A January 6 article in Slate magazine poses this question: “Should You Respect Gay People if You Find Homosexuality Immoral?” Its author, Nathaniel Frank, opines that “a new breed of social conservatives, ground down by political correctness and the sense that the world is moving on without them” wants to “have their cake and eat it too” because they now “insist that, whatever they think of homosexuality, they not only love gay people, they also respect them.” It is, Frank notes, “the latest incarnation of ‘hate the sin, love the sinner.’” This strikes him as hypocritical.
Social conservatives voice increasing concern that they are being persecuted because their views on same-sex love are politically incorrect. Witness the recent upheaval of outrage because the A&E network suspended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for his public remarks about the supposed sinfulness of the gay lifestyle. We are, apparently, supposed to believe that Robertson thought he would make us repent of our sins and convert into heterosexuals. That politicians who think like Robertson might, instead, try to pass laws punishing us for being gay is not even supposed to cross our minds.
Frank expresses incredulity that anyone should respect people who are “constantly doing something you think is just plain wrong, something you may despise as intrinsically evil” and asks, “Why on earth wouldn’t you judge people who routinely engage in activity you deem intrinsically disordered, sinful or immoral?” His article was inspired by readers’ protests, following a piece he’d written about the Duck Dynasty controversy, because they thought he had painted Christians who disapproved of homosexuality in an unflattering light.
Social conservatives would have the world believe that LGBT Americans are only interested in their opinions because we want to pick on them. That if we simply left them alone and let them express themselves, we’d have nothing to fear. But it is precisely the social Right’s tendency to legislate their views that has led many of us to fear them. Indeed, will those who think we’re sinful be content to do no more than hold that opinion?
Frank observes that “both being gay and acting gay call for condemnation. If you believe this, or really any variation of it, then you believe that people who sexually desire members of the same sex are morally bad.” Those who truly believe this, he concludes, “ought to judge them, and rather harshly.”
Will the softening of rhetoric be accompanied by a more libertarian approach to social legislation, or is it merely a strategic PR shift? This is a question many LGBT Republicans ask as we view the kinder, gentler face social conservatives are now showing us. It is quite possible that just as the Roman Catholic Church under the new Pope Francis is trying to be nicer, while its teachings on homosexuality remain the same, the Republican Party is taking a page from the same playbook and speaking more softly to us, while carrying the same big stick. Will all the ramped-up outrage about gays’ “persecution” of Christians be used to justify further attempts to legislate against us?
Frank challenges social conservatives to “take responsibility for what you really believe.” As we move forward in another election year, sexual minorities in the GOP must issue the same challenge. More to the point, we must find out if social conservatives’ real beliefs about us might hurt more than just our feelings.