Anti-gay politicians change their tones right quick when they can use LGBT rights to tout their version of the War on Terror.
Some of the politicians most opposed to gay civil rights found the attacks on the Pulse nightclub the perfect opportunity to trot out their favorite talking points—even when those causes had literally nothing to do with the the attacks that left at least 49 people dead.
Ted Cruz, for instance, issued a lengthy statement connecting the attacks to, um, Iran.
“For all the Democrats who are loud champions of the gay and lesbian community whenever there is a culture battle waging, now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians,” he preached. “ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars) regularly murder homosexuals, throwing them from buildings and burying them under rocks. This is wrong, it is evil, and we must all stand against it.”
The alleged shooter, Omar Mateen, was known to the FBI and called 911 during the attacks to swear his allegiance to ISIS. But there’s no evidence that he coordinated with Islamic State fighters in the Middle East, or even that he communicated with them before the attack. And there’s absolutely nothing to indicate that Iran’s government was even remotely involved in the attacks.
Moreover, Cruz was a staunch and univocal opponent of gay rights over the course of his unsuccessful presidential campaign. When the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples, Cruz wrote in a National Review op-ed that the ruling undermined “the very foundations of our representative form of government.”
On the campaign trail, he emphasized that he introduced a Constitutional amendment that would let individual states ban same-sex marriages if they chose.
Cruz also demagogued the trans bathroom issue in the final days of his campaign, in a last-ditch effort to suggest Donald Trump was okay with child molestation.
“SHOULD A GROWN MAN PRETENDING TO BE A WOMAN BE ALLOWED TO USE THE WOMEN’S RESTROOM?” onscreen text of an anti-Trump video his campaign released read, “THE SAME RESTROOM USED BY YOUR DAUGHTER? DONALD TRUMP THINKS SO. IT’S NOT APPROPRIATE. IT’S NOT SAFE.”
On the trail, Cruz surrounded himself with some of the most vitriolic opponents of gay rights in the public sphere.
He touted the endorsement of Mike Bickle, a pastor from Missouri who once said legal same-sex marriage was “a unique signal of the end times” and would result in young children learning in sex-ed that pedophilia is good.
Cruz also appeared at a rally organized by a pastor who has called for executing gay people—and made that exact case at the event where Cruz showed up. That pastor, Kevin Swanson, said at the event that if one of his children married a person of the same gender, he would protest the wedding in “sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I’d sit in cow manure and I’d spread it all over my body. That is what I would do and I’m not kidding, I’m not laughing.”
Rick Scott, Florida’s governor, was also front-and-center in the response to the mass killing. During the 2014 gubernatorial contest, Scott defended Florida’s state constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions.
“I don’t believe in discrimination. I believe in traditional marriage,” he said awkwardly during a debate with then-competitor Charlie Crist.
He had another awkward moment on CNN a few hours after the shooting when Jake Tapper asked him if he was taking any special steps to protect other LGBT people throughout the state celebrating Pride festivities.
“We don’t want anybody in our state to ever be targeted,” he said, not acknowledging the fact that the shooter specifically targeted LGBT people. “We don’t want anybody to be discriminated against. And so in every case, when we believe there is somebody doing the wrong thing, we work hard to make sure we take care of them.”
And Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, also issued a statement mourning the victims—that didn’t mention whatsoever the fact that the attack happened at a gay nightclub and targeted LGBT people.
“As we heal, we need to be clear-eyed about who did this,” he said. “We are a nation at war with Islamist terrorists. Theirs is a repressive, hateful ideology that respects no borders. It is a threat to our people at home and abroad.”
Earlier this month, Ryan and the rest of House Republican leadership made a change to the chamber’s rules that was reportedly designed, in part, to to keep Democrats from introducing last-minute pro-LGBT amendments to legislation. That came shortly after Republican leaders used a tactic one Republican congressman described as “bullshit” to block an amendment to a defense spending bill designed to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination.
And, of course, Donald Trump ripped the president for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” in his remarks a few hours after the shooting. But in the same statement where Trump levelled that criticism, he neglected to mention that the attack happened at a gay club and targeted LGBT people.
Trump and his allies will talk about radical Islamic terror all day every day—but a “gay nightclub”? Not so much.