Republicans and various conservative groups are gathering this weekend in Florida for their annual Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC. The conference is infamous for amplifying the extreme far right of the Republican party as those involved engage in both outright ugly rhetoric and workshops against Democrats, immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ people, and everyone else they claim to be a threat to their vision of “American greatness.”
This year’s CPAC has given up any pretense of articulating policy ideas, and is consumed by Trumpmania. That includes embracing and advancing the lie that former president Donald Trump lost the election because of massive voter fraud – claims still being made with no evidence, with no mention of the 61 cases rejected in the courts including the Supreme Court. There is a low-energy vibe thus far as attendees seem to be saving all of their enthusiasm for Sunday’s climactic speech by Trump. And because of this, most other grievances traditionally promoted by Republicans and conservatives have taken a backseat. This is probably good for the LGBTQ community. Other than dismally pitiful jokes about Mr. Potato Head from some speakers, nothing has been said about us. At least on stage and in the workshops.
On the sidelines, things are different. Richard Grenell, probably the most visibly gay official of the former Trump Administration, slammed the Equality Act during an interview with the Washington Examiner. Echoing right-wing talking points, Grenell claimed that the Equality Act would grant “special rights” to LGBTQ people and is an attack on religion.
Grenell’s claims about the Equality Act are simply not true. The Equality Act merely bans all forms of discrimination against LGBTQ people. It doesn’t give “special rights.” Furthermore, the Equality Act doesn’t harm religion in the least, except in the minds of those using the idea of “religious liberty” as a way to justify discrimination in secular settings such as hospitals and non-religious businesses, as well as the accessing of tax dollars by entities who want to retain the power to discriminate against LGBTQ taxpayers. In fact, over 120 faith-based organizations support the Equality Act and leaders of these groups have been very vocal in their support. Polls show solid majorities of all faiths support laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.
Grenell’s credibility on LGBTQ issues is already suspect. His claims about his former boss being “the most pro-gay president” were thoroughly debunked and determined “absurd.” Grenell’s boast about fighting for LGBTQ rights around the world was dismissed as “smoke and mirrors” and a “sham” by foreign policy analysts doing the work. Grenell’s latest whoppers on the Equality Act probably have much more to do with his potential future in Republican politics than actual facts. He hinted during his CPAC speech on Saturday that he might run for governor of California.
CPAC has one more day to go, so anything can happen. As of now however, this is one time in which I am glad that Trump is sucking up all of the oxygen in the room.
Alvin McEwen is the 2017 GLAAD Media Award winner for Outstanding Blog. His site is “Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters” and you can follow him @holybullies