NEW YORK ---With midterm elections nearly upon us, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, is urging the national media to scrutinize candidates who are denigrating our community in an attempt to gain political points.
As attitudes continually shift in favor of full equality for LGBT people and our families, many politicians still mistakenly believe that voters will support their use of anti-gay rhetoric as a campaign strategy. In this campaign season alone:
- Michigan Republican Kim Meltzer (pictured above, left) sent out campaign materials that depicted primary opponent Leon Drolet's face superimposed over a rainbow flag, included two male figures holding hands, and claimed that Drolet "would allow homosexual gross indecency in public places," "exposing our children to that filth."
- Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern defended her previous statement that gays and lesbians are more dangerous than terrorists, telling local TV, "Here in America we've had what, maybe three known real big terrorist attacks on our nation? But every day our young people especially - all of us, but our young people especially - are in a sense bombarded with the message that homosexuality is normal and natural."
- Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal ran a series of ads that attacked primary opponent Karen Handel for having supported LGBT teen group YouthPride and for having been in favor of domestic partner benefits. The ads called Handel's past support for gay issues "the last straw" for voters.
- Failed Iowa gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats lost in the primary, but then launched a campaign called "Iowa for Freedom" to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality in the state. He said removing those justices could be "the most important election in our country."
- Utah Senator Orrin Hatch disparaged millions of gay and lesbian people of faith when he remarked at a town hall meeting that, "Gays and lesbians don't pay tithing, their religion is politics."
- Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is running for re-election, told an audience, "There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it's called Texas. We're creating more jobs than any other state in the nation." He then asked, "Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?"
- Iowa Republican Jeremy Walters, a candidate for the State House, wrote on his Facebook page that to be gay "is not of God," quoted Bible verses that said gay people should be "put to death; their blood shall be upon them," and suggested that AIDS was God's punishment.
These examples illustrate a campaign season that has seen some of the ugliest anti-gay attacks in years. But they also show how out of touch these candidates are with the people they are seeking to represent.
CNN found last month that more than half of all Americans believe the Constitution should grant gay and lesbian couples the ability to marry. On issues like allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly or ending workplace discrimination, Americans are even more overwhelmingly supportive.
"It's troubling that many candidates still think they can win support by disparaging LGBT people," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "Media have a responsibility to present stories that truly reflect the changing tide of public opinion in favor of our community and expose attempts to use our lives as a political wedge issue.
GLAAD urges journalists who cover these campaigns to spotlight the motivation behind these ugly anti-gay tactics that put our community in harm's way. As more and more fair-minded people hear our stories and learn what's at stake for us, they are overwhelmingly supporting our full equality."
GLAAD is continuing to monitor the local and national dialogue in this election season to inform the media and the American public when candidates put forth such inaccuracies and defamation.
CNN Political Ticker - August 11, 2010
"Americans split evenly on gay marriage"
WDIV TV - July 30, 2010
"Mich. Candidate Target of Gay Hate Mail"
Fox 25 TV - August 31, 2010
"You Decide: Kern, Novotny"
Atlanta Journal Constitution - August 5, 2010
"Your morning jolt: Nathan Deal on Karen Handel and 'the last straw'"
Iowa Independent - August 6, 2010
"Vander Plaats: Fight to oust Iowa judges 'most important election in our country'"
Huffington Post - June 3, 2010
"Orrin Hatch On Gays: 'Their Religion Is Politics'"
Texas Tribune - August 30, 2010
"On the Campaign Trail With Gov. Rick Perry"
Iowa Independent - August 17, 2010
"GOP House candidate says AIDS is punishment for sin of homosexuality"
Columbia University - June 13, 2009
"Public Opinion and Policy in the States: Gay and Lesbian Rights"
The Hill - May 25, 2010
"Poll: 78 percent favor repealing 'Don't ask, don't tell'"