Days after the Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion, Republican candidates for Michigan governor were asked if it was time to roll back constitutional protections for gay rights as well.
None of the five candidates came in defense of same-sex marriage.
“They need to rethink everything,” one candidate, Garrett Soldano, said during the debate in Warren, Michigan.
“The Michigan Constitution,” said another candidate, Ralph Rebandt, “says that for the betterment of society, marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Since the Supreme Court decision last month to overturn Roe v. Wade, anti-gay rhetoric and calls to roll back established LGBTQ protections have grown bolder. And while Republicans in Congress seem deeply divided over same-sex marriage — nearly 50 House Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday to support a bill that would recognize same-sex marriage at the federal level — many Republican officials and candidates across the country have attacking gay and transgender rights is a party norm this mid-season.
In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton said after the Roe reversal that he would be “willing and able” to defend in the Supreme Court any law criminalizing sodomy enacted by the legislature. Before that, the Republican Party of Texas adopted a platform that calls homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice.”
In Utah, Republican Senate President Stuart Adams said he would support his state to work with others to press the Supreme Court to overturn same-sex couples’ right to marry to make. In Arizona, Kari Lake, a candidate for governor who was backed by Donald J. Trump, in a June 29 debate confirmed her support for a bill banning children from drag shows — the latest target of supercharged rhetoric on the right.
And in the Michigan governor’s race, Mr. Soldano released an advertisement belittling the use of specific pronouns by those who fall short of traditional gender roles (“My Pronouns: Conservative/Patriot”) and accusing “the awake groomer mafia” of wanting to indoctrinate children.
Some Democrats and advocates of LGBTQ communities say the Republican attacks have heightened concerns that overthrowing Roe could undermine and also undermine other things built on the same legal basis — the right to privacy enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment. can lead to an increase in hate crimes. as suicides of LGBTQ youth.
“The dominoes have started to fall, and they won’t stop at just one,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who was the first openly gay person elected to serve in government office there. “People should see the connection between reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, interracial marriages — these things are all legally linked.”
This year, Republican-led states have already introduced numerous restrictions on transgender youth and on school discussions about sexual orientation and gender.
In June, Louisiana became the 18th state, all with GOP-led lawmakers, to ban transgender students from playing on sports teams that match their gender identities. Laws to ban the transition of medical treatments to people under 18, such as puberty blockers, hormones and surgery — advocating gender-affirming care — have been enacted by four states. And after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law in March banning classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in early classes, more than a dozen other states have taken to imitating it.
In all, more than 300 bills have been introduced this year to restrict LGBTQ rights in 23 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest advocacy organization.
The pending bills do not target same-sex marriage, but transgender youth, restrict school curricula and allow groups to deny services to LGBTQ people on the basis of religious belief. Most measures have failed to succeed due to opposition from Democrats and moderate Republicans.
Still, the Human Rights Campaign had characterized 2021 as the worst year in recent history for anti-LGBTQ laws after states passed seven measures banning transgender athletes from sports teams that match their gender identity. So far in 2022, those numbers are already higher.
Officials and television commentators on the right have accused opponents of some of those new restrictions on “sexualizing” or “nurturing” children. Grooming refers to the tactics sexual predators use to manipulate their victims, but it has been widely applied to the right to label gays and transgenders as child molesters, evoking an earlier era of homophobia.
Some conservative advocacy groups that have poured resources into transgender restrictions insist they are not aiming to challenge the 2015 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. But many LGBTQ advocates say they think their hard-won rights are under attack.
“The far right is being encouraged in a way they haven’t been in five decades,” said state representative Daniel Hernandez Jr. from Arizona, a Democrat and co-founder of the Legislature’s LGBTQ caucus. “In addition to trying to create even more restrictions on abortion, they are going after the LGBTQ community even more.”
Republicans say the laws targeting transgender youth are not transphobic — as the left sees them — but protect girls’ sports and curb irreversible medical treatment.
