Can The Anti-Gay Right Ever Acknowledge The Human Toll Of Homophobia?

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

It will be days, even weeks, before the nation comes to terms with the horror in Orlando but one thing is already clear: homophobia kills. It can be quick and ruthless death from violence or the slow, relentless smothering of the spirit. The hatred that the LGBTQ community deals with daily takes a terrible toll, and the massacre in Orlando is homophobia writ large.

In light of the attack, the antigay right will be an awkward spot. Its existence depends upon looking upon our community as something less–less than good, less than American, less than equal, less than civilized. And, by his repulsive and cowardly actions, Omar Mateen made it clear that we were most of those things to him as well.

Except not less than American. If anything, if Mateen’s suspected radical Islamist background is proven real, he may well have chosen the nightclub he did because it represented everything he loathed about America.

So how is the antigay right going to handle that affront? Will the haters grudgingly acknowledge the humanity of the victims and the threat that the LGBT community lives under?

The early signs aren’t good.

Let’s start with the roundup of reactions from the Republican leadership. From those responses, you would think that the attack was just random. Conspicuously missing from many of the comments was mention of the word “gay.”

Speaker Paul Ryan set the tone when he offered prayers for generic “victims.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott also failed to mention the obvious. In his own state.

To his credit, Sen. Marco Rubio did say that if “this is something inspired by radical ideology, then I think common sense tells you that he targeted the gay community because of the views that exist in the radical Islamic community about the gay community.”

Rubio wasn’t alone in mentioning LGBTQ. Sen. Ted Cruz, no one’s idea of a gay rights supporter, did the same–but only to use it as a political bat against Democrats.

“For all the Democrats who are loud champions of the gay and lesbian community whenever there is a culture battle waging, now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians,” Cruz said. “Every human being has a right to live according to his or her faith and conscience, and nobody has a right to murder someone who doesn’t share their faith or sexual orientation. If you’re a Democratic politician and you really want to stand for LGBT, show real courage and stand up against the vicious ideology that has targeted our fellow Americans for murder.”

Now, given where Cruz is coming from, perhaps it’s a step forward to admit that you shouldn’t murder gay people. But Cruz is in no position to lecture anyone about standing up for equality. All he cares about is trying to make Democrats look weak. The only time we’re his “fellow Americans” is when it suits his rhetoric.

Worse than that, Cruz has been complicit in violent language directed toward gays. He had no problem sharing a stage with a minister who called for the execution of gays. In fact, he never even bothered to condemn the remarks.

Cruz’s comments reveal the immense blind spot of the antigay right. Of course, they condemn the attack. (Well, most of them. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tweeted a Bible verse: “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” It’s a sentiment Fred Phelps would love. )

But at the same time, antigay conservatives don’t see the full spectrum of homophobia and their place on it. Of all people, evangelist Franklin Graham issued a statement saying that “my prayers are with the many victims and family members who lost loved ones in the senseless shooting – now being called an act of terrorism – at a gay nightclub in Orlando early this morning.”

But Graham has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin for making Russia a haven for homophobia. He has described LGBT rights as “wicked” and “evil.”  He has called gay Christians “the enemy.”

Obviously, Graham hasn’t had a problem with virulent homophobia up until now.

In the end, the antigay right will shed some crocodile tears out of sympathy and go right back to its odious rhetoric. If anything, these right-wing activists will turn this attack around and make it about them–how Christians are routinely targeted and are at risk from violence. Even in the midst of the worst gun massacre in U.S. history and the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, they can’t–or won’t–change. All that matters is promoting their cause.

And if they can use 50 dead people in a gay nightclub to do it, they will.

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