We have lost count of how many times the Religious Right has been declared spent as a political force. Those declarations have always been wrong, and this year’s Republican Party platform is the latest sign of the movement’s continued power.
Four years ago, we called the GOP platform “a far-right fever dream, a compilation of pouting, posturing, and policies to meet just about every demand from the overlapping Religious Right, Tea Party, corporate, and neo-conservative wings of the GOP.” Yet this year’s platform is even further to the right.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2012, Religious Right leaders spent the entire week in Tampa bragging about how they had essentially written the platform. But pro-LGBT Republicans were remarkably confident that it would never happen again. At the time, the Log Cabin Republicans vowed that never again would the party platform be hostile to LGBT equality. Former member of Congress Jim Kolbe said the anti-gay sentiment in that year’s platform was “the last gasp of the conservatives.” The upbeat attitude had us wondering about “the fine, fuzzy line dividing optimism from delusion.”
Well, there’s nothing left to wonder about. In spite of an organized and well-funded campaign by LGBT-friendly conservatives, Religious Right activists made sure that they dominated the platform committee. During the committee’s deliberations on proposed amendments on Monday and Tuesday, every effort to moderate the language on LGBT rights was rejected, including tame language that would have acknowledged growing support within the party for marriage equality. The Log Cabin Republicans are calling this year’s document “the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history.”
Even an amendment that would have recognized the LGBT victims of ISIS terror was deemed too much. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is bragging that he and fellow Louisiana delegate Sandy McDade, Eagle Forum’s political chairman, watered that language down so that it refers generically to all people terrorized by ISIS.
The platform includes Religious Right-approved language opposing marriage equality and endorsing legislation to give legal protection to anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious liberty. And it calls for eliminating the IRS provision that prevents churches, like other nonprofits, from engaging in direct electoral advocacy — one of the promises Donald Trump has made to win Religious Right support.
A seemingly last-ditch effort by LGBT-friendly delegates to require a vote on a “minority report” to replace the long platform with a short statement of principles is now being denounced by Perkins and Religious Right activist David Barton as an attempt by gays to hijack the platform process. Its odds of success seem vanishingly small.
Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory Angelo says he’s “mad as hell” about the new platform, but in the same email he tries to distance the document from Donald Trump, who Angelo praised last December as “one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency.”
Not long after that, as journalist Michelangelo Signorile noted, Trump accepted the endorsement of Jerry Falwell Jr. and promised to put right-wing justices on the Supreme Court. In January he promised to make Christianity (read right-wing Christianity) more powerful. More recently, Trump reiterated his promises in a closed-door meeting with hundreds of conservative Christian leaders, where he told them, “I’m on your side.”
Trump may be willing to let Caitlin Jenner use the bathroom of her choice at his office building, but he was unwilling to lift a finger to keep the party from supporting states that pass laws preventing transgender people from using bathrooms that match their identity — or from declaring in many ways that the party remains officially opposed to legal equality for LGBT people.
The presumptive Republican nominee is all bluster and toughness when he is denouncing political correctness, but he turns meekly obliging when dealing with the Religious Right leaders he is counting on to turn out the vote.