Tag Archives: culture warriors

Homophobes’ New Focus

A  2022 Grinnell College Poll found that 74% of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be a guaranteed right .Only 13% disagreed (the remaining13% were uncertain.) Also last year, Gallup announced that approval of same-sex marriage had hit a new high.

Faced with numbers like that, what are Republican homophobes to do?

Not that they aren’t trying. Daily Kos recently reported that

Conservatives are working hard to ostracize and delegitimize marginalized folks and are attacking the LGBTQ+ community wherever they can, ranging from sports bans to health care barriers to criminalizing drag shows. 

Given current American attitudes toward more “run-of-the-mill” gay folks, trans children have been taking the brunt of the  GOP’s attacks. 

As the ACLU has recently reminded us, even before this year’s start of state legislative sessions, the organization had pinpointed  over 25 pre-filed bills that “would strip away young transgender people’s ability to access necessary and life-saving health care.” Over 100 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced so far, and the majority target trans rights.

As the ACLU noted, the same politicians that don’t want women to control their own bodies also oppose allowing trans people to make decisions around their own gender identity and medical care.

I realize that Americans have had less time to become accustomed to–or even familiar with– the issues raised by transitioning. I can even understand the concerns around athletic performance and the possibility that trans women might have an unfair advantage, although medical science tells us those concerns are unwarranted.

It is much harder to understand the animus that leads GOP lawmakers to propose bills punishing supportive parents and doctors who provide medical care to transgender minors. It’s especially hard for me to understand why those legislators think they have a right to interfere in such profoundly personal matters.

South Dakota lawmakers have introduced a bill they call “Help Not Harm;” it would ban physicians from prescribing hormonal therapy and from performing gender-affirming surgeries on minors (something I’m told doesn’t occur). Physicians who provide such care would be subject to review by a medical board, and potential loss of their licenses.

Utah lawmakers have introduced several anti-trans bills. One would prevent trans youth from updating their birth certificates until they turn 18. A far more harmful bill would–in addition to banning that non-occurring surgery for minors — would also bar the puberty blockers and hormonal therapies that are prescribed.

Nebraska Republicans have introduced “Sports and Spaces”– banning youth from participating in sports teams that don’t align with their sex as assigned at birth. The bill would also bar trans youth from using locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

More than a dozen states have introduced anti-trans health care legislation. Dailly Kos lists Virginia, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Kansas, and Kentucky–and a friend of mine who lobbies Indiana’s General Assembly on behalf of several medical associations tells me they expect a similar attempt in Indiana.

Evidently, it isn’t enough to pick on women and trans children. The GOP knows how terribly dangerous librarians are. As the linked article reports,

Over in North Dakota, Republicans are racing to ban even more books. As reported by the Associated Press, Mike Lefor, who serves as House Majority Leader, introduced HB 1205 seeking to ban books with “sexually explicit” content from all public libraries in the state. Not just keep them out of young adult sections. Not just exclude them from certain programming. Not just from school libraries. Ban them from public libraries, period.

And yes, that “sexually explicit” includes depictions of gender identity and sexual orientation. The measure proposes up to 30 days imprisonment for librarians who don’t remove such books from libraries if the bill becomes law. Folks could also face a $1,500 fine and a Class B misdemeanor. 

When the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in Dobbs, it called into question an important principle of constitutional jurisprudence called substantive due process. That doctrine means that there are certain issues that government doesn’t get to decide. For over fifty years, the Court has recognized that “intimate personal decisions” not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights also must be protected against overreaching government– that the Bill of Rights requires respect for individual autonomy– that liberty means there are places in the lives of individuals where government doesn’t belong.

Only the individual involved can know who he or she or they really is. We can only hope that conflicted individuals are able to access the help of supportive parents and caring doctors–and even a librarian or two. 

Certainly not a state legislature.



The Worst-Case Scenario

Okay, thanks to some despicable behavior by the self-styled “moralists,” and millions of Koch brother dollars, Neil Gorsuch is now the newest Supreme Court Justice. So–aside from occupying Merrick Garland’s seat and a worrisome tendency to favor the arguments of corporate and “religious” litigants– what is the worst thing that can happen?

He manages to get Roe v. Wade overturned.

What would happen then?

Several red states would immediately pass laws making abortion illegal, something the Constitution currently prevents. Other states, however, would leave the decision where it belongs– with the woman, her family and her doctor. Women living in states prohibiting abortion– those who could afford it– would travel to states where it remained legal, and would have their abortions there. Others would go back to the remedies available in the “good old days”–coat hangers and dangerous “potions”– and many of them would die or become sterile.

Hopefully, there would be groups formed to raise money to cover the costs of poor women’s travel to states where abortion remained legal. We might expect the war on Planned Parenthood to abate somewhat–or at least devolve to the states– since the national anti-choice movement wouldn’t have Roe to kick around any more.

The political tsunami, however, would be the most interesting consequence of such a decision.

Survey research confirms that substantial majorities of Americans do not want to see Roe overturned. They may or may not support a woman’s choice to terminate her pregnancy, but they are appropriately leery of allowing government to dictate that decision. It is only a rabid anti-choice constituency that has maintained the political potency of reproductive choice as an issue. (I have a sneaking suspicion that most of these folks believe overturning Roe would end abortion in the U.S. It wouldn’t–it would simply leave the issue up to the states.)

Research suggests that anti-choice citizens are far more likely to be single-issue voters than pro-choice Americans. But that could change once a right that has been taken for granted is revoked. Pro-choice voters–especially women, who are already more likely to vote Democratic– would be more than irate; they would blame the GOP for the loss of reproductive liberty, and would be very likely to vote in even greater numbers against a party that so vividly demonstrated its contempt for women’s right to self-determination.

Anyone who participated in the Women’s March on Washington–in the nation’s capital, or in any of the multitude of other venues–and looked out over the sea of “pussy hats,” saw the signs being carried and heard the passionate speeches being made–understands the extent of the fury that would be unleashed by a Supreme Court  retreat from Roe v. Wade. Anti-choice activists have been a (generally marginal albeit important) asset to theocratic Republican candidates, but the pro-choice legions that would erupt after such a Court decision would create political blowback of massive proportions.

The GOP has used the issue of abortion to turn out a relatively small but very intense constituency in election after election.

If Roe is gone, the national GOP will no longer be able to rely on the issue of abortion to generate turnout, or to obscure or outweigh the party’s retrograde positions on other issues. If decisions about the legality of abortion devolve to the state level, the passions will also devolve. Some states will respect women’s right to autonomy, some will not. But in the absence of Roe v. Wade, abortion would lose its potency as a national right-wing wedge issue.

And Democrats would solidify their position as the party protecting and promoting women’s rights.

Republicans should be careful what they wish for.