A Defense of Conservative Gays Endorsing Mitt Romney

Although I don’t personally endorse Romney — nor am I even old enough to vote — here’s my approach to why GOProud would continue to endorse Romney even after Obama announced he supported marriage equality, whereas Romney continues to refuse to.

This past Wednesday, conservative gay political group GOProud announced that it endorsed Romney for the 2012 upcoming presidential elections. The group said that they will continue to endorse Romney for his economic policies, although they do disagree with his social policies — namely, his refusal to endorse marriage equality or even domestic partnerships or civil unions.

As someone who has been on the more liberal side of politics from the time I could tell the difference (which coincided with the 2008 elections, where my middle school held a mock debate and elections and I was McCain — I won, by the way, in a 3:1 landslide victory. Many of my peers were crushed when the actual elections did not turn out the same way.),  I guess I owe it to myself to try and find a reason for why GOProud would endorse Romney.

Now, to be clear, the only reason that this is striking is specifically because Obama has recently announced his support of marriage equality. Before then, it really didn’t matter when it came to the presidential elections, as no candidate has ever before endorsed marriage equality.

While the presidential candidates that ran on the Republican tickets for the upcoming elections seem rather, shall we say, lackluster stances when it comes to marriage equality (with the notable exception of Ron Paul), it is important to note that marriage equality is not everyone’s top issue, even if they are themselves LGBT+ and would directly be affected by a president’s refusal to support marriage equality.

Second, and perhaps more convincing, there is a new and growing push among conservatives to support marriage equality. The reason cited by these conservatives is that supporting marriage equality is not necessarily in line with the Republican platform insofar as marriage equality would allow gays to vote, but, instead, it would fall directly under the libertarian belief of limiting government control over who does what in our country. By specifically refusing to support marriage equality, the theory continues, Republicans are contradicting the very libertarian beliefs that they have adopted for their economic policies. (This same libertarian philosophy, by the way, could also be applied to other social policies, such as abortion.)

Now, why don’t Republicans — specifically, Mitt Romney — support marriage equality? There are several reasons.

The first is the fact that the Republican Party, overall, is effectively in bed with the Christian right, which greatly inhibits their ability to support or endorse something that runs contrary to the Christian faith. Separation of Church and State aside, supporting marriage equality would leave the Republican Party without the support of the Christian right, leaving the Republican Party without a key group that has supported them for several decades, and leave that same key group that is the Christian right disenfranchised from the political system, which is something neither group would want — and Mitt Romney has caught so much flack for his Mormonism that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for him to further alienate the Christian right.

The second and perhaps more pressing reason is the ever-increasing partisanship of American politics to the point that neither major party is willing to compromise on issues. Author and vlogger John Green of the Vlogbrothers did a vlog back in April about the lack of will on either side to compromise, citing the lapse of funding of the Federal Aviation Administration, Medicare, and highway planning as just a few examples of issues that one party refuses to let go of despite the need for reforms. The same holds true for marriage equality: as one party (the Democratic Party) becomes increasingly supportive of the idea, the other party (the Republican Party) will become increasingly hostile to the idea. In doing so, it will become more and more difficult to get anything passed in Congress, as the two parties are unable to agree on an issue and work together, across party lines, to resolve the issue. Instead, the two parties will continue bickering and refuse to let go of their stance, either for ideological reasons or out of fear of losing key supporters.

In that vein, in a way, it’s actually good that GOProud has endorsed Romney. By showing that the LGBT+ community can defy the stereotype of being politically liberal and endorsing a Republican (read: politically and socially conservative) candidate for this election, we can actually begin to bridge the gap of partisan politics and move toward finding a bipartisan issue to agree on and work together to solve. GOProud has shown us that, one day, we could make marriage equality a bipartisan issue and has shown the Republican Party that support of marriage equality does not preclude one from a political affiliation, nor does it force a person to define his or her political affiliation solely on the issue of marriage equality. One can only hope that other groups can bridge the gap left between the two political parties on other issues, too, or for other LGBT+ groups to endorse Republican candidates, thereby, in a way, forcing the two political parties to work together on the issue to make marriage equality legal on a federal level.

