Sunday, July 26, 2015

The GOP Plan to Stoke Anti-Gay Bigotry in 2016

We have seen the GOP use anti-gay bigotry and animus before to turn out its aging, angry base, most notably in 2004 when Karl Rove conspired to use gay marriage bans to whip up the GOP base.  Now, with gay marriage bans struck down nationwide, Michelangelo Signorile predicts that the GOP will again use anti-gay animus to turn out its shrinking  base.  Here are highlights from his column in Huffington Post:
There have been predictions for several years that gay-bashing by GOP presidential candidates would be dead by 2016, some of it wishful thinking by gay advocates. Back in 2012, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, for example, commenting on the lack of discussion of gay issues in the three debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney, said, "What we're seeing is proof positive that gay issues aren't the wedge they used to be." The public, he said, has "moved on."

Fast forward to 2015: Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Rick Perry have expressed blatant anti-gay positions, from banning gay scout leaders to supporting yet another marriage amendment. Some pundits believe this to be politically dangerous, certainly in a general election, and they're right when it comes to the more overt bigotry.

[N]ew polling underscores that covert messaging -- the dog whistle -- could do the trick for the GOP, just as it has worked for the party on race and gender for decades now. Jeb Bush has defended "religious liberty" -- the new code words for anti-gay positions -- even while saying gay couples deserved "respect" for their relationships. And just last week, Bush said he supported the idea of anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, though he thought they should be handled "state-by-state"  . . . But in comments that directly followed, Bush said that he believes there should be an exception for people with religious objections to allowing gays and lesbians to marry, . . . In other words, those who would discriminate in the first place should be exempt from laws banning discrimination. This will in fact be the more subtle -- but no less vile and discriminatory -- gay-bashing of the 2016 election.

Right on schedule, GOP legislators in Congress introduced -- and last week publicly promoted -- the deceptively-named First Amendment Defense Act, a bill which appears to be designed to do what the George W. Bush-backed Federal Marriage Amendment was meant to do in 2004 and the year preceding it: Fire up the anti-LGBT evangelical base and create excitement among them for candidates backing it.

The ACLU describes it as "Indiana on steroids," referring to the initial, notorious Indiana Religious Restoration Freedom Act.  

[I]t's true that a large portion of the country supports marriage equality and public opinion has moved quickly in a positive direction on that issue. But as the AP reported, the poll found that when religious objections are thrown into the mix, the public has a jarring reaction, and one that LGBT activists should be taking heed of rather than simply trumpeting new and breathless polls claiming more support:
When the two are in conflict, 56 percent of those questioned said it's more important for the government to protect religious liberties, while 39 percent said it's more important to protect the rights of gays and lesbians.
So, in the AP poll we're actually now seeing nearly 60 percent of Americans agreeing with Jeb Bush's position, and this is up sharply since the Supreme Court ruling, from just over half. There's a sharp difference between Republicans and Democrats, too. Among Republicans, 82 percent said it was more important to protect "religious liberties" than gay rights . . .

While it may be accurate to say that a majority of the American public has "moved on" with regard to marriage equality, that's not true among the base of the GOP. And, more critically, the majority of Americans in general hasn't "moved on" when it comes to "religious liberty" vs. "gay rights," not by a long shot.  

The First Amendment Defense Act . . . . It's unlikely this bill could get 60 votes in the Senate, nor would it likely be signed by President Obama. But the Federal Marriage Amendment had even worse odds. The real goal wasn't to get it passed, but to engage anti-gay voters in the presidential and congressional races.  

That may or may not be enough to garner GOP wins in 2016, but it will surely have the effect of injecting bigotry into the 2016 political discourse -- which is already happening -- and legitimizing religious hatred and discrimination. And that's always a loss for the average gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person, still not legally protected in the majority of America and subjected to derision, discrimination and violence every day. 

No comments: