The post-Orlando demonizing of the GOP, not radical Islam, as dangerous anti-gay ideologues continued in Thursday’s New York Times, as Jeremy Peters and Lizette Alvarez demonstrated in Thursday's “A Death Toll Fails to Narrow a Chasm on Gay Rights.”
For a fleeting moment this week, it seemed as if the massacre in Orlando, Fla., was having the unlikely and unintended impact of helping to bridge the chasm between Republicans and many in the gay community.
Mitt Romney offered “a special prayer for the L.G.B.T. community” after he learned of the attack. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida granted an interview to The Advocate, the gay news magazine, and expressed outrage at the Islamic State’s persecution of gays. And Donald J. Trump repeatedly expressed solidarity with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, declaring, “I will fight for you” -- an unprecedented show of support from a presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Peters and Alvarez seemed eager to equate lack of support for gay marriage to mass murder of gays.
But the deep divide over gay rights remains one of the most contentious in American politics. And the murder of 49 people in an Orlando gay club has, in many cases, only exacerbated the anger from Democrats and supporters of gay causes, who are insisting that no amount of warm words or reassuring Twitter posts change the fact that Republicans continue to pursue policies that would limit legal protections for gays and lesbians.
In the weeks leading up to the killings, they pointed out, issues involving gays were boiling over in Congress and in Republican-controlled states around the country. More than 150 pieces of legislation were pending in state legislatures that would restrict rights or legal protections for sexual minorities. A Republican congressman read his colleagues a Bible verse from Romans that calls for the execution of gays. Congress was considering a bill that would allow individuals and businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples.
Then there was this fascinating tidbit:
Gays have surpassed Jews as the minority group most often targeted in hate crimes, according to the F.B.I.
Yet in its previous reporting on the alleged epidemic of hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S., the Times has completely ignored the fact that Jews have consistently been targeted the most.
The agitated reactions are just some of the ways identity politics have overtaken the tragedy in Orlando, with its combustible mix of issues that have long divided Americans: guns, gays, God and immigration.
“If one more Republican tells me they have gay friends, I’m gonna scream,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York and one of just a few openly gay, lesbian or bisexual members of Congress. “I don’t care that they have gay friends. I care that they’re voting against equality.”
Peters often celebrates the gay movement in his reporting.
The story contained a labeling double standard: The phrase “radical Islamic terrorists” got scare quotes, while the contentious Democratic label of “hate crime” did not.
The massacre, with stunning speed, has been transformed into a political wedge, beginning with fierce disagreements over just what the crime should be called. An attack by “radical Islamic terrorists,” as Republicans insisted? A hate crime in a place seen as a safe haven by gays, as many Democrats said?
One of the most bitter manifestations of the lingering animus happened in the shadow of the massacre scene itself when CNN’s Anderson Cooper berated Florida’s Republican attorney general, Pam Bondi, for speaking so affectionately about the dead while also being an unflinching opponent of efforts in her state to legalize same-sex marriage.
“Do you really think you are a champion of the gay community?” he asked her in an interview on Tuesday.
Ms. Bondi, who appeared rattled and caught off guard, accused Mr. Cooper on Wednesday of “creating more anger and havoc and hatred.”
Because the killings have ignited debates on so many sensitive topics, there are many different opinions about what the focus should be. Democratic state lawmakers in Florida, led by State Senator Darren Soto, who is running for Congress, called for a special session on gun control here, a hard sell in a place known as the “Gunshine State.” They also proposed a bill in the State Legislature that would ban people on the terrorist watch list or the no-fly list from buying guns, similar to efforts by Democrats in Washington.
Is Florida really well known as “The Gunshine State”? The term drew an unimpressive 79,200 matches on google Thursday morning, including references to the NYT article itself.
But this week Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, stressed that it was radical Islam that needed to be controlled, not guns. “The Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody,” Mr. Scott said. “Evil, radical Islam, ISIS -- they killed.”
Republicans and Democrats could not even agree on how to describe the attack. Mr. Scott was criticized for failing to mention, in numerous public appearances and interviews, that the victims were apparently targeted for their sexual identities. (He finally did on Wednesday, offering that the Orlando incident was “a clear attack on the gay and Hispanic community.”) Representative Pete Sessions of Texas told a reporter on Tuesday that Pulse, where the attack occurred, “was a young person’s club,” not a gay club. His office later said he misunderstood.
The NYT also came under fire from the left for the exact same offense in its initial breaking coverage of the massacre. But that was left unmentioned. Meanwhile, the Times turned its critical eye on Republicans and Christians who had absolutely nothing to do with the massacre in Orlando.
The speaker of the House, Paul D. Ryan, made no mention of gays in his initial statement. No did the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who did note that the Islamic State beheaded women and crucified children.
Representative Rick W. Allen of Georgia, the Republican who last month read the Romans verse that says of homosexuals “they which commit such things are worthy of death” as the House was about to vote on a gay rights amendment, has not apologized. His spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
In Florida, activists noted that the state was still a place where gay and lesbian people could “get married on a Friday and fired on a Monday” because of inadequate nondiscrimination laws, in the words of Mallory Garner-Wells, the public policy director for Equality Florida.
“We’ve been trying to convey to people there’s still a lot of work to do,” she added. “Maybe this will be a wake-up call.”