|Photo courtesy of John Waiblinger.|
As Republicans met at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., last night in one of many presidential primary debates, there was also another group gathered just outside the library, one that was conspicuously absent from the discussion taking place inside.
GetEQUAL, a national direct action LGBT rights organization, organized a protest outside the Republican Debate to oppose the “hostile environment” the candidates have contributed to for the LGBT community.
The rally included a memorial for several LGBT youth who have fallen victim to hatred, either taking their own lives or being murdered by homophobic assailants. These victims include Marcellus Andrews, 19, of Waterloo, Iowa (Michele Bachmann’s birthplace); Lawrence King, 15, of Oxnard Calif.; Seth Walsh, 13, of Tahachapi, Calif.; and Justin Aaberg, 15, of Anoka, Minn.
Here are some quotes from a release sent out by GetEQUAL prior to the protest:
“While the GOP candidates jockey for position at the front of the political pack, our youth are taking their own lives in record numbers,” said Robin McGehee, Director of GetEQUAL. “It’s time for these candidates to lead, rather than to follow the bigoted and discriminatory philosophies of fringe, right-wing activists who insist on demonizing fellow Americans for political gain.”
Dan Fotou, GetEQUAL activist, states, “Republican candidates need to be reminded that they have the power to make a difference. Their party platform has, time and again, used the LGBT community for political theater to maintain their bigotry. What they fail to realize is the real impact their words carry – words that can result in death.”
“Every Presidential candidate, regardless of party affiliation, is responsible for the safety and care of Americans,” GetEQUAL activist Michael McKeon says. “It’s shameful that Governor Rick Perry refused to sign the Texas anti-bullying bill into law until all references to LGBT youth were removed – including the name of the young man, Asher Brown, for whom the law was to be named. In a state in which he and the GOP platform are calling for the criminalization of homosexuality, it’s no wonder that the safety of our community is at great risk.”
It comes as no great surprise that the protest – along with the LGBT children it honored – went unacknowledged inside the Reagan library; the Republicans jockeying for the nomination are among some of the most conservative, anti-gay lawmakers our country has known in recent politics. Rick Santorum, for instance, has compared homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality, and Michele Bachmann has insinuated that gay families are not real families. Rick Perry supports criminalizing gay sex, and Newt Gingrich thinks President Obama should be impeached for opposing the "Defense of Marriage Act." The track record for all of the candidates – perhaps with the exception of Ron Paul, whose supporters interestingly dotted the group of 20 - is mediocre at best, horrifying at worst.
I applaud GetEQUAL for taking the Republican presidential candidates to task for their unsavory political views. If we want to put pressure on presidential candidates – including Obama – to support LGBT rights in exchange for our electoral support, it is vital that we have a strong and conspicuous presence throughout the electoral process. We cannot be silent while candidates either ignore our interests or actively seek to work against them. I hope that there will be similar protests in the future, including at the sites of the 2012 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.