Political Party Condescends to Gays
This commentary reflects the opinions of the author, and is not necessarily those of the other contributors of Box Turtle Bulletin.
February 8th, 2008
A lawsuit has revealed some rather discouraging details about the relationship between the Republican Party and the gay community. The Peter Pace controversy highlights the ways in which the Party was condescending and dismissive of gay Americans.
In March 2007, Major General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about the continued relevance of the anti-gay Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell policy which discriminates against gay service members.
“I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,” Gen Pace told the Chicago Tribune.
“As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior,” he said.
This sort of statement was met with shock. Some, such as Carl Levin the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a strong rebuke:
“I strongly disagree with the chairman’s views that homosexuality is immoral.”
However, this was not the universal response. Both leading presidential candidates for the Republican nomination were less forceful, one ignored questions while the other said that it was up to “others to conclude” whether homosexuality is immoral. Both positions were later repackaged – as a result of public outrage – but the initial response was a total lack of concern.
This dismissal of the blatant insult was also shared at the Party level.
A series of emails released as part of a lawsuit, and analyzed by the Washington Blade, demonstrates a willingness to condescend to gay constituents. The Republican Party sought the weakest response possible and contemplated releasing the response solely to the gay press while seeking to keep it quiet from the mainstream press. They didn’t want to offend their religious voters by suggesting that gay people might not be inherently immoral.
OH WAIT, I MISTYPED
It was not the Republican Party that was condescending. It was the Democratic Party.
The ranking member of the Armed Services Committee that condemned Pace’s statements was Republican John Warner from Virginia.
And it was the Democrat Party that sought a weak response provided solely to gay press.
As the Blade reports
LaVera e-mailed Karen Finney, DNC’s director of communications: “Brian [Bond] is concerned that we might take hits if we don’t comment on it — not so much on the merits of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ but on Pace’s language about immorality, etc. Personally, I’m concerned that we’ll create too many problems if [DNC Chair Howard] Dean condemns the sitting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during a time of war. I think it’s better to do a statement from a DNC spokesperson saying Pace’s rhetoric isn’t constructive.”
In the protracted e-mail exchange obtained by the Blade, LaVera and Daughtry advocate for sending a statement only to reporters working for gay press and keeping any mention of it off the DNC web site. They also oppose sending the statement to mainstream news wires. That way, the DNC can have it both ways — placating the gays with a toothless statement while ensuring that any faintly pro-gay statements don’t gain traction or visibility in mainstream media. The DNC leadership wouldn’t want to go out on a limb and actually stand up for the dignity of gay service members who had just been called “immoral,” because that might offend one of those religious voters that Dean and Daughtry are so desperate to please.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not trying to suggest that the Republican Party as a whole is better on gay issues than the Democratic Party. That is clearly not the case.
However, I believe that we have, as a community, been willing to accept crumbs and scraps while paying for tenderloin. The gay community has been disproportionately generous with our money, our time, and our loyalty. And we receive so little in return. We would have seen the actions above if taken by Republicans as evidence of animus while we make excuses for Democrats who talk nicey-nice to our faces while treating us like the ugly red-headed stepchild of which they are ashamed.
I recognize the importance of political pragmatism. We gain nothing by supporting fringe candidates or by ignoring that some progress is better than none.
But I think that it is time for us to be upfront. It is time for us to tell our candidates, “I may be voting for you, but you stink on my issues.” It’s time to stop pretending that second-class is worthy of praise. We need to tell candidates, be they Republican or Democrat, that anything less than equality is discrimination, condescension, and morally bankrupt.
It’s now time for candidates of all stripes to come to realize that partial bigotry is bigotry, that partial inequality is inequality. They may get our vote, but they do not deserve our respect.