And no tragedy seems to make them change their tune.
Two rank and file Republicans are doubling down on the effort from the evangelical Right to keep transgender individuals from using the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
This time, they’re trying to keep them from peeing freely in the U.S. Capitol, but party leaders seem to want them to shut up about the divisive issue already, especially in the wake of the slaughter in Orlando.
Last week, Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) offered an amendment to a spending bill that would ban the federal government from dropping a dime on allowing people on the U.S. Capitol grounds from using “any bathroom other than the bathroom of the individual’s biological sex.”
That’s congressional speak for: Pee somewhere else.
When The Daily Beast caught up with Gosar just off the House floor last week, the dentist argued the ban in the Capitol is important because transgender Americans may have mental problems.
“We have a lot of things, you know, as a medical professional, we have to start looking at, some of the, particularly, the transgender issue has to be looked at in the psychotic—the psychosis in regards to the medical community and looking at that application because there’s a lot of mixed studies in those regards,” Gosar, who—again—is a dentist, said.
“This is kind of forward thinking… if they got away with it once it doesn’t mean they couldn’t get away with it somewhere else,” Gosar said before adding that the symbolism of the ban at the U.S. Capitol could have national repercussions. “I think it could. Aren’t we supposed to be standing for something instead of falling for everything?”
When The Daily Beast asked to speak with Gosar after 49 people were killed at a LGBT bar on Sunday, his Chief of Staff Tom Van Flein, emailed, “Are you equating Islamic terrorism and Sharia law with its death penalty for homosexuals with a congressional discussion on funding men using women’s bathrooms? Seriously?” Seriously.
This latest transgender amendment was killed by Republican leaders, so it never came up for a vote before the entire U.S. House of Representatives—a move largely viewed as an effort by Speaker Paul Ryan to avoid the party being redefined as the GOPB—Grand Ole Party of Bigots.
But that doesn’t mean the party’s gay and transgender problem will go away. In fact, it will likely intensify through the summer as the election heats up.
In the wake of the shooting in Orlando, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick tweeted you “reep what you sow,” only to later delete it—blaming it on a Twitter error.
Other Republicans can’t even seem to say LGBT in their official responses to the tragedy, while others joined Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) in praying for the death of gay people just weeks ago on the Capitol grounds. His office didn’t respond to a request for a comment on whether he feels the slaughter in Orlando was an answer to his bigoted prayer.
Earlier this year Ryan and party leaders scrambled on the House floor to twist the arms of Republicans who had initially voted in favor of an amendment to protect LGBT federal contractor from discrimination. In the end they convinced at least seven of their colleagues to switch their votes and the amendment died.
Since then Ryan has tightened the reigns on his members and has limited the amendments that hit the floor. In part to avoid embarrassment, but this latest effort on the symbolic Capitol grounds shows the issue isn’t going away and that is making some Republicans uneasy.
When asked by The Daily Beast if the amendment made him embarrassed to be in the same party as those who offered it, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) responded, “Yeah. Yes.”
“The Republican Party has a lot of good assets but needs to pick its battles better, needs to be more thoughtful, and I think it needs to push back on its base,” said Hanna who has been one of the few vocal supporters of LGBT issues on the right. “The gerrymandering has made it so primaries have become the new general elections and these guys go out and they raise money, and both parties do this incidentally, raise money off visceral issues that they know full well that can’t do anything about.”
Hanna added that this ongoing debate being stoked by his colleagues is misguided and they just need to “move beyond” the issue.
“I think that history will show that those are losing issues and their hypocrisy when you consider that we’re supposed to be the party of personal freedom which everybody talks about, so I’m happy where I am and it’s unfortunate that the party has gone down this road in the time that I’ve been here,” Hanna said.
But Gosar believes the bathroom issue will play a key role in Election 2016.
“Our phones lit up on this bathroom issue,” Gosar said.
And he said the effort isn’t over and that they want to get a vote on the amendment before the full House when another spending bill comes up. “We’re looking because at this point and time we’re disappointed.”
Opponents on the left say bring it on.
“I’m not afraid to vote on any of this stuff,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney told The Daily Beast. He’s been leading the fight on LGBT issues on the House floor, becoming a perennial thorn in the side of GOP leaders. “As we demonstrated recently, we have a majority of the House floor and it’s only by rigging the process that they prevent that majority from voting for equality.”
But Maloney added that this particular effort to ban transgender people from using a bathroom like everyone else who visits the U.S. Capitol goes a step too far.
“I think it’s going out of their way to be hateful,” Maloney said. “How do you interpret something like that, except just an over the top way to make Americans feel unwelcomed in their own House, this is the people’s House. It belongs to all Americans, and that is regardless of how they experience sexual orientation or gender identities. So it’s repugnant. It’s wrong.”