The proliferation of anti-LGBT bills in state legislatures this year – 321 of them according to the ACLU – would make one think that the American people have become more homophobic or transphobic during the last few years.
This is not the case. According to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) “Americans’ support for key LGBTQ rights continues to tick upward.” PRRI polls taken as recently as 2021 tell us that “nearly eight in 10 Americans (79%) favor laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing, including 41% who strongly support them … Majorities of Americans consistently oppose religiously based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people” while “nearly seven in ten Americans (68%) express support for same-sex marriage.” Even “six in 10 evangelical Protestants (61%) support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, up from 56% in 2015.” PRRI did not ask any specific questions about trans rights, which are the targets of most anti-LGBT legislation.
Despite all this, in 2023 homophobic or transphobic legislators are in control of red state legislatures with Republican Party majorities. Since the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, radical evangelicals, white supremacists, QAnon supporters and other “MAGA Republicans” have taken over the Grand Old Party. These groups have taken advantage of the fear and resentment on the part of many to take over most state legislatures. They allowed ambitious politicians like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to ride the MAGA wave to victory in red states like Florida, along with a GOP Legislature that follows his commands. Queers and other minorities are victims of their culture war.
Amidst this hostile takeover of the Republican Party and legislatures, where are “the good guys”? Many Republican families (like my own) have lesbian, gay, bi, or trans children, relatives or friends who they love and support. They would never allow their loved ones to be harmed. Still, a majority of GOP voters joined most independents to elect DeSantis, even when they knew that he is an authoritarian whose “Don’t Say Gay” law branded queer people as “groomers.” Some of those voters are loyal Republicans; others think Democrats are socialists; while others (like some of us) seem willing to throw trans people under the political bus while favoring LGB rights. Unlike the MAGA crowd (or LGBT activists), most voters don’t keep track of DeSantis’s book bans or his crusade against “Woke” education. In the words of Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries, a Christian group that polls Americana bout cultural mores, “our polls find that 70% of Americans want to be left alone and the other 30% keep telling them that they must believe things that they don’t want to believe.” Sadly, it is that 30% that is in command of state legislatures. There is nothing we can do but fight like hell; and work to win the support of independents and moderates who might yet be persuaded.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.