Walsh: Anti-gays, may you get cash

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandra Rodrigues and Jonas Filho are patriotic American immigrants. They love the place -- all its rights and freedoms. Stuff like free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press.

So when they were thinking of creating a nonprofit organization dedicated to denying gay Americans civil rights, they named it America Forever. Of course.

The incorporation papers for the foundation have since lapsed. But that didn't stop the Rodrigues family from placing a full-page ad in both of Salt Lake City's daily newspapers Sunday -- price tag: about $15,000 -- filled with the sophomoric, pseudo-legal reasoning of two people who get up in the morning to be hateful.

Under the headline "Stand up and stop the homosexual movement," and squeezed around a picture of a Utah gay couple kissing -- one white, one black, for added shock value -- America Forever raises conspiracy theory to a new level. "Shame on Governor Huntsman for joining, and adding to this public shame by endorsing the common ground initiative" and "Shame on Utah Gays for using the LDS Church."

It goes downhill from there -- equating gays with a woman who shows up at work dressed like a hooker, promoting so-called "anti-species behavior" and misquoting a gay satire, the "Homosexual Declaration of War," based loosely on Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal."

America Forever asks for donations. And part of me hopes they get them.

For one thing, it's illegal for a nonprofit whose many registrations with the State Department of Commerce have lapsed -- the last time in 2007 -- to take money and use it for political purposes.

Department of Commerce Director Francine Giani says her office will send a "cordial" letter to America Forever. "I probably wouldn't ding them. It's an honest mistake," she says. "We would try to bring them into compliance."

OK. Forget that one.

I still like the idea of America Forever buying full-price newspaper ads. That's a nice chunk of change for The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News .

And, in the end, Rodrigues and Filho's tactics will backfire. Despite their reputations, most Utahns are moderates. They are uncomfortable with America Forever's over-the-top homophobia. Years ago, when lawmakers considered hate-crimes legislation that listed "sexual orientation" as a protected class, Rodrigues and Filho passed out white roses with baby's breath -- for purity, get it? Their strategy since has become much more vile: A week ago, Rodrigues told lesbian lawmaker Christine Johnson, a Salt Lake City Democrat, that her vagina is wasted.

More ads from Rodrigues and Filho can only drive public opinion to the center.

"It took me a while to realize I should be grateful for Chris Buttars," says Johnson. "He's giving me allies. This group is the same."

Even conservative lawmakers who quietly agree with everything America Forever printed are scurrying for dark corners to hide from such hate speech.

Herriman Republican Rep. Carl Wimmer blocked America Forever from bringing its posters to a rally last week. "They make a lot of us look bad," he says.


Rebecca Walsh is a columnist. Reach her at walsh@sltrib.com