Meet the Evangelical Pastor Who Fought LGBT Progress in North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina, is mourning the deaths of two transgender teenagers—Blake Brockington and Ash Haffner—in less than a month. It’s worth looking at the hostile environment these two young people were living in.
In recent months, Charlotte’s city council has debated an ordinance that would have protected lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination. One man who made it his personal mission to squash the proposal was the Reverend Philip “Flip” Benham, an evangelical Christian minister who leads an antiabortion group called Operation Save America. In 2011, Benham was convicted of stalking a local abortion doctor. But in recent years, he has focused on the LGBT community. Since same-sex marriage was legalized in North Carolina last year, Benham has crashed weddings and, when that failed, led demonstrations outside them.
In 2012, Benham led a prayer rally outside the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. At one point, he lambasted a lesbian couple he saw kissing outside a protest. “What a heartbreaker,” he said. “I mean, look at them! Parading their sin like Sodom.” In a subsequent interview, he talked with a visiting reporter and said: “To have sat by and watched people die with AIDS and HIV, [I] have wanted so much to help some of the folks with some of the suicidal thoughts that they have because they just can’t stand the sin that they’re involved in.” Later, Benham bragged: “I have so many friends who’ve been set free from the bondage of homosexual sodomy because, you see, God says that he will thwart the craving of the wicked.”
Benham, along with his family and supporters, rallied outside Charlotte’s city hall against the ordinance. The proposal failed by a vote of 6–5 on March 2.
Neither Benham nor Operation Save America responded to requests for comment by the time this story was published.