Why Claiming Republicans Are “Hardly Anti-Gay” Makes Hardly Any Sense

LA Times writer David Lampo makes the accurate observation that “it’s an axiom of modern American politics that most Republicans are reflexively — even stridently — anti-gay.” This is, fairly inarguably, correct. There are some complicating factors to that assertion — for instance, that the younger demographic within the GOP may have significantly different views than the people currently in office, or that plenty of Republicans, like Colin Powell, have successfully “evolved” on some issues like same-sex marriage. After all, it’s become apparent that the upper echelon of the GOP is so anti-gay that they can’t deal with a gay person even when he’s a member of their own party.  So why, then, does Lampo’s article argue that the GOP is “hardly” anti-gay?

husband arguably runs an ex-gay clinic

Lampo has identified four “myths” that he thinks have got the general public misled about what Republicans really think about gay people, or as he puts it, lead us to “[overlook] pockets of tolerance among its rank and file.” In summation, his debunking of these “myths” are: 66% of Republicans support workplace policies that ban discrimination against gays and lesbians, 64% of Republicans support allowing openly gay servicemembers in the military, 41% of Christian conservatives, a majority of Republicans, and even 53% of Tea Partiers support “legal recognition for gay couples” (although in most cases that doesn’t mean marriage).

These are all good things! Very few people would argue that opposing discrimination, and supporting marriage equality and workplace equality in the military are bad things. However, to take those statements and leap to the conclusion that the Republican party is therefore not anti-gay is just incorrect and logically unsound. It’s probably true, honestly, that there are “pockets of tolerance” that are ashamed of the antics of people like Santorum and Romney. But what Lampo is essentially trying to do here is conflate support for marriage equality and a few other big-ballot and highly publicized issues, like DADT, with support for the queer community. While marriage equality is a very important and very personal issue for a lot of queer families, the fact of the matter is that for queer people, much like for straight people, all the days preceding and following a wedding day are important too. And that’s where the Republican party really hurts the gay community, “tolerance” or no.

For instance, while the mainstream media tends to frame the conversation about sex education in terms of teen pregnancy, comprehensive sexual education is a huge factor in deciding whether queer kids grow up safe and healthy. When Republican legislators oppose curriculum that would educate children about their own bodies and how to take care of themselves, even straight teens can succumb to self-loathing for entirely normal feelings, and find themselves in behaviors that hurt themselves and their partners. Especially if a queer kid has an unsupportive home life, a school life that deliberately erases their existence is unconscionable. But regardless of how they vote on DADT, this is what Republican lawmakers are supporting every time they vote for abstinence-only education, or for “leaving those things up to the parents.” And when the Republican party attacks institutions like Planned Parenthood, they’re not just hurting straight women or women who need abortions, they’re hurting the queer community, too. Places like Planned Parenthood are sometimes the only reliable and non-discriminatory places queers can turn for care and for sexual health, and if Republicans don’t care about that, they don’t care about queer people.

very anti-gay

Similarly, while healthcare reform and access to affordable care are important for everyone, they’re especially urgent for a population (like the gay community!) who are extra susceptible to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and a host of other mental health problems. (Their vulnerability is at least partly because of  the stigma and daily hardships that gay people face, which is also arguably the fault of the Republican party among many other groups, so there’s that.) Especially considering the unemployment and workplace discrimination that many groups in the queer community face, particularly trans* people, being able to access healthcare even if you don’t have insurance through your employer or the ability to afford private insurance (and if you can’t be put on your partner’s insurance plan because of DOMA) is critically important. All of the goodwill and gay “tolerance” in the world won’t help someone get care they need to stay healthy or stay alive.

In some ways, those issues just make the point that what’s bad for America in general is especially bad for queer people — after all, that’s sort of what being marginalized means. But there are specific issues besides same-sex marriage that affect the queer and trans* community, and on the whole, the Republican party has either ignored or actively worsened them. Take homelessness, which disproportionately affects queer youth and trans* people. Young queer people who are kicked out of their homes or need to leave their homes because they aren’t safe really only have a deeply flawed and under-resourced foster care system to turn to, and which often doesn’t have specific tools or training to support queer or trans kids. Outside of the foster care system, many of the only options for shelters or housing are faith-based organizations, which often turn away gay kids or force trans* people to present as a gender they don’t identify as or else lose their housing. If the Republican party really wants to prove it’s “hardly anti-gay,” it could pay attention to the problems that are life-and-death issues for members of our community — or even call for LGBTQ families to be considered as adoptive or foster families and give millions of dollars to a pilot program working to combat queer teen homelessness, like the Obama administration did.

three different republican presidential hopefuls signed the pledge in question

When you look at the full picture, Lampo isn’t wrong, at least not totally. His numbers are correct, and he’s right that there are probably plenty of people who would be shocked to find out that 66% of Republicans support workplace policies protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination (probably plenty of Republicans would be surprised, also). But he’s wrong if he thinks that means the party can earn a pass from the gay community, or that once we’re allowed to go to City Hall the state can sit back and think it’s done right by us for the rest of time. The Democratic party has been by no means a perfect ally either, but as long as the Republican party is still spit-taking over words like “bisexual” and “transgender” and jumping at the chance to hurt women just for one more chance to throw gays under the bus, “hardly anti-gay” is a claim you might want to wait on making.

