leading large crowds in chants of "In the name of Jesus Christ, we curse the name of homosexuality!"

As OCA members cheered the video and chanted, "Amen," I tried not to laugh out loud at the one-sided images, which portrayed gay men as leather-clad deviants, whipping and licking one another in public.

I was in the sanctuary of the Life Church for the New Covenant Ministries International in Salem to see what had become of the OCA. Nobody asked if I was with the media, so I didn't volunteer the information.

The Oregon Citizens Alliance was formed by Lon Mabon, a born-again Christian, Vietnam vet and ex-hippie, to promote conservative preacher Joe Lutz's unsuccessful 1986 Republican primary challenge to then-U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood.

In 1988, the OCA mounted a successful signature drive to overturn an executive order by then-Gov. Neil Goldschmidt banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in state government.

And in 1992 the OCA reached its apex of notoriety by championing Measure 9, which would have written into Oregon's constitution that homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism are abnormal and perverse behaviors. The measure would have prevented gays from being granted minority status; prohibited schools, teachers or agencies that have contact with children from presenting homosexuality as anything but unnatural; and would have removed openly gay teachers from the classroom.

More than 140,000 Oregonians signed the petition to put the measure on the ballot. There, it failed when 56 percent voted no, although that also meant 44 percent—or more than 638,000 Oregonians—had voted yes.

Mabon recounted the OCA's history at the reunion Jan. 27. He then turned on his congregation, shaming them for the failure of what he called "the pro-family cause."

Mabon ascribed the OCA's failure primarily to a lack of backbone in its own camp, contrasted with homosexuals whom he credited for standing up for what they believed.

"We didn't accomplish what we set out to do," said Mabon, who captured 2 percent of the vote in 2002 as a U.S. Senate candidate representing the Constitution Party. "But we gave 'em a run for their money."

Lively—who lost a $30,000 civil judgment to Just Out magazine photographer Catherine Stauffer in 1992 after she accused him of throwing her against a wall and dragging her across Portland's Foursquare Church by her hair during an OCA rally—took a less defeatist tone than Mabon. He said his foundation, the Pro-Family Charitable Trust, had raised enough money to pay for the conference.

And he's banking that the gathering won't be the last:

He believes the 100,000 Russian-speaking refugees and immigrants from the former Soviet Union now living in Oregon will make fertile recruiting ground for the OCA's new foot soldiers.

As evidence of what could happen here, Lively showed a music video of a Watchmen on the Walls concert, which was a high-budget anti-gay rock opera filmed live in Riga. It features a tuxedo-clad man standing on top of a castle wall that's surrounded by men in tight black clothes holding tiki torches. There are flashing lights, smoke and howling guitar riffs as they march and sing militaristically about "victory over the gays."

Lively was joined on stage in the Salem church by one member of Watchmen on the Walls and his translator, Alex.

"Can you imagine the effect of bringing a Watchmen on the Walls concert to Oregon?" asked Lively, the author of numerous books denouncing homosexuality, including The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party and the scary red-and-black camouflage propaganda pamphlet "Why and How to Defeat the Gay Movement."

"Your generation beat the Nazis, and our country beat the Communists," the Latvian member of Watchmen on the Walls declared to the elderly congregation, triumphantly raising a fist into the air. "Together we will defeat the homosexuals!"

Lively encouraged the gathering to spend this year rebuilding and to meet again for a Thanksgiving reunion dinner, where they would count their numbers and prepare to go quietly back to work for the "pro-family" cause. As reported last week by Just Out, Mabon and the OCA are collecting signatures for two ballot measures in 2008. One proposal would stop what it calls the promotion of homosexuality in schools; the other would overturn the Oregon Supreme Court's expansion of freedom of expression that includes live public sex acts.

"Perhaps by November 2008," Lively said, "we will have enough support to fill a Watchmen on the Walls concert in Oregon."

For more, go to Queer Window.

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