By now we've all heard about Congressman Barney Frank's indelicate comments about LGBT Republicans. While public statements about the incident have been covered on Bilerico already, I want to tear into what he had to say and the truth of the matter.
While speaking before the LGBT caucus at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, retiring openly-gay Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) made some controversial remarks about LGBT Republicans including:
I'm beginning to think that maybe they're called the Log Cabin club because their role model is Uncle Tom.
The "Log Cabin club" was clearly a reference to the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), an LGBT advocacy group made up primarily Republican identified LGBT people and their allies. The LCR was swift to respond, saying in part:
...by speaking conservative to conservative about gay rights, Log Cabin Republicans are doing some of the hardest work in the movement.
LGBT organizations, including HRC, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and even the National Stonewall Democrats, an organization Frank helped found, were quick to get some distance from his comments. It's easy to understand why, these are all groups that have to be able to work together when push comes to shove.
So what then, are we to make of Barney Frank's view that LGBT Republicans are "overly subservient to or cooperative with authority" as a members of a minority group, in this case the "authority" being the GOP?
First off, we have to take a moment to call "bullshit" on any implications that Rep. Frank misspoke. Even leaving aside the somewhat outlandish possibility that as veteran a politician as he could misspeak in this way at a nationally covered event, he actually had made similar statements on Michelangelo Signorile's radio show previously. The Congressman meant exactly what he said, and as a gay political trailblazer, not to mention a lame duck congressman, if anyone had the right/freedom to "go there," it was him.
The reality is that LGBT people operating within and on behalf of the Republican Party are giving their support to an organization whose own platform is radically opposed to equality for our community. Moreover, by remaining visible and vocal supporters of the GOP, they give the party social and political cover for their discriminatory positions. When called out on their bigotry, the Republicans can always point to organizations like the Log Cabin Republicans and their more radical cousins GOProud, and say something along the lines of "These gays are fine with how the GOP treats LGBT people, so it must all be fine.
I understand the idea people can hold many different political issues that bridge party lines. The gods know that I've broken with traditional Democratic Party ideals in this very blog on issues like gun rights and hate speech.
At the same time however, the struggle for both legal equality and societal acceptance for LGBT people is a struggle for our age, and I honestly don't know how an LGBT person chooses to side with the political party that is seeking to keep that equality from us.
Our civil rights aren't an area where reasonable people can agree to disagree. I won't deny that Republican LGB(T) groups (the LCR is trans* inclusive, but GOProud doesn't mention trans* people on their website or in their literature), and the Log Cabin Republicans in particular, have done some good and even invaluable work for our community.
However, the argument that on the balance, their support in money, votes, and visibility, for the Republican agenda has done more harm to LGBT equality than good, is a legitimate one for someone in Congressman Frank's position to make.
So Barney Frank made a hyperbolic (and somewhat racially charged) slur against LGBT Republicans. It wasn't nice and it wasn't entirely accurate, but the Democratic National Convention is his party (in the celebratory sense) and if he wants to play the role of the old uncle who can't keep his mouth shut about his cousin's terrible taste in men, he's earned the right to do so.
And however impolitic it may be to say, there are many people who don't think he was all that wrong either.