Jason Stanford: Speak now, or forever hold your peace
It's hard to choose which was the bigger shock: a federal judge ruled Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, or the founder of a Republican gay-rights group quit the Republican Party. What could have ever driven a gay advocate from the GOP? Was it something they said?
Jimmy LaSalvia, the founder of the conservative gay advocacy group GOProud, recently changed his party registration to unaffiliated, writing on his blog, “I am every bit as conservative as I've always been, but I just can't bring myself to carry the Republican label any longer.”
Why? It was the “tolerance of bigotry in the GOP. The current leadership lacks the courage to stand up to it—I'm not sure they ever will,” wrote LaSalvia.
Maybe that's not fair. After all, when is the last time we invited Republican leaders to condemn anti-gay discrimination? And if we are going to invite the world's worst law firm of Cruz, Boehner, Christie, Ryan and McConnell to do this, we should offer them recent examples of what their silence is tacitly accepting.
To wit, of sorts.
On his radio show, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that “basic biology” dictated that acceptance of homosexuality would lead to the end of the human race and not, for example, floods, famine, plagues, or war.
“Its logical conclusion would be if it were normal it would be extinct, the human race would be extinct within time if it were normal,” said Perkins. “Biology says that only we exist as human beings is that a man and a woman come together and we procreate. That's the reason that government has long recognized marriage is because it is the place in which children are born.”
When the Republican leaders rush to condemn this pestilent prejudice, I would appreciate it if they could answer a serious question: If marriage is for procreation, and my wife and I decide not to have children, do I still have to take out the garbage?
Not wanting to miss the crazy train, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Clown Car, scolded the federal judges who've been on the equality kick to get some “basic plumbing lessons.” He summed up the legal reasoning behind recent rulings striking down gay-marriage bans in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah thusly: “Basically, we haven't seen any biological evidence to support marriage being between a man and a woman.”
Most Republican bigotry against gays ignores the whole “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights” and goes right for the fascination about what part goes where. Not so with Dave Agema, a former member of the Michigan House and a current member of the Republican National Committee, whose extremism in the defense of bigotry recently spilled over our borders when he took to Facebook to defend Russia's “common sense” anti-gay laws.
Here's what Agema calls “common sense”: Russia's law outlaws gays from public displays of affection, including holding hands, expressing positive messages about LGBT people, broadcasting or printing news stories that feature gays or lesbians, and treating gay and straight relationships as the same. Also, the rainbow flag is illegal.
This defense of Russia's legally enfranchised disenfranchisement finally drew censure from one Republican official.
“This is outrageous that a leader of the National Republican Party, my political party, is siding with an autocratic regime that believes in arresting political opponents, censoring reporters, jailing dissidents and eliminating free speech,” said Dennis Lennox, a precinct delegate in Michigan.
On his way out the door, LaSalvia credited this tolerance of anti-gay bigotry with why a recent Gallup poll showed that only 25 percent of Americans called themselves Republicans, an all-time low. It's not that Americans are less conservative, he wrote, but that they were “too embarrassed to formally affiliate with a party that's lost its way.”
Republicans can find their way back into the greater American family when they start speaking up about abhorrent comments such as those made by Agema, Gohmert and Perkins. By remaining silent about anti-gay prejudice, Republican leaders leave the impression that they agree with a position that most Americans equate with not letting blacks or women vote. So here's your chance, GOP.
Speak now, or forever hold your peace.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who writes columns for the Austin American-Statesman and MSNBC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JasStanford. His columns are distributed by the Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.