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On Pinkwashing and Israel’s Human Rights Policies

After Tel Aviv was crowned the “Gay Capital” of the world (beating out New York, San Francisco, and Toronto, all of whom are considered to be the top of the “gay friendly” city scale), a new wave of anti-Israel sentiment emerged: the idea of “pinkwashing,” or Israel’s manipulation of its very good treatment of its LGBT+ population — cross-honoring same-gender marriages performed abroad (even though Israel itself does not perform them as per the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate), allowing same-gender couples to adopt, and even funding (at the city level) a youth center for queer teenagers in Tel Aviv — to mask the, what they often say, is the rampant violation of the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Most recently, a group of LGBT+ Israeli teenagers was set to meet with the Seattle LGBT Commission, to discuss combating homophobia while touring the United States. However, Jason Kirchick reports on Haaretz, they were refused the meeting after Seattle University School of Law Assistant Professor Dean Spade, one of the leaders of the so-called “pinkwashing movement” said that such a meeting would only be reinforcing the pinkwashing done by Israeli society today.

The basis of Spade’s argument is that there is homophobia and transphobia present in both Israeli and Palestinian society, and the use of Israel’s acceptance of the LGBT+ community is an unfair portrayal of society and worsens the PR image of the Palestinian community at the same time.

(As an aside, the idea of pinkwashing is not unique to Spade — Aeyel Gross, a law professor at Tel Aviv University, also supports the anti-pinkwashing movement, as seen in a video from the AP that I cannot seem to find a direct link to right now, but can be found in slide 7 of the slideshow at the bottom of this article from the Huffington Post.)

This is true — there is, without a doubt, homophobia ever-present in Israeli society. And although I’ve only been in Israel for a brief week, I’ve spoken to several leaders of the LGBT+ movement while I attended this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., including one of the founding members of the Labor Party LGBT Circle, the LGBT+ faction of Israel’s Labor Party. While homophobia and rejection of the LGBT+ community does exist, particularly in regards to the religious right, Israel has never sanctioned the punishment of queer citizens for identifying as LGBT+ (as has been done in the territories).

Secondly, as Kirchick points out, no one before the rise of the pinkwashing movement has ever even tried to equate the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza with Israel’s (or the Palestinians’) acceptance of the LGBT+ community. The two are inherently separate issues, and, in my opinion, cannot be equated. While there is an occupation in the Palestinian territories — even Yossi Klein HaLeivi, an Israeli journalist to the right of the political spectrum admits this in an article for Foreign Affairs — there is no reason that Israel’s acceptance of the LGBT+ community should be used in the same equation as the occupation.

Additionally, as Queerty’s Dan Avery points out, the organizations sponsoring the meeting with the Seattle LGBT Commission, chiefly the Association of Israeli LGBT Educational Organizations (AILO for short), is a non-government organzation — it has absolutely no bearing on Israel’s foreign policy, particularly in relation to its treatment or regarding of the Palestinians living in the occupied territories. Additionally, this delegation was not travelling for political reasons — Avery points out, via A Wider Bridge — that the group was working with PFLAG boards and chapters on combating homophobia and acceptance by parents of LGBT+ children, and HIV prevention and treatment. By refusing to meet with the delegation, the Seattle LGBT Commission missed out on the opportunity to question the legitimacy of the group and even to discuss what can be done in relation to the LGBT+ Palestinian community or other civil rights issues in Israel (even though whether or not asking the delegation about other civil rights issues is subject to a debate that I’m not going to get into here).

However, by refusing to meet with the delegation of Israeli teenagers — many of whom might even disagree with their government’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — the Seattle LGBT Commission is sending out the message that we, as progressive Americans, cannot effectively enter any sort of discourse surrounding any issues revolving human rights in Israel, lest we lend legitimacy to the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We are sending the message that the two issues are directly connected, even though, I’ll say it again: these are two separate issues that really have nothing to do with the other. You can criticize and praise a country simultaneously: I applaud President Obama’s signing the repeal of Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell, but criticize him for not having ended the Iraq War sooner. See? Was that so hard? By not meeting with the delegation, the Seattle LGBT Commission is sending out the message that some acceptance or social progress is worse than no progress.