Texas has done something odious and horrible against gay people—an act of sheer malice that ultimately will not survive a Constitutional test in the courts: They have passed the so-called “Freedom to Serve Children Act.”
This mean-spirited, wholly unnecessary new edict “allows publicly funded foster care and adoption agencies to refuse to place children with non-Christian, unmarried or gay prospective parents.” (Does this mean Jews in Texas can no longer adopt?) Texas now immediately jumps into the lead as one of the most cruelly homophobic (and religiously intolerant) states in the nation, thanks to a Republican legislature and governor. The bill was pushed by the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, who argued their usual bigoted claptrap.
The president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, hardly uttered a peep about gay rights during the campaign; gay hatred—homophobia—was remarkably low-key this cycle. During the campaign, Trump implied he was cool with the LGBTQ community, and even with gay marriage. Even today, four-plus months into the disaster of this regime, we hear almost nothing publicly coming from Trump, members of his administration, or senior Republican members of Congress, concerning overturning gay marriage or restoring Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, although individual Republicans continue to express their revulsion of gay Americans when they’re among friends. Republicans seem happy to use the fig leaf of “states rights” to crack down on homosexuals.
But things are changing for the worse.
The fact is, lots of Republicans, perhaps a majority, remain absolutely opposed to any sort of break for gay people, and nowhere is that more evident than on social media. This blog appears on both Facebook and Twitter (circulated through the Huffington Post), and I get many comments from Trump supporters. I’m tough on their guy, and they feel the need to back him up and attack me. Fair enough. One thing these Republicans do in their comments is say or imply deprecating things about the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I live. Whenever I read negative comments about San Francisco from right wingers, I think they’re homophobic. Yes, you can attack San Francisco for being liberal, but Republicans don’t attack Portland Oregon or Austin Texas or Washington D.C. or Madison Wisconsin for being Democratic enclaves, so when they feel compelled to say something about me being “from San Francisco,” I read the tea leaves to determine what’s really going on. In most cases, you can almost see the sneer on their faces as they write those words, San Francisco; you can hear the contempt in their voices. “You’re from San Francisco. Gay, depraved, sick, ungodly. What else can we expect from you?”
Republicans are afraid to be too public about their homophobia because it’s unfashionable to do so. (Some people call this “political correctness,” but I don’t like that term, because it reduces what are fundamentally moral arguments to the level of partisan politics.) It’s good that we’ve reached a point in America where homophobes don’t feel free to voice their hatred of gay people. It took long enough! But the hardest core of the Republican Party is fundamentalist Christians, and they haven’t eased up on their homophobia one bit. They know they’re looked down on for that by a large part of America as ignorant; they know that homophobia is out-of-step with today’s standards, and that the rest of the developed world has moved towards LGBTQ acceptance; they know they’re being old-fashioned when they insist the God hates gays, and that marriage is between a man and a woman.
They don’t care; the fact that they’re more aligned with Islamic states on this topic doesn’t seem to concern them (even though they’re anti-Muslim). They take pride in being “wrong” in the popular sense and “right” in the Biblical sense. And I can respect that. You don’t have to win every fight to be proud of having fought it. We Democrats have lost very badly to Republicans in the last 6 or 7 years (except for Obama’s 2012 re-election triumph), but I’d rather lose an election than crater on my views or pander to people who are so misguided. So the Republican stubbornness does elicit from me a certain grudging respect.
Still, it is wise to keep in mind that a good many Republicans would do away with gay rights, if they got the chance. I’m sure they’re hoping Gorsuch is the magic bullet that will restore the status quo ante and push gays back into the closet. I don’t see it happening; stare decicis is too strong a value on the Supreme Court, and while a true fanatic like Clarence Thomas might not respect precedent, the Chief Justice appears to, and—let us hope—so does the newest Associate Justice.
This won’t stop local and state municipalities, like Texas, from enacting vindictive homophobic laws, such as allowing bakers to refuse to make wedding cakes for Adam and Steve. But the gay community can deal with that, through civil lawsuits and boycotts, if not through established law. Still, listen to the dog whistles from Republicans. I’m not big on predictions, but I don’t think it will be long before Trump—isolated, paranoid, beset by his scandals, and fundamentally amoral—issues a coy sign to the more deplorable of his followers about some gay-related thing: it will be subtle, but unmistakable. He already stuck his toe into the homophobic waters in his speech at Liberty University a few weeks ago, when he praised Jerry Falwell, thereby confirming to the Christian right that he agreed with Falwell’s policies, including his hysterical homophobia. In his speech Trump used the word “family” 9 times, more than “freedom” (4), “patriots” (3) or “dreams” (5), although less than “America” (13) or “God” (15). You know, when a Republican uses the word “family” speaking at an evangelical event, everybody in the audience knows exactly what he means: straight families. And then, of course, there are the intensely homophobic members of his inner circle: Vice President Pence (who is in favor of “conversion therapy”), Attorney-General Sessions (who voted against both gay marriage and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell), HUD Secretary Ben Carson (who compared gay sex to bestiality), and that friend of the workingman, Betsy DeVos, who has made sizable donations to anti-gay groups.
Then too, when the Trump administration published a photo of NATO leaders’ spouses last week, they omitted one person: the gay husband of Luxembourg’s Prime Minister. As a former Obama employee in the White House Public Engagement Office noted, “These things are carefully planned and worded (& with White House senior staff sign off).” So already, Trump is ramping up the visible symbols of Republican homophobia.
Expect it to continue. The more frightened Trump gets by RussiaGate (and it’s only beginning), the more he will turn to his Christian supporters for succor, and they will never, ever accept gay equality, as long as they live. They will, if they have to, fight to prevent it.