May 16, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
Mitt Romney and the Republican party seem to have nearly retreated entirely on the issue of LGBT rights and marriage equality. When you look at what the party was doing just a few short years ago in 2004-06, you see a party highlighting their homophobia and announcing it at campaign stops all across the country. Even President Bush was unafraid to call attention to his anti-gay positions and his support for opposite-sex-only marriage. Republicans didn’t think LGBT people deserved equal rights, nor did they even believe people who are LGBT should be able to fight and die for our country if they choose, unless they stayed in the closet. This strategy was pushed particularly hard in Ohio but its effects reverberated all over. Of course, studies would later show that anti-gay campaigns and ballot initiatives have long-term effects on mental health and family stability. And they incite violence against those of us who are the most vulnerable. The party would become so homophobic during those years that when President Bush himself suggested that gays and lesbians deserve to have access to civil unions, it led to much disagreement within the party.
Now, the GOP has become silent over the issue and even its leaders like Speaker John Boehner are facing constant criticism for not speaking to issues that seem to be important amongst a certain set of conservatives. Rick Santorum recently even suggested that the party should re-fight gay rights issues once more to rally the base. And Mitt Romney had an opportunity to do that recently – he gave a speech at Liberty University – and didn’t take it. He mentioned marriage one time, saying it is “a relationship between a man and a woman.” And even on the rare occasions he addresses it, he suggests that people have different views that should be respected.
There is only one way in which the GOP has expressed its anti-gay sentiments: through passage of House bills with added homophobic language, or with language stripping provisions in favor of gay and lesbian families. Recently this happened with two bills: the House put forward a version of the Violence Against Women Act that stripped provisions that would protect gays and lesbians from domestic violence. There are LGBT victims of domestic violence as well, and there is no good reason to exclude them from receiving help and protection when they need it most. It’s nothing more than an attempt to delegitimize the relationships and families of people Republicans don’t like. The White House’s veto threat states, in part:
The bill also fails to include language that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT victims in VAWA grant programs. No sexual assault or domestic violence victim should be beaten, hurt, or killed because they could not access needed support, assistance, and protection. In addition, H.R. 4970 does not include important improvements to the Clery Act found in the Senate-passed bill that would address the high rates of dating violence and sexual assault experienced by young people in college and other higher education institutions. The bill also weakens critical new provisions in the Senate-passed bill that would improve safety for victims living in subsidized housing.
The House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act also has several anti-LGBT provisions. Think Progress says:
In its one Statement of Administration Policy, the White House outlined numerous reasons it opposes the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a military “license to bully” provision and restricts same-sex marriages or similar ceremonies from being held on military bases.
After the president’s announcement that he supports marriage equality, I think some people, including myself, expected the president to make that statement and then pivot to other issues facing the American people. It has not turned out that way – he has done interviews reiterating his position, and he is now including “marriage equality” in some campaign speeches, reminding voters that it strengthens families. Republicans might have become quieter on these issues but it’s clear they are willing to work on passage of unnecessary and hateful anti-LGBT bills. Fighting back against this onslaught should be a priority. And calling them out for it is necessary.