Gay Bashing as Campaign Strategy: What’s Up with Texas’ Republican Party?


Meeting at their annual Texas Republican Convention, approximately 10,000 party regulars came to Fort Worth to craft the party’s platform ahead of 2016 elections. Returning to their perennial obsession with homosexuality, this year they included a clause that reads:

“We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”

Actually, California under Governor Jerry Brown and New Jersey under Governor Chris Christy have measures outlawing the practice of so-called “reparative therapy,” stemming from every reputable medical and psychiatric organization, including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association, which have concluded that this practice has been found not only ineffective, but more importantly, unsafe and psychologically destructive.
The Texas Republican platform further supports“the enforcement of the State and Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),”a federal law that grants the states the right to refuse to recognize marriages for same-sex couples in other states, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional in 2013.
According toJonathan Saenz, president of the conservative Texas Values organization and platform convention delegate:

“The platform reflects what the people in the Republican Party have asked for, and that should be no surprise: family values, protection of marriage between one man and one woman, and everything that goes along with that.”

While objectionable and inflammatory, the wording of the latest incarnation, in relative terms, appears as a slight improvement over language codified throughout the past decade, whichstates:

“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God.”

A significant number of convention goers, however, lobbied to retain the phrase “homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit.”
Just two days following the Texas Republican Party’s new resolution on homosexuality and “reparative” counseling, Texas Governor Rick Perry, when asked by the moderator at a speaking event in San Francisco whether he considered homosexuality to be a disorder, compared homosexuality to alcoholism:

“Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that. I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”

A Symptom of Perry’s Foot-In-Mouth Disease
In my capacity as Associate Professor at Iowa State University in Ames, I taught courses in multicultural education and also lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer studies. During the final week of classes during the fall semester in December, 2011, I was reviewing with students the course material in anticipation of their final exam. Throughout the semester in our Queer Studies course, we discussed the presidential candidates’ positions on the issues. One student asked if we could take a few minutes for him to show Texas Governor Rick Perry’s latest presidential campaign TV ad titled “Strong.”
Projected on the video screen, Perry looking intensely into the camera, wearing a tan leather coat, sounds of composer Aaron Copeland (who, by the way, was an out gay man) streaming in the background, Perry announced:

“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pews everySundayto know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”

Visibly shaken, some students wiped tears from their eyes and cheeks. Others looked bewildered, mouths open, audible gasps escaping. I too felt shaken, attacked, saddened, overwhelmed by Perry’s sheer unapologetic and marginalizing tone, and by his blatantly dishonest and deceptive statements.
I learned that Perry was due to speak at a local café in Ames on a campaign stop. I showed up at the event thirty minutes before his scheduled arrival giving me some time to talk with his supporters. The candidate arrived and mounted the small platform stage. I had intended to ask him questions regarding his “Strong” TV ad, and I listened to his canned stump speech. When he seemed to come to a natural break in his remarks, I raised my hand. Being only a few short feet from the candidate, he looked me in the eyes, then continued his brief remarks. As he concluded, I again raised my hand and he again looked at me, but then turned and departed the stage for the back door of the café, for he obviously had no intentions of considering questions.
At this point, I realized that if I were to raise my concerns over his campaign ad, I would have no option other than to shout. Though my intent in coming to this event was to engage in a reasonable give and take with the candidate, I cupped my hands around my mouth, and yelled, “Why are you marginalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people! Why are you marginalizing non-Christians!” which I repeated a number of times.
At this point, Perry supporters attempted to drown me out by shouting the candidate’s name in loud unison. One of his supporter’s yelled at me: “Hey, this is MY country. This is NOT your country.” Someone in the crowd accused me of being “religiously prejudiced” against Perry’s views.
After the event hit the media, a local newspaper referred to me as “a heckler.” One of my students called me and explained: “Well, I guess the definition of a heckler is someone who asks a question that someone else doesn’t want to answer.” A man who read the news accounts emailed me stating that the “Founders were all Christians who had intended this as a Christian nation.” Stemming from his assumption upon reading my last name that I am Jewish, he continued that “if you don’t like it here, then you should move to Israel!”
Scapegoating and Stereotyping
To Governor Perry and the Republican Party of Texas, I ask whether you believe it is an effective political strategy to scapegoat and stereotype others for causing the problems we face in our country? Is it an effective political strategy to disseminate misleading information, at best, and play on the fears of potential voters so you and your party can ascend the political ladder?
Oh, maybe in the short term, you will garner some additional votes, and maybe you will even win a few elections as you continue in your efforts to legislate us into second-class citizenship status and codify your so-called “values” into law. Ultimately, however, as the electorate increasingly progresses, your policies will come raining down upon you.
A central tenet of liberation is the right of people to self-define, to create and maintain their subjectivity and agency over the course of their lives. With our loving allies, we are taking back the discourse and demanding that you curb your offensive statements and policies. We will never again allow you tosymbolically use our bodies as stepping stones to advance your political ends.
As the once mighty dinosaurs lived and roamed across this planet, metaphorically, the coming electoral meteor storms will soon plummet down at multiple times the speed of sound to choke off light and oxygen from your party.

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