They said the issues have the power to peel away centrist voters, who, according to polls, are less committed to transgender rights than to same-sex marriage. A Washington Post-University of Maryland survey in May found that 55 percent of Americans oppose allowing transgender girls on girls’ high school teams. In a Gallup poll last year, 51 percent of Americans said changing one’s gender is “morally wrong.”
“I believe these are huge issues for swing voters and moderates,” said Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, a group that opposes protecting civil rights for LGBTQ people and plans to raise $12 by November. million to spend on advertising.
One of the group’s ads goes to Representative Peter Meijer, a Michigan Republican facing a primary challenge next month for co-sponsoring a house law that combines anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people with exemptions for religious groups. Announcing that there would be “men in girls’ locker rooms,” the ad asks, “Would you trust Meijer with your daughter?”
In contrast, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said “hate has no place” in the state after he vetoed an anti-transgender sports law. If passed into law, he said, the ban would “have a devastating impact on a vulnerable population already at greater risk of bullying and depression.”
A 2022 study from the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention group, found that nearly one in five transgender or gender-nonconforming youth had attempted suicide in the past year. LGBTQ youth who feel accepted at school and in the community reported a lower rate of suicide attempts.
The wave of transgender restrictions reflects a fortune reversal for social conservatives from just a few years ago, when a focus on “bathroom bills” caused a backlash. A North Carolina law passed in 2016 requiring people to use public restrooms that match their birth gender contributed to the defeat of the Republican governor who signed the bill.
“It made a lot of people wary of pursuing transgender rights,” said Gillian Branstetter, a communications strategist for the ACLU who is transgender.
But that changed with the focus on sports teams and transitional medicine for minors, she said.
On the right, the transgender restrictions have been imposed by advocacy groups that have long opposed LGBTQ rights and, in some cases, have been consulted in the drafting of legislation. And on the left, the wave of legislation has been used by liberal organizations to mobilize their bases, raise funds and aid voters in the midterm primaries in a hostile national political climate for Democrats.
In Arizona, where Republicans control the legislature and the governor’s office, a law was passed this year banning trans girls from participating in gender-based sports teams and transitioning surgeries for those under 18.
“My colleagues on the right have spent more time demonizing me and the LGBTQ community than I’ve ever seen,” said Mr. Hernandez, the state’s representative, who will compete in the Democratic primary for Congress on Aug. 2. in a Tucson-area chair.
In the primaries for governor of Arizona, Ms. Lake, the Trump-approved candidate leading some polls, seized upon a recent uproar over drag performers—in response to a viral video of kids at a Dallas drag show—for her sharp shift to the right.
“They kicked God out of school and welcomed the Drag Queens,” Ms Lake said in a… tweet last month. “They took down our flag and replaced it with a rainbow.” And Republican leaders in the Arizona legislature, denouncing “sexual perversion,” called for a law banning children from drag shows.
But a Phoenix drag performer, Rick Stevens, accused Ms. Lake, who he said had been a friend for years, of hypocrisy. “I’ve performed for Kari’s birthday, I’ve performed at her house (with kids around) and I’ve performed for her at some of the shadier bars in Phoenix,” he wrote on Instagram.
Stevens, who goes by the stage name Barbra Seville, posted photos of the two of them together – one with Mrs. Lake next to him while he’s dressed in drag, and another when he’s in drag and wearing Halloween-style skull makeup while she’s wearing it. posing next to him dressed as Elvis.
During a debate, Ms. Lake insisted that Mr. Stevens was lying about performing at her home and that her campaign was threatening to sue him for defamation.
Meanwhile, Ms. Nessel, the Democratic Attorney General in Michigan, joked at a June civil rights conference that drag queens “make everything better,” adding, “A drag queen for every school.” In response, Tudor Dixon, a Republican nominee for governor, this month called for legislation that would make parents sue school districts that host drag shows, despite there’s no evidence that any district has ever done so.
“We are taking the first step today to protect children,” said Ms. Dixon.