The New York Times’ editorial board tethered conservatives to the “hatred toward gays and lesbians” that the Orlando shooter harbored, noting that “hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum.” The paper excoriated “Republican politicians who see [anti-gay] prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish,” saying they have created an environment “where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain.”
Anti-gay fervor has been a key pillar of right-wing media’s culture war crusade, with conservative media figures ardently defending discrimination against LGBT people, routinely giving a national platform to notorious homophobes, and demeaning transgender people as mentally ill.
In the wake of the terror attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, The New York Times’ editorial board slammed Republicans for driving a “state of American politics” “where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain.” The Times’ editorial board torched Republicans for their continued “fight against legal protections” for LGBT people, writing that conservative anti-LGBT legal fights are “a worrying reminder of the entrenched stigma the [LGBT] community continues to face.” The board ultimately wrote that Republicans’ “corrosive politics … threaten L.G.B.T. Americans” and lamented that the Orlando victims “need to be remembered as casualties of a society where hate has deep roots.” From the June 15 New York Times editorial:
Omar Mateen shattered the tenuous, hard-fought sense of personal safety that many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have begun to feel as the movement for equality has made significant gains in recent years. His bullets and the blood he left behind that early morning were a reminder that in many corners of the country, gay and transgender people are still regarded as sinners and second-class citizens who should be scorned.
While the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear, it is evident that Mr. Mateen was driven by hatred toward gays and lesbians. Hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. They occur where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.
Since the marriage ruling, several Republican-led state legislatures and Republican governors and federal lawmakers have redoubled their fight against legal protections for people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. So far this year, more than 200 anti-L.G.B.T. bills have been introduced in 34 states.
That restrooms have become such a fixation, particularly at the state level, is a worrying reminder of the entrenched stigma the community continues to face. The loudest advocates of this odious effort have been Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who has worked in lock step with the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton. Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi in April signed into law a bill that allows discrimination against L.G.B.T. people in schools and the workplace.
It’s hard to say how many politicians take these positions as a matter of principle and how many do so because it has proved to be an effective way in the past to raise money and turn out the vote. As the funerals are held for those who perished on Sunday, lawmakers who have actively championed discriminatory laws and policies, and those who have quietly enabled them with votes, should force themselves to read the obituaries and look at the photos. The 49 people killed in Orlando were victims of a terrorist attack. But they also need to be remembered as casualties of a society where hate has deep roots.