As the Post-Gazette story explains, the essence of the charge is that Marcavage and four cohorts broke a variety of laws, including bias-motivated intimidation (the hate crimes charge), in the process of organizing loud protests at OutFest, an event in which Philly gays are urged to come out of the closet, on Oct. 10 last year.
It's clear from the available videos that Marcavage was liable to be charged for refusing a police order to move, but the bias-crime charge seems potentially dubious to me; if prosecutors can produce evidence of actual threats or acts of intimidation, then the case may in fact be sound. (Prosecutors have issued a statement saying: "This case is about conduct, not content of speech.") Only a trial will be able to tell us for certain.
Marcavage operates an outfit called Repent America, which reportedly is closely connected to Donald Wildmon's American Family Association (one of the folks protesting SpongeBob Squarepants' participation in a tolerance campaign). The AFA, in fact, is providing Marcavage with free legal counsel, which may explain his apparent eagerness to be arrested (Marcavage says he's been in jail over a dozen times).
The "Philly Five" cause has also been picked up by other ostensibly mainstream-right outfits as Concerned Women for America, while Marcavage and his attorney have been busy making appearances on places like Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" and "O'Reilly Factor," and "Hannity & Colmes," and MSNBC's "Abrams Report". Likewise, it is being trumpeted by outfits further toward the fringe like WorldNetDaily and Free Republic.
The Philadelphia City Paper just published an excellent story on Marcavage that covered most of the bases of the case. It also, rather strikingly, had this quote from Marcavage:
- "According to the Scriptures, it's the government's job to enforce God's law and to uphold his law, and the Bible talks about how, I don't want to really get into this -- it'll make me sound like I'm crazy -- but it does talk about how [homosexuals] are to be put to death. The wages of sin is death. But I want to make [it] clear that I'm not advocating the [independent] killing of homosexuals. ... I'm saying that the government's duty is to uphold God's law. ... I know that's harsh, but we have all broken the law, God's law, and we need to be held accountable."
I don't think it's misreading these remarks to observe that Marcavage, while eschewing individual acts of murderous retribution, is calling for creating a system under which homosexuals can be put to death by the government simply for being homosexual.
And this is the young fresh face of the persecuted Christian right?
People who have dealt with the extremist right for many years have heard Marcavage's arguments before. They were made most famously by the leading figure in the white supremacist Christian Identity movement, the Rev. Pete Peters, who preaches sermons titled, "Intolerance of, Discrimination Against and the Death Penalty for Homosexuals is prescribed in the Bible," and likewise penned a pamphlet titled Death Penalty for Homosexuals is Prescribed in the Bible (a piece that was, incidentally, the source of his falling-out with Bo Gritz.) (You can see a copy of its cover here, along with a link to Chip Berlet's slide show on the subject of Identity.)
Marcavage, perhaps not coincidentally, first made a splash on the extremist Patriot circuit back in 2001 when he was committed to a psychiatric ward for his protest of a controversial play being performed at Temple University that was a gay-themed take on the life of Christ. (Observe that the link from American Patriot Friends Network includes the following note: "Friends, This may be a preview of what happens to all Christians under the coming UN agenda. You must understand that everyone must be "tolerant" unless your views differ from the communist UN agenda which does not include God.")
This current campaign has been picked up not only by the Christian Reconstructionist Chalcedon Institute, but also by the far-right Army of God, which has been associated with abortion-clinic bombings and killings of abortion providers.
Sarah Posner at the Gadflyer has more on Marcavage.
All in all, the mainstream adoption of Marcavage's martyrdom campaign, like the SpongeBob brouhaha, can be considered both an example of the continuing spread of right-wing extremism into the mainstream, as well as evidence that, indeed, gays are the new Jews.