Is the Tea Party movement really anti-LGBT?
As national media attention turned to demonstrations that coincided with Tax Day earlier this month, liberal pundits and LGBT advocates remained on high alert for signs of anti-gay or racist rhetoric, validating claims from some the Tea Partiers’ ideology ventures far beyond purely fiscal matters. And they were there, albeit not as pronouncedly as some expected.
In Lansing, Mich., "Straight Pride" t-shirts were sold outside a Tea Party Express rally, with 15 percent of proceeds going back to the movement. At a Chicago rally, one demonstrator’s sign read "No Tax Dollars To Promote Lesbianism of Ellen Degeneris" [sic]. And, perhaps most flagrantly, in Greenville, S.C., William Gheen, head of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, attempted to out U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.,) saying "you need to come forward and tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality."
But some say these stories fail to tell the full truth behind the Tea Party’s position on LGBT issues and people. Gay conservatives argue the movement’s ambivalence, if acceptance, toward LGBTs could speak to a broader political opportunity as the GOP also shows some signs of moving beyond partisanship on some gay matters.
Bruce Carroll, a blogger for GayPatriot.net, which describes itself as "the Internet home for American gay conservatives" told EDGE that among the Tea Party and GOP events he’s attended, he has not seen a specific social dynamic expressed. His blog encouraged LGBT people to attend Tea Party rallies.
"It’s a big country, and there will be those kind of outliers present no matter what," said Carroll, acknowledging some of the anti-LGBT sentiment at the rallies. "But the foundational principles that attracted me to the movement is we’re worried about debt as a nation. And if you stick to those principles that are really important, the larger group will accept you no matter what other issues you might disagree on.[Anti-gay sentiment’s] an undercurrent, and I can’t say it’s surprising, but I think enough people are saying there are more important things to do and stand behind so that remains only an undercurrent," he added.
Carroll and others point to gay Mass. Lt. Gov. contender Richard Tisei and pro-marriage former Congressman Tom Campbell [R-Calif.,] who is challenging U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, and other Republicans as evidence the GOP itself may have put social conservatism aside while looking toward November.
Support of pro-LGBT legislation, including the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the passage of a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, remains a highly partisan concept in Washington. United States Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] previously supported the end of DADT, but recoiled when President Obama promised in his State of the Union he would repeal the policy. LGBT activists associated with GetEqual and Equality Across America responded with a sit-in protest at McCain’s Phoenix office on Monday, April 26.
But GetEqual has also criticized those on the Left; staging sit-ins in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco and Washington offices to demand action on ENDA. Activists in recent weeks have disrupted the president’s speech at a Boxer fundraiser in Los Angeles and chained themselves to the White House fence.