“Do you have a moment to talk about the battle for gay equality?” an activist asked me on the streets of Washington, D.C. in mid-July.
Thoughts flashed through my head of the gay people executed in Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, and the ongoing detainment, starvation, and shock torture of gay men in Chechnya, Russia. A gay man myself, I felt compelled to stop and hear the campaigner out. The activist worked for the liberal-leaning LGBT Human Rights Campaign and, for the next 10 minutes, he explained the ongoing assault on my rights here in America—oppression I hadn’t noticed.
His elevator pitch focused on supposedly tyrannical “bathroom bills” in some states that require transgender people to use accommodations corresponding to their biological sex. He then touched on the recent Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. He spoke of a terrifying future in which religious business owners may not be forced to bake cakes for gay weddings or otherwise violate their deeply held beliefs.
The activist went on to say how, in some states, Catholic adoption charities are allowed to turn away gay parents due to their religious beliefs. He insisted that this should be illegal, even though there’s no shortage of other charities open to LGBT parents who want to adopt. I walked away wondering how anyone could consider this a crisis.
This encounter came to mind on Sept. 6, when I heard the news that India’s formal ban on gay sex was struck down by the Indian Supreme Court, and properly declared “indefensible.” Under these archaic rules, roughly 2,000 people a year were prosecuted for so-called “unnatural” sex, even when between consenting adults. Regardless of anyone’s religious views on homosexuality and morality, there’s no question that this ruling was an enormous win for individual liberty.
As this more recent story quickly faded from the news cycle, I was left with a chilling realization: The activist left in America is hardly focused on the actual atrocities gay people face around the globe. Instead, they’re much more concerned with cudgeling Christian conservatives into obedience and virtue-signaling to their far-left allies.
It’s not that they don’t care at all about international tragedies, but others issues are simply more politically expedient. Small incidents become acts of inhumanity, and hyperbole the perfect tool for winning sympathetic voters to your side.
Consider the Masterpiece Cakeshop controversy. After the Supreme Court ruled in the religious baker’s favor, some members of the liberal media melted down. CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin called the ruling an “invitation to discriminate” and invoked Jim Crow-era imagery in his fearmongering on-air response.
An opinion writer at The New York Times insisted it was now time to “change the Constitution,” and another New York Times writer called the religious motives behind decisions like Masterpiece “one of the chief reasons for discrimination, slaughter and genocide.” With support for LGBT rights rising, there’s no better way to whip up the Democratic base for the midterm election than to make a mountain out of a wedding cake.
Yet where is the left’s outrage for the LGBT people stabbed to death with machetes in Bangladesh? Why are there so few CNN and MSNBC segments about the gay people killed in sub-Saharan Africa? Instead, the liberal media chooses to focus on things more politically salient: The porn-star-lawyer turned anti-Trump activist, Michael Avenatti, has appeared on both networks over 100 times since March to talk about “Stormy Daniels” or otherwise attack the president. Meanwhile, it seems there are more op-eds in The New York Times about wedding cake controversies than about the coordinated detainment and torture of gays in Chechnya.
The sad reality is that true gay rights causes may just not be politically sexy enough for left-wing activists and media figures. According to Amnesty International, “Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 72 countries, and can get you a death sentence in eight countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.” It’s not that the left entirely ignores these international atrocities, but their lack of meaningful attention to these issues is nothing short of appalling. In fact, it calls into question the sincerity of the Democratic establishment’s so-called “LGBT rights” advocates.
Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ran on anti-gay marriage platforms in 2008. But as public opinion shifted toward supporting it, both candidates adopted starkly different positions in their 2012 and 2016 campaigns—pure coincidence, I’m sure. Clinton, who opposed same-sex marriage until 2012, declared in 2013 that “gay rights are human rights.”
But she still accepted $10 million for her allegedly charitable Clinton Foundation from the leaders of Saudi Arabia. The fact that they give gay people the death penalty was evidently of no concern to her, or her supporters. Beyond that, Obama’s infamous Iran deal gave the Iranian government billions of dollars and loosened economic sanctions previously levied against the country. The regime’s routine executions of gay men and criminalizing of gay sex were apparently irrelevant to Obama’s ambitions.
Herein lies the fundamental problem with the left’s stance on LGBT issues. The imagery of “gay rights” is oft-invoked to support liberal and relatively frivolous issues like bathroom bills or cake-baking, or progressive politicians who are actually ambivalent toward LGBT Americans. Yet the “fight for gay rights” is rarely invoked to address genuine injustices, so the words lose their power. This makes us apathetic toward actual instances of atrocities occurring internationally everyday—and for that, the left is to blame.
To me, the real assault on gay rights isn’t coming from Christian business owners who wish to abide by their sincere religious beliefs, or laws that dictate bathroom rules. Instead, it’s coming from a left-wing elite so determined to use their so-called support for the LGBT community to pursue the liberal agenda that they obfuscate the tragedies that make the term “gay rights” so necessary in the first place.