The Senate last night took up a measure intended to prevent anti-LGBT bullying in public education, a policy long sought by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). The final vote was 52 to 45, but it was not majority-rule – the policy needed 60 votes to advance. All 45 opponents, who ended up killing the measure, were Republicans.
Progress on civil rights for the LGBT community has been extraordinary of late, but as last night’s developments in the Senate reminded us, the Republican Party’s resistance to the national trend remains entrenched.
Indeed, yesterday offered even more striking evidence on the presidential campaign trail.
The executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America unanimously approved a resolution this week “that would end the organization’s blanket ban on gay adult leaders and let scout units set their own policy on the issue.” It sounds like an overdue shift, though as the Washington Post reported late yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) disapproves of the change.
[Walker] said Tuesday that the Boy Scouts of America should keep its blanket ban on openly gay leaders because the policy “protected children and advanced Scout values.”“I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values,” Walker told the Independent Journal Review, a popular news site with a young conservative following that published his comments on Tuesday afternoon.
The full report from the Independent Journal Review is online here.
The governor’s campaign spokesperson later added that the previous, anti-gay policy “protected Scouts from the rancorous political debate over policy issues and culture wars,” which isn’t exactly persuasive – is that supposed to be a defense for discrimination? – but it’s also not what Walker himself said.
Rather, the leading GOP presidential candidate said banning gay Scout leaders is worthwhile because the policy has “protected children.” He didn’t talk about shielding the institution; he talked about the kids themselves.
As The New Republic’s Brian Beutler noted in response, “If you believe that banning gay people from Boy Scouts ‘protects children,’ then you either believe discredited caricatures of gay men as child predators or you believe homosexuality and homosexuals are unsavory things that children should be ‘protected’ from categorically, like drug addiction or verbal abuse.”
Either way, Walker’s position is an offensive mess.
But it’s regrettably not surprising. The Wisconsin Republican has already positioned himself as a fierce culture warrior – imposing state-mandated, medically unnecessary ultrasounds, for example, in addition to endorsing a constitutional amendment on marriage – so it stands to reason he’d support anti-gay discrimination in the Boy Scouts.
And for all I know, the GOP base will be delighted, especially in states like Iowa, where Walker’s rhetoric might give his candidacy an added boost. The American mainstream, however, is moving forward in a progressive direction, and Walker is taking positions now that he will struggle to overcome in a general election.
When asked, “Why would you treat LGBT Americans like second-class citizens, denying them basic human decency?” how exactly would Walker respond to a national audience?