Now that Wednesday night’s Republican Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is history, it is important that we look back at what was said – or more accurately what was not said – during the debate.
Though the candidates argued about issues such things as healthcare, climate change, the role of the Department of Homeland Security, and the death penalty, what was conspicuously absent was any questions or comments regarding LGBT rights and/or equality.
Even when discussing the issue of Immigration reform, there was no mention by any of the candidates about the struggles of gay and lesbian Americans who have a foreign spouse.
To me, it is a representation of the Republican parties overall dismissal of LGBT rights and equality which leads us to the situation that we had tonight; that is, of the complete absence of any mention of LGBT Americans. Considering that candidates such as Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann have made their mark in politics by being warriors in the “culture wars”, this absence is even more surprising.
This absence could be viewed in two different ways.
First, it could be construed to remind us Americans who are LGBT that the majority of the Republican party — save a few individuals and groups like Fred Karger, Log Cabin Republicans, and Jon Huntsman — would like nothing more than to see us put back into the closet.
They do not view our issues as “important” or even worthy of airtime; to these candidates, our cry for legal and social equality does not compare to the economic ills that plague the U.S.. There are more “important” things to worry about, why even worry about the gays.
On the other hand, the absence of LGBT issues in the debate could be construed as a positive development.
LGBT rights are not the “hot-button” issue that they were in the 2004 election; so why risk alienating the moderate voters? Could it be that there was no mention of marriage equality, workplace discrimination, or immigration reform for LGBT people, because the candidates don’t want their radical views on the subject to be the main topic of media reports? Could it be that these candidates know that the reign of the Religious Right and social conservative wing of the Republican party is slowly coming to an end?
Though the second rational may seem logical and even preferable to believe, it fails to recognize that these candidates have not only made their opposition to LGBT equality clear (read Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum), but they have gone out of their way to do so. It is therefore more likely that these candidates do not even recognize the legitimacy of our struggle (no surprise there) and do not even think that it is worthy of discussion.
It is clear, that to these candidates for the Republican nomination for President, LGBT people should be relegated back to the political closet; in favor of the more “important” issues facing America.
Wednesday night’s debate should be a lesson for our community; we must not be silent … otherwise, we will be forced to be so.