With midterm elections nearly upon us, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation’s LGBT media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, is urging the national media to scrutinize candidates who are attacking and denigrating our community in an attempt to gain political points.
As attitudes continually shift in favor of full equality for LGBT people and our families, many politicians still mistakenly believe that voters will support their use of anti-gay rhetoric as a campaign strategy. In this campaign season alone:
• Michigan Republican Kim Meltzer sent out campaign materials that depicted primary opponent Leon Drolet’s face superimposed over a rainbow flag, included two male figures holding hands, and claimed that Drolet “would allow homosexual gross indecency in public places,” “exposing our children to that filth.”
• Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern defended her previous statement that gays and lesbians are more dangerous than terrorists, telling local TV, “Here in America we’ve had what, maybe three known real big terrorist attacks on our nation? But every day our young people especially — all of us, but our young people especially — are in a sense bombarded with the message that homosexuality is normal and natural.”
• Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal ran a series of ads that attacked primary opponent Karen Handel for having supported LGBT teen group YouthPride and for having been in favor of domestic partner benefits. The ads called Handel’s past support for gay issues “the last straw” for voters.
• Failed Iowa gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats lost in the primary, but then launched a campaign called “Iowa for Freedom” to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality in the state. He said removing those justices could be “the most important election in our country.”
• Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch disparaged millions of gay and lesbian people of faith when he remarked at a town hall meeting that, “Gays and lesbians don’t pay tithing, their religion is politics.”
• Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is running for re-election, told an audience, “There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it’s called Texas. We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation.” He then asked, “Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”
• Iowa Republican Jeremy Walters, a candidate for the State House, wrote on his Facebook page that to be gay “is not of God,” quoted Bible verses that said gay people should be “put to death; their blood shall be upon them,” and suggested that AIDS was God’s punishment.
These examples underscore a campaign season that has seen some of the ugliest anti-gay attacks in years. But they also show how out of touch these candidates are with the people they are seeking to represent.
Last month, CNN found that more than half of all Americans believe the Constitution should grant gay and lesbian couples the ability to marry. On issues like allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly or ending workplace discrimination, Americans are even more overwhelmingly supportive.
“It’s troubling that many candidates still think they can win support by disparaging LGBT people,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “Media have a responsibility to present stories that truly reflect the changing tide of public opinion in favor of our community and expose attempts to use our lives as a political wedge issue.
“GLAAD urges journalists who cover these campaigns to spotlight the motivation behind these ugly anti-gay tactics that put our community in harm’s way,” he added. “As more and more fair-minded people hear our stories and learn what’s at stake for us, they are overwhelmingly supporting our full equality.”
GLAAD is continuing to monitor the local and national dialogue in this election season to inform the media and the American public when candidates put forth such inaccuracies and defamation.
more news notes…
> U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled Sept. 9 that the 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law is unconstitutional. Along with her ruling, Judge Phillips indicated that she will issue a permanent injunction barring the Department of Defense from carrying out further discharges. The ruling will not take effect right away, however. The Justice Department, which defended the policy in court, can appeal the ruling and has until Sept. 23 to submit objections to the court regarding the injunction. An appeal is expected and observers predict the case will linger for years.
> Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has appointed Monica Marie Marquez to the Colorado Supreme Court. She will become the first Latina and first out lesbian to serve on the state’s highest court when her appointment becomes effective on Nov. 30. Marquez leads the State Services Section of the Attorney General’s Office, which represents nine of the 16 executive branch agencies in Colorado. She specializes in appellate litigation and has represented the state, in both state and federal appellate courts, in cases involving fiscal policy, education, healthcare, elections, redistricting and campaign finance.
> New York Gov. David Paterson signed Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) into law Sept. 8, making New York the 10th state to enact an enumerated anti-bullying law that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, which research shows is essential to addressing anti-LGBT bullying. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network has worked to pass an anti-bullying bill in New York since a version was first introduced in 1999. DASA has passed the Assembly seven times but failed to pass the Senate Education Committee in each instance until this session. DASA prohibits bullying in schools and includes a list of characteristics most often targeted by bullies, including race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
> Lambda Legal has settled its lawsuit on behalf of an HIV-positive retired university provost and former minister against Fox Ridge, a North Little Rock assisted living facility. Rev. Dr. Robert Franke relocated to Little Rock to be closer to his daughter and moved in to Fox Ridge after fulfilling residency requirements that included submission of medical evaluation forms from a local physician. The next day — after realizing Dr. Franke is HIV-positive — Fox Ridge officials ejected Dr. Franke from the facility. With the assistance of Lambda Legal, Franke sued under the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and similar state laws.
> According to the Army’s website, an online inbox has been established for personnel to submit their thoughts and opinions on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The inbox will reportedly be open until Sept. 30 or until leadership feels it has achieved its purpose. The site says the inbox is a tool to help the Army assess the impact allowing openly gay, lesbian and bisexual service members would have on operations, readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and family readiness. It adds that the information gleaned from the comments will be shared with the Dept. of Defense Comprehensive Review Working Group currently studying DADT repeal. The working group’s final report is due to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates by Dec. 1.
> Hundreds of LGBT people marched in Nepal’s ninth Pride Parade in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu Aug. 25. Organizer Sunil Pant, an openly gay Nepalese parliamentarian and founder of LGBT advocacy group Blue Diamond Society, said the march was, as usual, timed to coincide with the Hindu festival of Gai Jatra which commemorates the death of a relative during the year. The event was reportedly attended by tourists and foreign ambassadors including the British Ambassador to Nepal, John Tucknott. In 2008, Nepal became the first country in the world to officially recognize a “third gender” following a landmark Supreme Court ruling. The Himalayan country could be the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage if the bill that is going through parliament is approved. : :