Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Question for the (Venango County) Republican Party?

by Faith In America:

An ad that appears today in the Raleigh News and Observer as part of Faith in America’s current billboard campaign asks the question: “Is the Republican Party the party of religion-based bigotry?”

The answer is no in respect to the ideals upon which the GOP was founded upon. The Republican Party when founded in the later 1800s by people opposed to slavery, certainly set forth at its origination ideals that are in direct conflict to treating a group of people as inferior and undeserving of human dignity.

However, the influence of anti-gay religious organizations during the previous 30 years has branded the Republican Party as a political party that fully embraces religion-based stigma and hostility toward gay and lesbian Americans. Such an embrace has been a powerful force of oppression. It has been one of the key ingredients in the mortar mixture that has held in place a wall of prejudice, misunderstanding and discrimination. Most importantly yet sadly, is has aided and abetted the destruction of young lives.

When certain conservative religious organization in the early 1980s began to identify opposition to LGBT equality as a political tool to recruit new members and motivate existing constituencies, they turned the Republican Party to fortify those efforts. Sara Diamond, an author who has written several acclaimed books on the history of the Religious Right, describes in “Not By Politics Alone” how the GOP had by that time already formed a foundation for such a alliance through its support of other Religious Right causes – mainly desegragated church schools and the Equal Rights Amendment for women. The Religious Right’s terribly oppressive message that gay and lesbian Americans – because of their “homosexual lifestyle” – were a threat to society began to be injected into the rhetoric of Republican candidates seeking to capture votes at the behest of the Religious Right. The marriage between the Christian Right and GOP has been tenuous at times and still today but no one can dispute how hostility toward gay Americans has been used in Republican political rhethoric and as a tool to garner votes.

We still see remnants of the prejudices toward other minorities that were involved in that early history of the Religious Right’s alliance with the Republican Party.

Just last week, Republican Oklahoma lawmaker Sally Kerns said she apologized “for my statements last night about African Americans and women.” Here in North Carolina, Republican State Senator James Forrester last year was quoted in a Statesville Landmark article to say “slick city lawyers and homosexual lobbies and African-American lobbies are running Raleigh.” Kern is best known for saying gay folks are the “biggest threat our nation has” at a 2008 gathering of Republicans. Forrester introduced an anti-gay marriage initiative this year in the N.C. General Assembly – as he has done numerous times in the past.

As an organization whose mission is to bring awareness and understanding about the harm caused by religion-based bigotry, Faith in America is compelled to address how this awful form of bigotry has been widely promoted through the political discourse.

It is incumbent of both Republicans and Democrats to stand against the harm that is unleashed on LGBT individuals and society by such an oppressive force. LGBT youth literally are ending their lives because of a societal climate of stigma and hostility – a climate that has been both justified and promoted through anti-gay religious organizations’ influence within the Republican Party.

The Associated Press reported on April 17 that suicide attempts by gay teens — and even straight kids — “are more common in politically conservative areas where schools don’t have programs supporting gay rights, a study involving nearly 32,000 high school students found. Those factors raised the odds and were a substantial influence on suicide attempts even when known risk contributors like depression and being bullied were considered, study author Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher, was quoted to ay in the article.

It is not difficult to understand how such bigotry is making its way into the minds of our children. It also is not difficult to understand how such stigma and hostility affects gay and lesbian youth in such a hurtful way.

Imagine the 13-year-old gay teen in Raleigh reading a newspaper in the school library in which Mecklenburg Republican County Commissioner Bill James was quoted to say the purpose of the proposed anti-marriage amendment is “to put a big letter of shame on the behavior. We don’t want them here. We don’t want them marrying.”

The messages to gay youth being promoted by the anti-gay religious groups and their political cohorts are: You deserve to be shamed by society, you are a threat to your family and society as a whole, and you are not wanted.

There can be no doubt about the emotional and psychological harm that such messages inflict on LGBT people, youth and their families and on a community as a whole.

No political party should ever embrace putting a group of American citizens, especially young kids, in the path of such harmful bigotry, prejudice and discrimination.

We ask Republican lawmakers, dedicated to the ideals on which their party was founded, to stand against religion-based bigotry toward North Carolinas gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. We ask Democratic lawmakers to stand with their Republican colleagues in this effort.

We sincerely believe such a stance will be in keeping with the majority of North Carolinian Republicans and nationwide as well, as evidenced by a recent poll that showed 51 percent of Republicans favor legal recognition of same-sex couples’ relationships. We have no doubt that trend will continue as that same poll found greater support from Republicans under age 50.

As new voices of social justice and equality are being heard around the world, we are hopeful North Carolina lawmakers will raise their voices against religion-based bigotry and the injustice and inequality it seeks to promote against this state’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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