GOP: Gay friendly?

Quick spoiler alert: the title of this article is intentionally misleading. That elected Republicans are anti-gay-rights is almost expected – it is the common wisdom. The broader conservative movement that the GOP is associated with has an anti-gay streak that they label with the euphemism “traditional family.”

Their anti-gay stances are listed in the GOP Platform and seen in their actions. Since winning back a lion’s share of positions in statehouses last fall, the conservative movement has wasted little time addressing what it proclaimed as one of this country’s most dire concerns: the gays.

From Indiana to Minnesota, Republican politicians propose further bans on LGBT rights. Almost every GOP congressperson voted against the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on open LGBT military service. Their arguments ranged from comparing gays to those in wheelchairs, to claims that ending the ban would destroy the nation. The GOP also largely opposed extending hate crimes protections to LGBT citizens. Current GOP Speaker John Boehner said those protections should be reserved for “immutable” characteristics – perpetuating the conservative myth that sexual orientation is a choice. In March, the Montana legislature, in a symbolic gesture of anti-gay bigotry, voted to keep in place a sodomy law, applicable only to same-sex relations, previously ruled unconstitutional

How do the potential 2012 GOP presidential nominees view the LGBT community?

Perhaps the current most outspoken critics of everything LGBT is former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is currently seeking the GOP nomination for the presidency and recently won the South Carolina straw poll.

His anti-LGBT views first came into prominence in a 2003 interview with Associated Press journalist Lara Jakes Jordon, in which he described the child molestation controversy in the Catholic Church as “a basic homosexual relationship” instead of child abuse. Referring to the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling, which declared that anti-sodomy laws violated the U.S. Constitution, Santorum stated that sodomy laws exist to prevent acts that “undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family.” He added, “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.” Santorum continued by comparing homosexuality to incest, polygamy, child molestation and bestiality.

Perhaps the widest ranging and poetically just reaction was in Seattle Stranger columnist Dan Savage’s contest among his readers to create an alternate definition for “Santorum”- the results are too vulgar to print here, but not too vulgar to print here. Good luck running for president with that.

Real-estate mogul, reality TV star and full-time self-promoter Donald Trump, between racist remarks, issued the most confusing and ridiculous comment on the topic. Trump compared gay marriage to new golf putters: “It’s like in golf… A lot of people – I don’t want this to sound trivial – but a lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive. It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And, I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”

If you need a translator, let me sum it up for you: he hates long putters and doesn’t think gays should be able to marry.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a current FOX News host, called for the quarantine of AIDS patients in his 1992 Senate campaign, described being gay as “abhorrent and sinful,” and compared gays to drug users.

Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin – yeah, they are all firmly anti-gay-rights. Libertarian legend Ron Paul is for the states’ right to be anti-gay. The only gay, and presumably pro-gay, Republican hopeful, Fred Karger, was excluded from the GOP debate in South Carolina.

The Democrats haven’t exactly had a sterling record on the topic either. Even with a majority in both houses of Congress last year, they failed to pass the long-heralded Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit firings based on sexual orientation. In Maryland, where passage of marriage equality was all but certain, the Democratic-controlled House essentially killed it this year. The Democratic-controlled New York legislature killed a marriage equality bill in 2009. That party’s platform only supports civil unions – a type of “separate but equal” form of nonsense to placate those offended by the notion of “marriage.”

It does look, however, that the nation is slowly – and there is definitely an emphasis on “slowly”- starting to embrace the principle of equality. A new survey by the Washington Post and ABC reveals that a small majority of 53 percent of Americans now support marriage equality. This is up from 51 percent support in a CNN poll. Compare this to a March PPP poll that shows that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans are still against interracial marriage – an issue one would consider to be long settled. It is clear that while America is slowly warming up to the idea of LGBT equality, the right is digging in its heels and fighting that equality the whole way.

Image: Alan Chan // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Ryan C. Ebersole
Ryan C. Ebersole

Ryan Ebersole is a mental health counselor on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Having finished his Masters degree at the University of Southern Mississippi, his undergraduate degree at the University of Evansville in Indiana, high school in the Fort Worth area of Texas and pre-K in Puerto Rico, and having been born in Florida, he has experienced several areas of the county.

While in Indiana, he worked at a social work agency for HIV+ clients, as well as a low-income community drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility - both of which caused him to take a great interest in the stigmatized and the disadvantaged in our society. Now as a mental health professional, he hopes to serve these groups, as well as continue political activism, especially for LGBT and health care rights, on the side.