One of the most brazen – craven even – ploys by Republicans in the wake of the Orlando massacre has been to suggest, incredibly, that they would be better for the LGBT community than the Democrats.
At a rally on Thursday, Donald Trump said “LGBT is starting to like Donald Trump very much lately, I will tell you, starting to like Donald Trump very, very much lately.” He mentioned that the Clinton Foundation had taken money from countries where “they kill gays,” and continued:
“So you tell me who’s better for the gay community and who’s better for women than Donald Trump?”
As Tierney Sneed of Talking Points Memo put it last week: “The same Republicans who have argued that gay couples should not be allowed to marry, that LGBT Americans don’t need federal anti-discrimination protections and that trans people should not use the bathroom that matches their identity are now claiming that they – not Democrats – are the party on the LGBT community’s side.”
Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama took it even further, saying last week: “The Democrats are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they’re trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they’re trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America.”
But the LGBT community is not deceived by this treachery, in which the mouth speaks of protections while the hands and heart toil away at subjugation, if not destruction.
An analysis this month by The Washington Post of state efforts to limit LGBT rights found that: “Since 2013, legislatures have introduced 254 bills, 20 of which became law. According to data collected by the American Civil Liberties Union and analyzed by The Washington Post, the number of bills introduced has increased steadily each year. In the first half of 2016 alone, 87 bills that could limit LGBT rights have been introduced, a steep increase from previous years.”
It is no wonder then that in a May opinion piece, Gallup’s Frank Newport pointed out that just 18 percent of those who identify as LGBT held a favorable opinion of Trump.
These vacuous appeals fly in the face of facts and are simultaneously laughable and infuriating.
At first, I couldn’t figure out the motive and mechanism of these appeals.
Were they about abject silliness, or a political senility, or an exercise in depraved cynicism? In any case, it is flat out wrong and a distortion of the reality – both in the language of hate and the policies of inequality – that queers know and live.
Then it occurred to me that these weren’t appeals to the LGBT community at all. This wasn’t a way of peeling off the rainbow contingent from liberals’ rainbow coalition, but instead a way of making Republicans and amenable independents feel good about supporting the party’s schismatic policies. This was a way to salvage nobility for the homophobic, to say that there are factional benefits for tribalism, that liberalism itself is flawed because you can’t house the wolves with the rabbits.
But this too shall fail.
Republicans want us to forget that, according to the former President George W. Bush campaign manager and Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman (who has since come out himself as gay), Republicans like Karl Rove have used anti-gay marriage amendments in crucial states to help draw homophobes to the polls and benefit Republicans.
As The Atlantic reported in a profile of Mehlman in 2010:
“Mehlman’s leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities – such as the 2006 distribution in West Virginia of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party’s platform ('Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country … ‘). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, Bush’s chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.”
Maybe Republicans want us to forget that, as ThinkProgress reported in December: “Six of the Republican candidates vying for the presidency have signed a pledge promising to support legislation during their first 100 days in the White House that would use the guise of ‘religious liberty' to give individuals and businesses the right to openly discriminate against LGBT people.”
They want us to forget that although people of all political stripes have evolved on the issue of gay equality – including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – Republicans are the trailing edge of that evolution.
No amount of the exploitation of fear and the revising of history is going to change what we know about the Republican Party and its continued abysmal record on gay rights.
In the wake of tragedy, you can’t conveniently hang the LGBT community on the tree of life as a glistening ornament. You must recognize, now and always, that the LGBT community is a most natural branch of that tree.