Tonight at the RNC, gay libertarian (and Gawker-obsessive) Peter Thiel will take the stage, presumably to reassure the assembled Republicans that they're still a big-party tent where LGBTs are welcome, especially if you're a billionaire. (Heidi and Sydney, suffering through a week at the convention, have gone above and beyond in documenting the queer lives of gay Republicans in Cleveland.)
This is a relatively new tactic in the wake of the Pulse shooting: They're claiming that the GOP actually better for queer people than Democrats are, because only the GOP will stand up to Islam, the true enemy of homosexuality.
This is, obviously, toxic nonsense. For one thing, it erases the existence of queer Muslims. For another, Mike Pence has a history of siding with countries that round queers up for prison, torture, and execution.
Cast your mind back, if you will, to 2009, when Mike Pence was in Congress and his colleagues were debating HR 2410. That was basically a funding bill for the Department of State, and among its many provisions was Section 33, which read:
Requires the Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor to designate a Bureau-based officer or officers to track violence, criminalization, and restrictions on fundamental freedoms in foreign countries based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Directs the Secretary through U.S. diplomatic and consular missions to encourage foreign governments to reform or repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality or consensual homosexual conduct.
Amends the Foreign Assistance Act to include in the Department's annual country reports on human rights practices information on violence or discrimination affecting the fundamental freedoms of an individual based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
To boil that down, it would have arranged for the State Department to keep track of countries that criminalize homosexuality, and to politely ask them to stop doing that. Seems like that ought to be fairly uncontroversial, right?
Well, not to the honorable gentleman from Columbus. "This legislation... in embracing the advocacy of changes in laws regarding homosexuality around the world, advocates a set of values that are at odds with the majority of the American people," he said.
In other words, Mike Pence believed that a majority of Americans favored the criminalization of homosexuality; that civil rights should be protected only by consent of the majority; that unpopular groups deserve no protection.
As it happens, Americans were somewhat divided at the time, though public opinion probably wasn't where Mike said it was. A May 2009 Gallup survey had 56 percent of Americans saying that homosexuality should be legal, and 40 percent saying it should not. (The survey didn't ask about penalties, so we don't know how many Americans favorited the death penalty.)
Of course, Mike Pence insisted, he himself was above such beliefs! "Let me say emphatically, I do not support criminalization of homosexual behavior," he said in a May 2009 speech.
And yet, he added, "I oppose mandating that our Secretary of State, diplomatic and consular staff essentially promote a gay rights agenda around the globe... We ought to identify race, color, religion, sex, national origins, those matters upon which the American people broadly agree, rather than introducing and singling out an issue that divides so many in our Nation."
And so he tried to have Section 333 removed from the bill, with an amendment that deleted the entire thing and replaced it with language that protected people "regardless of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." Gee whiz, seems like something's missing from that list.
Even if Mike was correct that "the majority of the American people" thought homosexuality should be illegal — which they did not — his active opposition to decriminalization was a remarkably hostile act. Nothing could have been easier than sitting back and letting Section 333 sail by. But instead, he took the time to author an amendment, to bring it to a committee for debate, and to force a vote. He took action to strip international LGBTs of the barest minimum of protection.
His amendment failed.
Republicans want LGBTs to believe that Islam is coming for us, and that they'll protect us. "I think it’s important we have a sense of perspective," said congressional cakeboi Tom Cotton after Mike Pence signed Indiana's turn-away-the-gays bill last year. "In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay."
"The Muslim community," said Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks last month, "if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America."
Last night at the convention, Newt Gingrich oozed, “if our enemies had their way, gays, lesbians, and transgender citizens would be put to death, as they are today in the Islamic State and Iran.”
But Republicans had their chance to prove themselves. When presented with an opportunity to stand up for LGBTs abroad, the GOP's current Vice Presidential nominee responded with a shrug and a wink and a giant middle finger. Oh well, my hands are tied, the American people are divided, what can you do? Guess we'll have to keep letting gays get thrown off of rooftops because Americans do not "broadly agree" on whether that's okay.
What incredible leadership. What astounding bravery. What a champion of liberty.
When Peter Thiel takes the stage tonight, he'll do it on behalf of a platform that calls him unworthy of due process or equal protection, endorses ex-gay torture camps, and defends businesses that would segregate him from their lunch counters. Don't think for a second that the GOP's Platform Committee wouldn't have added "round up the queers" to that list if they could get away with it; that many of them wouldn't be standing on the gallows with a noose if they'd been born in Iran.
I hope Peter Thiel's money makes a comfortable mattress, and that he's somehow able to sleep at night. But not too soundly! With the bedfellows he's chosen, he should probably keep one eye open.