Gay Trump Supporter Takes Exception to Slur Hurled at 'Back the Blue' Rally

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday August 10, 2020

Heath Barnes
Heath Barnes  (Source:Heath Barnes / Facebook)

An openly gay Trump supporter attending an Aug. 1 "Back the Blue" rally in Frederick, Maryland, says he was subjected to an anti-LGBTQ slur hurled by a founding member of a local rights organization, Frederick March for Justice.

Heath Barnes had a chance to speak out against the slur, and against what he said is rejection by the LGBTQ community at large for his political views, when he was interviewed by local publication the Frederick News-Post.

One major point of contention for Barnes was a photo by a News-Post photographer that appeared online on Aug. 1. Barnes, wearing a red MAGA hat and a Trump T-shirt, can be seen angrily shouting in the direction of the group opposite him. The photo was taken during a Back the Blue rally at which Frederick March for Justice counter-protestors appeared, as did Black Lives Matter and Frederick United counter-protestors.

But, the news story said, Barnes was not shouting at the counter-protestors as a whole. He was shouting back at a Frederick March for Justice founder, Gabrael Moore, who Barnes claimed had just called him a homophobic epithet.

Said Barnes: "I came out as a gay man in the backwoods areas of Missouri where I grew up.... it's not the most accepting area. But I was accepted a lot more there than I've been at some of these events" where different group have rallied.

Barnes says that he was carrying a sign identifying himself as a gay Trump supporter and heard comments from the other groups to the effect that the president does not support him in turn, nor do "law and order" Trump supporters.

The Trump administration has undertaken a number of actions seen as hostile to the LGBTQ community and allied itself closely with a number of vitriolic anti-gay religious leaders.

Still, Barnes says that Trump has been supportive of LGBTQ Americans and their quest for full legal equality, and notes the president's nomination of Richard Grennell, who is openly gay, as an ambassador. Earlier this year, Grennell served the Trump administration for a time as the interim director of intelligence.

Frederick United took action after two of that group's founding members heard the epithet that was reportedly hurled by the Frederick March for Justice member. Frederick United took to Facebook to issue a public statement on the incident.

"This slur holds a lot of weight to it and directly impacts our LGBTQ+ community. We at Frederick United have a ZERO tolerance policy for use of slurs," the post read. "The LGBTQ+ community has been an integral part of this fight for justice and change."

????????Public Statement????????:

We, the members of Frederick United, need to address the saddening and sickening events that...Posted by Frederick United on Sunday, August 2, 2020

"We cannot demand justice, fair treatment, and kindness from individuals yet turn around and use hateful and painful slurs against others," the post continued. "Regardless of race, political ideology, or party affiliation, calling someone the F-word is just as bad as calling someone the N-word. We here at Frederick United cannot and will not support such hateful speech toward anyone.

"To Heath Barnes, we are truly sorry that this word and hate was spewed from someone who was attending our event. We as a team stand in solidarity with you."

For his part, Barnes told the newspaper, "I look forward to working with Frederick United."

Added Barnes: "I'm not saying our movement is 100 percent correct, I'm not saying theirs is 100 percent correct. I want to find common ground and work with them."

In a comment to EDGE Media Network, Barnes noted that Frederick United had been "nothing but kind to me," but added that, to date, there has been no apology from Frederick March for Justice.

Barnes added: "I have received so much hate and bullying from others in the gay community over the last two years since I let others know that I am a Republican. Once the original article was posted by the Frederick News Post on August 2nd without the actual details, the hate and bullying intensified.

"Coming out as a Gay Republican was so much harder than ever coming out as a gay man."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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