A Supreme Court case legalizing gay marriage was resolved more than a year ago, but the issue of gay rights is still very much in flux in the Republican party.
The party this week passed a platform that Log Cabin Republicans lambasted as “the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history.”
It included provisions opposing same sex marriage – specifically calling for the overturn of the Obergefell V. Hodges Supreme Court decision of over a year ago.
It criticized a recent Department of Education recommendation that schools allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match the gender they identity as.
And it included an amendment from the conservative Family Research Center that that supported “the right of parents to determine the proper treatment or therapy for their minor children.”
Gay rights groups read the latter as an implicit endorsement of “conversion therapy,” where therapists attempt to convert them from homosexuality. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a number of states and municipalities. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus denied to the Associated Press that the platform was designed to embrace such forms of therapy.
The platform was passed even as Equality Ohio held a panel discussion hosted by Jim Obergefell, named plaintiff for Obergefell v. Hodges, and as Caitlin Jenner prepared to speak at a Wednesday brunch not far from the Republican convention.
Analysts and gay rights groups are somewhat mystified that the issue is still being discussed.
“The platform is considered to be out of step with the culture,” said Mark Caleb Smith, an associate professor of political science professor at Cedarville University.
“It was somewhat awkward talking about marriage,” said Rachel Hoff, a Washington, D.C., delegate who was the lone openly gay member of the platform committee. “Because we’re way past that.”
She said the far right of the party “know they lost the issue. They know the country has moved on. They know the party is ready to move on. So they’ve sort of staked out (the platform committee) for that reason.”
Hoff joined the platform committee with grand ambitions of having it pass an amendment with language inclusive to gays and lesbians. She also pushed an amendment with language standing up for lesbians and gays around the world, and one decrying the attacks earlier this summer on a gay nightclub in Orlando. The committee debated the final amendment on the one-month anniversary of the attacks.
All three were defeated.
She calls the RNC’s platform committee “the last stronghold of traditional marriage advocates.”
Some Ohio delegates would just as soon the party not mention the issue at all.
“I just wish the party would stay out of those issues,” said former Rep. Dave Hobson, R-Springfield. “Because it just creates more anger.”
He said he’s doubtful that the platform will matter much to voters.
“Most voters never look at the platform as the way they vote,” he said. “They look at many other things. They look at the candidate.”
State Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley, said a “silent majority” of the party supports LGBTQ rights. When he introduced a non-discrimination bill, many of his Republican colleagues pulled him aside to express support. But when he asked for them to cosponsor the bill, they refused.
Still, he said, “I see an evolution occurring in my party – and it can’t come sooner.”
The issue has been complicated by the controversy over whether transgender people should be able to use the bathrooms of the gender that they identify as. A Columbus Dispatch survey of the Ohio GOP delegates and alternates found that nearly 92 percent of delegates believed public schools should not be required to allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
Tracey Winbush, a Youngstown delegate who served on the platform committee, said the platform aimed not to single out any specific groups. She said to single out one group would be to ignore another.
“We believe all Americans have the right to be safe and secure,” she said. “Dividing a class of people is not a good way to go.”
She said Americans should still have the right to disagree with homosexuality, as long as they are respectful of those who are homosexual. “Let me not agree with you if I choose not to,” she said. “But we have respect for everyone.”