Saturday, December 24, 2011

Republican Candidates Battle Mythical Gays

While the denigrating LGBT Americans and depicting us as a threat to civilization itself remains the sport of choice among the GOP presidential candidate clown car set, what's been interesting is watching a number of the most vociferous anti-gay demagogues find themselves confronted by real live gays who defy the stereotypes that the demagogues are peddling. In most cases, these Christianist boot licking GOP candidates end up looking like outright bigots or at best just plain mean. Why so? Because to those watching the encounters, the gays encountered are all too clearly regular ordinary people. These encounters underscore the power of being out and living your life with dignity and changing hearts and minds in the process. A piece at Religion Dispatches looks at these campaign encounters. Here are some highlights:

There was a time, once upon a time, when politicians could get away with bashing gay people because they were like unicorns: abstract beings that everyone whispered about, but had never seen (or knew they had anyway). My, how times have changed. Many Republican presidential hopefuls, like Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, have each taken their swipe at the mythical “gay” in this race, each appeasing the religious right anti-gay base with their declarations against this community. Each has been, in turn, confronted by actual gay and lesbian people—much to the candidates’ consternation.

First, it was Mitt Romney who chose a stereotypical-looking Vietnam veteran to cozy up to at a diner in New Hampshire. Surprise! The vet was a gay man who quizzed Romney on why his spouse should be different from any other when it comes to collecting his military pension.

Rick Perry was next, confronted by a 14-year-old bisexual girl at an appearance in Iowa. “I just want to know why you’re so opposed to gays serving openly in the military, why you want to deny them that freedom when they’re fighting and dying for your right to run for president,” Rebecka Green, a high school student from Decorah, asked Perry.

“Here’s my issue. This is about my faith, and I happen to think, you know, there are a whole host of sins,” Perry responded. “Homosexuality being one of them, and I’m a sinner and so I’m not going to be the first one to throw a stone.” But, he would be the first to throw out “teh gay” from the military, even though “thou shalt not kill” is a pretty big sin according to that book called “The Bible.”

Then, it’s Michele Bachmann’s turn. After being confronted by an 8-year-old boy (in South Carolina, no less) who told her his lesbian mommy didn’t need changing, she and her husband met up with a “gay-friendly Iowan” who confronted them on the percentage of gay people in the population.

[W]hat Romney, Perry, and Bachmann are discovering is that gay and lesbian people are not mythical creatures they can bash with impunity to win religious right votes. Instead, they are real, living, breathing, taxpaying, churchgoing, and yes, voting, people who refuse to be silent when their lives are used as political fodder.

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