Tuesday, July 26, 2016
by Jeremiah Ho
When I watch the news in this current election cycle and see reports that the RNC platform includes condemnation of marriage equality successes along with sentiments bolstering traditional marriage, I observe that the RNC seeks to forget the progress in LGBTQ rights from the last several summers, from U.S. v. Windsor to Obergefell v. Hodges. However, I wonder if the rhetoric isn’t a bit stale. After all, the ship is supposed to have sailed on the marriage issue. Last November, the Williams Institute reported that nationally 486,000 same-sex couples were married since Obergefell. I’m sure the numbers have risen since then. Did the RNC forget what happened in 2015?
A platform that advances the extremist American exceptionalism that social conservatives desire seeks to rehash the LGBTQ successes of the recent years—first, as a grudge and then more as an appropriation of the issue of sexual orientation anti-discrimination that stokes the base. The evidence of such LGBTQ opposition in the RNC platform points to just the sort of partisan processing that is required for the idea of marriage equality—and by proxy, sexual orientation antidiscrimination—to finally set within the national imagination. From an incrementalist perspective, this opposition is natural and must be played against the countervailing notions of progress and positive attitudes toward LGBTQ individuals in the public media right now.
Unfortunately, it is the Orlando gay latino nightclub attack that bookended the year of conversation regarding sexual minorities, stemming from Obergefell. But from Kim Davis to the debate over bathroom bills and even to the anti-marriage rhetoric in the RNC platform that brings us into the fall elections, the way to read all of this anti-LGBTQ rhetoric must be from the vantage point of human rights. Out of the countervailing perspectives on sexual minorities must be a continual understanding that all of these anti-LGBTQ ideas, rhetoric, and advances hurt the essential human rights entitlements that sexual minorities deserve. We need more media coverage on how to interpret the subtext of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that results from the RNC platform and pulls away from human rights sentiments.
Additionally, the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric of the RNC platform provides an opportunity for social conservatives and similar anti-LGBTQ movements to harness back the surge to dignify sexual minorities. Recently, Michelangelo Signorile at the HuffPost Queer Voices section posted an article demonstrating ways in which social conservatives, politically entrenched in the presidential elections, are manipulating the media to seem more “LGBTQ-friendly”. With a published RNC platform that denigrates recent pro-LGBTQ progress, I would agree with Signorile that any LGBTQ-friendliness offers a curious disconnect. In any event, the progress in the last year has given much leverage for sexual minorities and LGBTQ groups to assert their own dignity and respect. What ultimately must happen is public recognition that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, as currently exemplified by the RNC, is an ugly distraction, and a powerless, irrelevant stance on homophobia. Thus, the human rights angle is a powerful one, helped and advanced by every success within sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws. I hope we continue to ruminate about this critical human rights issue as both party conventions wrap up in this mid-summer, and as the nation prepares for the fall election.