Far right has gay rights in its sights, again


If there was ever a banner year in the gay rights movement, it was 2015, with the Supreme Court saying that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples under the Constitution. Even though many states had already legalized same-sex marriage, those rights and privileges were still limited and unrecognized by the federal government.

It’s also been the year of the “T” in the LGBT community as more trans people came out of the closet. This segment of the LGBT community has always fought hard in the larger gay rights movement, even when it didn’t seem to benefit them. We’re more aware and inclusive of the trans community and we know more about gender identity and gender expression, though a lot of work remains.

But if you think the fight is over and the LGBT community is so mainstream that awareness and political action is less important, you're mistaken. And you might be in for a huge shock after next November's elections.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio made it clear on NBC’s Meet the Press that he would do everything in his power to set the LGBT movement back decades. He doesn’t approve of same-sex marriage.

Rubio’s remarks are probably meant to chum the waters for conservative evangelicals, still a strong and active wing of the Republican base who firmly believe that religion is under attack in the US.

It also underscores what many people often lose sight of when it comes to presidential elections: the election isn’t just to decide who will be president; it’s also about who that person will try to appoint to the Supreme Court — the third branch of federal government.

Rubio, like other Republican presidential candidates, is not happy with the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality, and vowed that his appointments would reverse that decision. Senator Ted Cruz has made similar comments. And a threat from Rubio and Cruz, who seems to never run out of reasons to shut down the government, should be taken seriously.

Far-right pastor Kevin Swanson says that homosexuality should be punishable by death. That didn’t stop presidential candidates Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal from speaking at the National Religious Liberties Conference earlier this year, which Swanson helped organize.

The GOP’s history of whipping up homophobia is nothing new. But in this political climate when women’s health, diversity, and social equality can be conflated into an attack on religious freedom, the LGBT movement may be more important than ever.