clock menu more-arrow no yes

We politicize everything else in the lives of LGBTQ people. Why not Orlando?

As Audre Lorde said, the personal is political.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Despite the fact that the largest mass shooting in US history took place at a gay bar during LGBTQ pride month, many have asked that the shooting not be politicized. After being pressed about her tenacious fight against same-sex marriage by Anderson Cooper on CNN, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, "Do you know what today is about? It’s about human beings." To which Cooper responded: "It’s about gay and lesbian human beings."

For many LGBTQ people whose lives are constantly politicized, calls to avoid politicizing the attack on the local community probably come as quite a surprise.

It took a Supreme Court case in 2003 to finally overturn laws that made it illegal for two people of the same gender to simply have sex. It was only a year ago that the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to prevent two adults of any gender to legally wed.

But with these legal victories, new political battlegrounds arise. These days, the battleground du jour of anti-LGBTQ politicians and advocates is the bathroom — North Carolina has literally politicized where transgender and gender nonconforming people can pee.

"The idea that legislating something as simple as peeing is legislating being," an activist at a Stonewall Inn gathering in New York on Sunday night told Vox. "I'm not sure what it means to not politicize something. Politicizing and politics are how we voice our feelings and voice our needs in society. So if those needs are safety, security, and an affirmation of our existence and politics is our voice … then that is exactly what it’s there for."

The last time many of the activists who spoke to Vox had gathered at the Stonewall Inn was barely a year ago, after marriage equality became the law of the land across the United States. With the freedom for millions to marry also came a surge of backlash against the LGBTQ community in the form of state-sponsored bills that limit particular freedoms.

In the past year, more anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced than in any other year in recent US history. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Strangio recently told Vox the organization counts at least 140 state bills introduced across the country, with the anticipation of even more bills next year.

This spring, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed one such bill into law, the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. The law allows state employees to refuse to give marriage licenses, housing, adoption services, or jobs to LGBTQ people on the grounds of "religious freedom."

In more than half of US states, LGBTQ employees have no protection against discrimination at work, and neither do LGBTQ students at school. So it's completely legal for a boss to fire an employee just because that person is gay, while queer youth — especially students of color — are pushed out of schools at high rates.

It was in this climate of legal discrimination that brutal violence against this politically targeted community took place. And what are politicians doing? They’re not legislating; they’re praying.

Well, praying while also accepting money from the most powerful lobbies on guns in this country, including the National Rifle Association, whose stance has been to refuse essentially any political regulation that would allow lawmakers to do the one thing they're supposed to do to squash gun violence in this country: engage in politics and pass laws to keep people safe.

In 2014 alone, the NRA spent $20,785,386 on election campaigns. That includes $460,832 in direct and independent expenditures toward Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted against background checks for assault rifles and against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The latter law prosecutes those who target LGBTQ people and people with disabilities with a hate crime enhancement, which was not a federal policy until it was passed in 2009. In other words, when McConnell had the opportunity to help prevent tragedies like the shooting in Orlando, he didn’t.

And then there’s Donald Trump (who says Kim Davis is "cool" and has suggested marriage equality should be reversed), who is suddenly condemning homophobia to oh-so-conveniently justify Islamophobia.

Never mind the fact that Muslims are more likely to be accepting of homosexuality than evangelical Christians, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses. As Glenn Greenwald noted for the Intercept, citing Pew data, "US Muslims are more likely to support same-sex marriage (42 percent support it) than are U.S. evangelicals (28 percent)." While American Muslims show support for a contentious issue like same-sex marriage, Trump has decided to use the shooting as proof that Muslim people are "anti-gay."

Politicians: The biggest mass shooting in history took place under your watch. Praying is a nice sentiment, but that's not your job. Bigotry is not your job. Legislating is your job. Do something.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.