Last weekend, the United States suffered the worst mass shooting in its history: a slaughter of 49 people, including several members of the Orlando LGBTQ community in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Responses from American politicians were tediously routine in condemning the murders, considering their country is the only developed nation where mass shootings regularly happen.
From the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings to the most recent one in Orlando, there still remains a stagnant chasm between those who think buying guns should be regulated (or illegal) and people calling for less restrictions. Nevertheless, the mass shooting has provided yet another low for the Republican Party: its reluctance to call out the shootings as a hate crime targeted towards the LGBTQ community.
As mentioned by Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern, the victims “died as full and equal citizens under the law in spite of the Republican party’s best efforts to relegate them to second-class citizenship,” bringing Republican leaders to an awkward position. Take a look at the following tweets.
Our prayers are with those injured and killed early this morning in horrifying act of terror in Orlando.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 12, 2016
This is a horrific day for America. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims, survivors, and those touched by this terrible tragedy.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 12, 2016
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) June 12, 2016
We pray for those brutally attacked in Orlando. While we must learn more about the attacker, the victims & families will not be forgotten.
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) June 12, 2016
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
Notice how none of these posts acknowledge the shooting’s status as a hate crime towards the LGBTQ community – or at least without leading towards Republican talking points about being tough on terrorism. Even more curiously, take a look at Senator Ted Cruz’s official Facebook page, which contains a lengthy essay where (presumably) Cruz acknowledged the mass shooting’s impact on and targeting of the “gay and lesbian” community. Watch the deliberate phrasing within Cruz’s post.
While the post remains deceptively supportive of “homosexuals” and brilliantly plays the terrorism angle, it also makes no mention of Cruz’s unabashedly bigoted history as a politician. It’s almost impossible to make a full list of how backwards-thinking Cruz has been towards the LGBTQ community, including his consistent opposition to same-sex marriage, a past insinuation that transgender people trying to use the bathroom are actually sexual predators in disguise and open support of a man who once called for the death penalty for gay people.
His hypocrisy is added by a quick appeal to his political rivals on the other side of the spectrum: “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.” The message is clear to the queer community: Ted Cruz and his party may actively support ruining your every day lives, but at least they aren’t killers, so you should support them over Democrats. It’s simultaneously patronizing and despicable.
In another example of what’s become standard GOP sliminess, Senator Marco Rubio gave his own spin to last weekend’s massacre. Like Cruz, Rubio pivoted towards a message of toughness and vengeance targeted towards ISIS. Notice the tremendous amount of irony within one of the nation’s most staunch anti-LGBTQ senators using the same group as a political tool to further his message about terrorism.
These critiques aren’t limited to modern Republican party members, who practically squirm any time they are forced to acknowledge the LGBTQ community without condemning them . Bigotry has put the GOP on the wrong side of history for the last 35 years or so when it comes to gay rights. You don’t have to look far to find proof, whether it’s Jerry Falwell calling AIDS “the wrath of God upon homosexuals,” former president Ronald Reagan’s negligence in funding a cure for the disease, widespread party opposition to civil unions for gay and lesbian couples or something as basic as Cruz’s support for the law-breaking Kim Davis.
If you’re going to point to a religion’s innate homophobia a primary reason for why the shooter would kill so many people, you have to at least acknowledge the GOP’s innate culpability in creating and maintaining a culture where people within the LGBTQ community still suffer far greater likelihoods of becoming victims of violence and attempting suicide.
While several Democrats certainly have their fair share of blame for only recently standing up for these people (The shooter was a registered Democrat in the state of Florida, per FLVoters.com, a public database of registered voters), you don’t have to be a social justice activist or political scientist to acknowledge a clear correlation between extreme acts of homophobia like the Orlando massacre and Republicans’ historically shameful support of bigoted policy. Equating the two parties’ deleterious actions in the maintenance of stigmas facing queerness is nonsensical.
For Republicans who maintain will most likely excuses for their avoidance of direct solidarity with members of the LGBTQ community. Common ones include statements like “I pray for every loss of life regardless of gender, orientation, race, etc,” which falsely equates the experiences of every American, ignoring innate ears that sexual and gender minorities have growing up in the United States, such as higher chances of unemployment and workplace discrimination. Of course, you’ll almost never see that mentioned by conservative Facebook commenters.
At some point, it doesn’t matter whether the bigotry, apathy or patronization of the queer community is an act for the GOP’s voter base or if it’s out of genuine belief. For any human being with basic moral standards, the Orlando attack is a clear hate crime; a lashing out by a pathetic bigot looking to harm other people. Yet disappointingly, it’s another chance for Republicans to pretend to care about queer people, while still ignoring their party’s embarrassing, yet well-deserved villainous reputation among the LGBTQ community.