Why The Suspension Of ‘Duck Dynasty”s Phil Robertson Matters

Photo: (Getty)

Photo: (Getty)

As a young, vulnerable teen growing up in a conservative town, I was desperately trying to find the courage to embrace my own sexuality. Often the hardest part of this process was dealing with the hate speech I heard — hate speech not unlike what Phil Robertson of  A+E’s “Duck Dynasty” spews in the January issue of GQ.

The “Duck Dynasty” patriarch told GQ: “It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” He goes on to say: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

In response to his comments, A+E, the home of “Duck Dynasty” (so technically, Robertson’s employer), suspended him from the show.

Since this suspension has been announced, I have seen people flooding my Facebook feed defending Robertson, claiming that this was just his “opinion” and that he has the “right” to say what he believes in. Sarah Palin chimed in by Tweeting:

It’s a shame we have public figures like Sarah Palin encouraging actions filled with hate, and only further damaging the vulnerable minds of the younger LGBTQ generation. It’s almost 2014 — we should be encouraging our young people to embrace themselves, love whomever they love and treat others with kindness and respect.

Of course, not everyone sees the bigger impact that something like this can have.

One of my Facebook acquaintances wrote, “I am so shocked and upset that A+E just announced they had suspended Phil from “Duck Dynasty” from the show for while, Ridiculous! This is America!” Indeed this is America, but as a country we should be rising above such insane language, not defending it in the name of “free speech.” With #DuckDynasty trending since yesterday, this is an issue many feel passionate about. Whether or not you think Phil has the right to express his opinions, it is important to remember that the antigay comments Phil shared, such as equating homosexuality to bestiality, are hateful, hurtful and, most obviously, untrue.

Bigotry like this is venomous to society, and it reverses the direction we should be taking our country. It’s clear that Phil knows nothing about the LGBT community and the battles we’ve fought just to get basic rights — things like protection on the job, healthcare and the ability to marry whomever we love. And his words, whether they are “opinions” or not, matter because “Duck Dynasty” isn’t just a show, it’s a whole industry — with 11. 8 viewers tuning in to the premiere last August and $400 million in “Duck Dynasty” related retail sales.

A+E has every right, as a private employer and a team of media makers, to put its foot down.

In a press release about the suspension, the network wrote, “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty.’ His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

Standing up as an ally to the LGBT community is essential, and A+E did exactly that. It’s important we continue this fight, and push our country forward in the right direction (on that note, congrats, New Mexico!) Hopefully in 2014, I will be saying, “Phil who?”

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