An anti-gay group that has become a fixture at the Utah Pride Festival and legislative debates on gay and transgender-related bills has closed up shop, due to what its website calls “unspeakable circumstances.”
“Thank you for your support. Please keep America a Nation [sic] under God. God bless America,” the front page of the site, located at americaforever.com, now reads.
Initially begun to protest the U.S. government’s treatment of undocumented immigrants’ children, America Forever came to widespread public attention in 2009 when it remade itself as an anti-gay organization. On Feb. 15 of that year it ran advertisements in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News decrying an effort to pass gay and transgender-inclusive laws known as the Common Ground Initiative. The add, which accused statewide gay and transgender rights group Equality Utah and the “homosexual movement” of trying to corrupt children, made national headlines and earned the group chidings even from legislators opposed to the initiative.
The ad was the first in a long line of fliers against gay and transgender Utahns and those expressing support for them, which included former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, the Sundance Film Festival and even the LDS Church. The latter supported Salt Lake City’s 2009 housing and employment ordinances prohibiting housing and employment discrimination against gay and transgender people. Frequently, America Forever faxed these fliers to as many as 80,000 recipients, most of whom had not solicited them.
Members of the Sandy-based group also appeared at several gay-related events bearing large signs urging Utahns to protect children by opposing gay and transgender rights measures. Most recently they appeared at city and county council meetings where Salt Lake-style ordinances were discussed. In May, police escorted the group from a Logan Municipal Council meeting where member Jessica Rodrigues made anti-gay remarks before the body. In 2009, members were also escorted from the Capitol Building after leader Sandra Rodrigues shouted anti-gay remarks at openly lesbian Rep. Christine Johnson.
America Forever has given no official reason for disbanding. A request for an interview sent to administrative contact Jonas Filho had not been answered by press time.
Local activist Eric Ethington expressed disappointment at the group’s dissolution.
“You know … I’m going to miss these people,” Ethington wrote on his blog, PRIDE in Utah. “There really wasn’t anyone else in Utah who made the LGBT community look so good! Oh well, salute and adieu Sandra, we’ll remember you fondly!”