The former Chairman of the Board of a certified anti-gay hate group has become the Iowa State Director of the Ron Paul presidential campaign. Mike Heath, who Chaired Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) from 2008-2010, a tiny organization that essentially consists of Peter LaBarbera. AFTAH has also been home to J. Matt Barber, now at the Liberty Counsel.
“Mike Heath, who became Ron Paul’s Iowa state director this fall, has spent his career on the Christian right. In Iowa, Heath has focused on outreach to the religious community in the state, where Paul has made an effort to target evangelical voters,” notes an article by Pema Levy and Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo:
Heath spent 14 years running the Christian Civic League of Maine (which has since changed its name). As a prominent figure in Maine, Heath slowly alienated the Christian right in the state with his extreme tactics. In 2004, for example, he launched a witch hunt to out gay members of the Maine legislature, asking supporters, according to the Portland Press Herald, to “e-mail us tips, rumors, speculation and facts” regarding the sexual orientation of the state’s political leaders, adding, “We are, of course, most interested in the leaders among us who want to overturn marriage, eliminate the mother/father family as the ideal, etc.” The result was that his own organization suspended him for a month.
“He’s a well-known conspiracy theorist about the ‘gay agenda,’” says Travis Kennedy, chief of staff for the House Democratic Office in Maine, who says Heath was a big figure around the capital for many years. Heath made more enemies than friends, says Kennedy, whose “offensive and aggressive” tactics put off even his allies on the Christian right. In 2007, Heath played a big part in opposing a sexual orientation anti-discrimination ballot measure which ultimately passed by a wide margin. On Heath’s new job in Iowa, Kennedy said, “I’m not surprised he’d be hired in a state far away from Maine. He has a pretty poor reputation around here.”
From 2008-2010, Heath served as chairman of the board of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. AFTAH is a fringe, anti-gay organization and has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for promoting false information. For example, the organization and its founder, Peter LaBarbera, have published false reports about LGBT people, including allegations that they live shorter lives and that they are prone to pedophilia. LaBarbera disputes the SPLC’s label.
“Peter LaBarbera is among the most fringe elements of the anti-gay industry in America today,” Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, wrote in an email to TPM. “You’d be hard pressed to find another group that is so singularly focused on telling lies about LGBT Americans.”
It’s unclear if Ron Paul ascribes to some of Heath’s anti-gay beliefs. Paul’s newsletters do contain several quotes smearing gay Americans as well as the AIDS epidemic. Recently, a disenchanted former Paul aide described an instance when Paul refused to use the bathroom of a gay supporter. But whatever Paul’s beliefs, Heath’s work on his campaign is another strike against a candidate with a history of associating with fringe elements of the right.
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