Bigot Busting

by Bob Ralphs, No On Hate PAC
Before 1992's widely-publicized Measure 9 in Oregon, right wing Christians attempted to place similar initiatives on municipal ballots in Portland, Corvallis, and Springfield, Or.. Corvallis defeated the measure by a 30% margin, and we lost in Springfield, 55%-45%. In Portland, however, the backers didn't manage to gather enough signatures to put their discriminatory proposal up for a vote. Why did Portland pose such a problem for the Oregon Citizens' Alliance petitioners? Because, in part, wherever they went, the Bigot Busters would follow.

Bigot busting has two primary objectives: preventing petition signatures, and providing a gay-positive experience to as many people as possible. An individual who might have signed a petition earlier can become an ally when confronted with the truth.

Our presence and effective presentation of the reality behind the rhetoric of the Christian right can result in the inability of our opponents to gather enough signatures to put their measures to a vote. Especially in urban communities where extreme homophobia is unpopular, potential signers are often too embarrassed to add their names to petitions.

Very often, the rhetoric used by the religious right to encourage people to sign their petitions succeeds by presenting us as a menace, as evil, unlawful, distasteful people whose special rights agenda must be stopped. By participating in bigot busting, our mere presence deflates many of those arguments. People approaching the petitioners can see some real living, breathing, walking and talking homosexuals calmly explaining the impact of right wing initiatives.

What follows is a brief outline of a structure for bigot busting, and some do's and don'ts. Soundbite answers to common questions and popular deceptions used by anti-gay campaigns can be found in this Action Kit. We encourage their use and reproduction.

How to Start

Ideally, one person or organization can devote a phone line and answering machine to the task of mobilization. This will be the Bigot Busters Dispatch Line. Messages must be checked frequently (several times a day AT MIMIMUM). Spread the word that bigotry busting will take place, and solicit volunteers. Run ads in friendly media with the Bigot Busters Hotline number featured, and ask individuals to call immediately to report any sightings of anti-gay petitioners.

As volunteers accumulate, develop bigot buster training. It is critical that everyone participating understand the importance of following the Do's and Don'ts, and feels comfortable working within those guidelines.

Become familiar with the areas where petitioners frequently gather. Churches, being tax-exempt, are almost always off-limits for signature gathering, so investigate other likely places. Calling the opponents' campaign and asking where you might find a petition to sign is a quick and efficient way to track them down. Large grocery stores, malls, professional sports events, and large outdoor gatherings are likely petition hot spots.


At each site, have one trained, cool-headed Bigot Buster serve as the site coordinator. Key points are: It is CRITICAL that everyone be prepared to deal with right wing rhetoric and be able to discuss our viewpoint calmly. Don't engage in lengthy discussions about the issues, and don't argue with belligerent petitioners or signers. All Busters should be trained to give short, effective answers to the questions that are likely to be asked (see soundbite list). All bigot busters should be trained in non-violent de-escalation tactics or other methods of avoiding unnecessary violence and messy confrontations.

A list of materials you may need are listed below:

The site coordinator has additional responsibilities: After a day of bigot busting, it is important to debrief. Bigot busters should come back together at a designated time and place to return leftover materials and to debrief. At this point, the coordinator should count heads; those who chose not to attend debriefing sessions should be accounted for.

Allow people to talk about good and bad experiences they had during the day. Take suggestions for how things could be done better, and take the time to answer questions that came up during the day. It is important to maintaining unity and enthusiasm that people be given the chance to give feedback.

For more information or to request a complete Fight the Right Action Kit, call NGLTF at 202-332-6483, TTY 202-332-6219.