 

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books as well as news and politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel currently lives in Michigan. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 741 articles for us.

23 Comments

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      I find it really irritating when straight Republicans try to talk down to LGBT people about how we’re voting on these issues as though we can’t judge when somebody is homophobic by ourselves. It reminds me of some of the really ignorant Republican rhetoric over race and why black voters continue to vote Democratic in huge numbers. Oppressed populations can tell pretty well for themselves when someone is oppressing them. They don’t need clueless straight people/white people to mansplain to them.

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    I’m having the same reaction to this as when my conservative friend excitedly told me that “the most right wing party in Canada” (the Wildrose party in Alberta) were not opposed to marriage equality. Which was: Do you want a cookie? Not actively supporting discrimination is literally the least you can do. I mean, that’s the point of this article. But just, all the anger.

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    “However, to take those statements and leap to the conclusion that the Republican party is therefore not anti-gay is just incorrect and logically unsound.” Exactly. Good article Rachel. And Jane, I’m from Alberta too! I can relate to what you are saying about the Wildrose party. Being pro-marriage equality is not nearly enough to get my vote.

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    Great article, although unfortunately I don’t see any progress being made in Ireland in relation to LGBTQ rights. Honestly, I’ve been out to everyone in my whole town since i was 11, and other than the odd person asking what pansexuality is, no-one pays any attention. The church doesnt even read passages about gays being wrong or anything like that, the whole place itself is very tolerant of gay people in general, even though I can’t speak for everywhere (and although you get the odd teasing, atleast in my school theres no bullying aimed at queers), but there’s still no legal equality, or rights for gay people. I’m hoping it will change.

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    Even if there are more tolerant strains in the Republican base – and I know that there are (having met some such Republicans myself) – the fact that they continue to vote for blatant homophobes means they clearly aren’t quite the allies they could be. I understand that there are other issues but honestly, I feel like if you are truly dedicated to the cause, homophobia should be a dealbreaker.

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      Right. And even if the average Republican’s opinion is mildly gay-tolerant – which I think it is – averages don’t set the party’s agenda. If 10% or 20% of a party is madly, frothingly, certifiably obsessive about any topic, they *will* get to steer the party and almost all its candidates on that issue.

      The world needs more obsessive fanatics for “nuance” and “circumspect balancing”. :)

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      I think that’s what really bothers me, Rose. I know gay people who vote Republican and I just don’t get it. I’m not 100% I’ll be voting Democrat for the rest of my life, but right now, when Republicans would love to reverse Obamacare and the DADT repeal, I don’t even have to think twice. Human Rights are a bit more high profile on my checklist than taxes, etc.

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    Also I’m really glad to see you drawing the link between the war on women/sex education and LGBT rights. Too many people act like the former is stuff that only affects straight women. I’ve been saying for ages that abstinence-only sex ed isn’t just fucked because it’s unrealistic for people who CAN (and want to) get married, it also ignores the fact that a huge chunk of people currently CAN’T (or don’t want to) get married.

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      Because while Obama didn’t support gay marriage, he still supported legislation to grant civil unions all the protections that were held under marriage. That’s farther than any Republican who ran in the primary, save Karger. It’s also the difference between framing marriage policy for the purpose of enabling equal rights, and framing it to disenfranchise groups because you don’t like them. Republican politicians spent the last 35 years disenfranchising the LGBT community. And what, we’re expected to forget that? The fact that their base now supports pro-gay policies is a testament to the hard work the LGBT community in convincing the public at large about their necessity, not the supposed “open-mindedness” of the Party.

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        And what’s more, Obama also stands with the LGBT community on a host of other issues, including support for ENDA and opposition to DADT. And he’s also been a strong advocate for the sexual rights, like support for Planned Parenthood, that Rachel mentions here as connected.

        Acting like his support is shaky or politically-motivated because of ONE issue is exactly the flawed thinking that Rachel is criticizing in this post.

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      I think it was more of a “politics game” for Obama to NOT outwardly support marriage equality for as long as he did. Anyone who has followed his career and looks at the legislation he has helped pass) knows that he has supported LGBT rights for a long time. Also, everything Rose says below.

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    Two things:

    First, I don’t think David Lampo wrote the title of his op-ed because to me it didn’t sound like he was arguing that Republicans were “hardly” “deeply” anti-gay. In fact, he confirms in the second paragraph that “anti-gay sentiments still run deep in the GOP.” As the piece goes on it feels more to me like he’s trying to make the point that people should pay attention to nuance within the party, especially national-level Republican candidates.

    Second, I feel like this piece and a lot of the comments are kind of reactionary. I think that examining differing GOP attitudes is important because it gives us ideas about how and where to successfully engage a “deeply” anti-gay party, especially because Republicans are more than the token ridiculous debates that we are seeing in Congress. They are our local politicians and our friends and neighbors as well (dare I say, gasp, that some queers are Republicans too?).

    Take this Rachel Maddow clip showing Wyoming State Senate Republicans arguing against preventing the state from recognizing same-sex marriages and civil unions granted in other states:

    http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/maddow-small-government-conservatives-equa

    Gotta start somewhere, right?

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