CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Courtesy of National Gay Media Association
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Delegates at the Republican National Convention on Monday afternoon, July 18, ratified with little opposition a party platform considered to have the most anti-LGBT language of any platform in history.
As Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chair of the platform committee, presided over the convention, delegates approved the 66-page document by voice vote at 4:42 p.m. The number of “ayes” among the 2,470 delegates seemed overwhelming compared to the barely audible “nays.”
Despite efforts from pro-LGBT Republicans to remove opposition to same-sex marriage from the 2016 platform, the document seeks to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality through either judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning the issue to the states.
Virgil Goode, a Virginia delegate and former six-term member of the U.S. House, told the Washington Blade reporters at the convention that he backs the platform language in opposition to the Obergefell ruling, issued by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, and upholding marriage equality nationwide.
“I think the Supreme Court legislated,” Goode said. “The Supreme Court is not the decider of what marriage is. It should be the individual states [that] have that right. They way overstepped their bounds on that.”
Goode said he believes that whether to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses and have those relationship recognized should “be up to the states.”
“You have in the United States, including California, the people voted for a definition of marriage, and I think that vote should stand, that the Supreme Court shouldn’t be overriding,” Goode said.
In addition to opposition to same-sex marriage, the platform also objects to use of federal law to ensure transgender people can use the restroom consistent with their gender identity, indicates support for widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy and endorses the First Amendment Defense Act, a “religious freedom” bill that critics say would legalize anti-LGBT discrimination.
Joseph Knox, a 20-year-old alternate delegate from Washington, N.C., said he agrees with language in the platform on transgender restroom use — which is consistent with a law in his state signed by Gov. Pat McCrory requiring transgender people to use public restrooms according to their birth certificates, not their gender identity.
“I support that because I believe it’s the duty of our government in order to protect people for the cases where it may abused,” Knox said. “I understand where the argument is made for people and their rights, and they feel they need to use the bathroom of their choice. However, in public schools, or taxpayer buildings, or stuff like that, then it should be up to your birth certificate, and that’s where you should have to go.”
Knox said he also “absolutely” backs language in the platform in opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide.
“I believe as a conservative, as a Republican, that the federal government has taken leaps and bounds that are involving themselves within states’ rights way too much,” Knox said. “It wasn’t mentioned in the Constitution. Our Founding Fathers were not worried about that along with a lot other things.”
Knox added he believes the establishment of the Department of Education is also unconstitutional, and that “things like that should be left up to the individual states.”
Delegates at the convention who spoke about the language in the platform against LGBT rights were largely in support of those planks. Many of the delegates and alternate delegates at the Quicken Loans Arena refused to speak with Washington Blade reporters on the subject of gay rights in the party platform.
Dwayne Collins, a delegate from the Dallas area, said he agrees with the platform’s opposition to the same-sex marriage on the basis that “marriage between a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, is just not biblical.”
Collins also indicated support for the platform’s veiled endorsement of “ex-gay” conversion therapy, as well.
“There should not be anything to force anybody to do such therapy, but if it’s out there and available, then, yes,” Collins said. “But to force somebody into therapy, no, no, not at all.”
Collins, who identified himself as a small business owner, also voiced concerns about non-discrimination laws threatening the livelihoods of those offering wedding-related services.
“I feel intimidated by what the gay movement is doing to my business,” Collins said. “I own a wedding venue, OK? It’s privately owned. I rent it to people for weddings, but it’s got to be a man and a woman. Now in the state of Texas, I have a little bit of protection, but in other states, if you don’t do that, you get sued. And that’s my business, they are infringing on my rights. That’s why we got to come to a consensus here and say, ‘Hey, enough’s enough. You got your rights; we got our rights.’“
A North Dakota delegate, who refused to give his name, said, “I’m a live and let live guy,” but he also said he supports the platform’s call for returning decisions on marriage equality to the states. “I prefer that when states can make their own decisions,” he said.
