"You have to be patient--things are changing in most places, I think."
"Sure, there's prejudice in a few places, but most people are pretty accepting now."
"Gay people basically have equal rights--of course, a few people discriminate, I'm sure, but that will always be true."
"I just don't think it's the federal government's business."
These are the kinds of statements BW readers have heard from well-intentioned friends and loved ones in the past few months--I'm talking about gay-friendly-ish Republicans defending their decision to vote for Trump on the grounds that Clinton "still would have been worse," and that Trump isn't doing anything really bad to LGBTQ people.
The "really bad" thing to do to gay people, it turns out, is to leave them to the mercy of their home states and local governments. As an excellent opinion piece from Frank Bruni pointed out last week, LGBTQ life varies drastically across the U.S.--not just state by state, but by towns, counties, cities, and precincts as well. As Bruni writes, "We're at the mercy of our ZIP codes." The discrepancies between municipalities are jaw-dropping. And the cultural discrepancies can be even starker than the legal ones. If you don't believe me, check out the so-called "'Christian' Manifesto on Human Sexuality," signed by 150 evangelical Christian leaders. And these aren't "fringe" extremists, either; they include people like James Dobson, who heads Focus on the Family--a nonprofit organization with over $90 million in annual revenue that's a major player in public policy. (They have a ton of resources online for people who "struggle" with homosexuality, including this website, which helpfully explains that men become gay because they believe they are either not "really" men, or that they believe they are inadequate as men, which makes them "seek another man's manhood." It's less clear what they think is going on with lesbians. But I digress.)
A failure to protect LGBTQ people from hostility is tantamount to hostility itself. Trump's Department of Justice has said that they don't think federal employment discrimination applies to gay people (a huge change from Obama's DOJ). This is kind of like saying that while you don't think people should drown, you're fine with keeping the life rafts to yourself.
But although the day-to-day texture of our rights is largely determined at the local level, it's the federal government's role to set the baseline. Yeah, you can run your city however you want, but here are some things you can definitely not do: prevent women from voting, ban black people from your store, or fire someone for being gay. The first two are unthinkable. The last one happens all the time, and is perfectly legal in over half of states. That's right--not just a few Southern stragglers who are late to the gays-are-okay party--over half of states.
Supposedly, "conservatives" are the ones who hold true to certain fundamental values. If equality is one of these values, the worst possible way to reach it is letting municipalities do whatever they please when it comes to fundamental rights. And with the current state of the Republican party, voting Republican in federal elections is not "conservative;" it is regressive.
This is my plea to blue-state Republicans who consider themselves allies of the LGBTQ community. In certain ways, the place you live gives you the "luxury" of being Republican. You don't have to see your co-workers fired for being gay. Your churches aren't removing people from leadership positions when they come out. Your funeral homes aren't refusing to provide services for people who were in same-sex partnerships. Your kids aren't being bullied by public school teachers. Because of where you live, you rarely witness the terrible discrimination and ridicule that your LGBTQ loved ones can face as soon as they set foot outside your accepting municipality. If you want to vote Republican in your local elections, that's one thing. But as this administration's actions are making clear, voting Republican in federal elections is a whole other ballgame: you are essentially stripping protection from the people you claim to love. You are stealing their life raft. I'm not convinced that doing this is actually "conservative." And I'm even less convinced that if you do so, you can consider yourself much of an ally at all.