Joel Craig, an 18-year-old delegate from Colorado Springs, Colo., and pledged to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, said he supports the platform’s opposition to marriage equality because “states should be allowed to choose what their definition of marriage is.”
“I think that this is a deal for the states,” Craig said. “The states are in charge of issuing marriage licenses; why then are they not in charge of how the marriage licenses are issued?”
But Craig contested the notion the platform endorses conversion therapy, saying the platform mentions it, but doesn’t endorse it. The platform says, “We support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.”
Craig said, “I believe that the current language, the way it is set, does not endorse conversion therapy, as you’ve suggested, however it is mentioned. I didn’t exactly read how it was mentioned, but I do believe the platform as a whole represents the Republican electorate very well.”
Not every delegate at the convention was behind the anti-LGBT planks in the GOP platform.
Sharon Jackson, a 52-year-old delegate from the Anchorage area and pledged to Trump, said she’s against the platform language and thinks same-sex couples should be able to wed throughout the nation.
“I feel that everyone should have the freedom to feel and do what they choose, and that’s American is all about,” Jackson said.
Asked if applies to gay couples seeking to marry, Jackson replied, “If that’s what they want to do, they should be able to do that.”
Jackson also said she’s against platform language opposing transgender people using the restroom consistent with their gender identity: “I don’t think that should be politicized.
It happens already, right? No one says anything, so to make it a political issue, I think, it opens the doors for perpetuators, and that’s not fair. That’s not fair. So, if it was just left alone, everything would be fine just as it is today.”
LGBT advocates blasted the platform ratified by delegates. The National Log Cabin Republicans, which had previously dubbed the platform the most anti-LGBT in the party’s 162-year history, placed a full-page ad Monday in USA Today:
“LOSERS! MORONS! SAD! No, these aren’t tweets from Donald Trump. This is what common-sense conservatives are saying about the most anti-LGBT platform the Republican Party has ever had. Out of touch, out of line, and out of step with 61 percent of young Republicans who favor same-sex marriage.”
Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, also condemned the platform, saying it doesn’t represent the views of many Americans.
“ It’s disappointing that the far right wing of the Republican Party has successfully pushed for a platform that discriminates against LGBT Americans and their families,” McTighe said. “This platform just does not reflect the direction that many Republicans — nor the majority of Americans — want to see the party move.”
For a time, efforts among pro-LGBT Republicans were underway for a motion on the convention floor to strip the platform of its anti-LGBT language. A minority report signed by 37 delegates of the platform committee petitioned the Republican National Committee to replace the platform with a 1,200-word statement of 17 core principles of the Republican Party with neutral language on LGBT issues.
Although only 28 delegates are needed for a successful petition, the efforts failed when the delegates who initiated the report — Boyd Matheson of Utah and David Barton of Texas — disavowed it.
Giovanni Cicione, a Rhode Island delegate who circulated the petition to replace the platform, said afterwards the initiative failed amid disagreement on those behind it and queasiness in Republican leadership over a floor fight. “To have contentious floor votes on anything, content aside is very disruptive to the process that they’re trying to lay out this week,” Cicione said. “In my opinion, that didn’t matter. This was more important than us running a convention where each speaker gets their five minutes. I think we needed to try to make a point here, but they were able to pull back.”
(Cicione made his comments before much of the uproar that has occurred throughout the week, including arguments over whether votes should be taken as voice votes or roll call votes and Cruz’s Wednesday night speech in which he refused to endorse Trump, causing delegates to boo him off stage.)
Annie Dickerson, a New York member of the platform committee and adviser to GOP philanthropist and LGBT rights supporter Paul Singer, said the goal now is to advance LGBT non-discrimination legislation regardless of the platform.
“Polling on non-discrimination is going off the charts on the Republican side,” Dickerson said. “But those are just not the people that were those delegates, which is why Gio and
I are here, to give rise to that voice, so we can be a bigger tent because this is not the ‘Big Tent’ document.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2016.